01 January 2017 by Walking Class Hero
Most of us understand a ‘phobia’ to be an aversion or fear that people have of things in their environment, while recognising ‘philias’ as attractions and positive feelings we have toward organisms, species, habitats, processes and objects in our natural surroundings.
From this Erich Fromm first coined the term ‘biophilia’ meaning ‘love of life or living systems’ or, if you like, being attracted to all that is alive and vital. Then Edward O. Wilson, in his 1984 book, Biophilia, suggested and popularized, the biophilia hypothesis. This is an instinctive bond between human beings and other living systems. He defines biophilia as "the urge to affiliate with other forms of life".
Of course, we know that the best way to satisfy ‘the urge to affiliate with other forms of life’ is to go for a good walk. The Ramblers run hundreds of walks each week – from short urban strolls to long rambles in the countryside – all led by volunteers. This month has seen the debate on tackling loneliness in the UK take centre stage, well at least occupying the space left by Brexit, and what better way could there be than to join a Walking for Health health walk (England) or Let's Walk Cymru (Wales) and improve your wellbeing as well as make new friends. There are hundreds to choose from. Or for those of you in Scotland, check out Medal Routes.
Not everyone wants to walk with a group – Charles Dickens was a famous lone walker for instance. I reckon he’d have definitely been a user and probable contributor to Ramblers Routes. This is an online library of nearly 2,500 inspiring routes for walkers to follow.
Each route features a choice of digital maps, including Ordnance Survey Landranger and Explorer maps, with the option to print the route and download GPX data. Routes include detailed directions so you won’t get lost, plus points of interest and advice on how to get to the starting point. The elevation profile on each route also tells you if there are any hills or steep inclines on your walk. Pretty much all you need to know.
The Ramblers recent Pathwatch survey, which with the help of over 3,000 citizen surveys mapped the condition of enough of the 140,000 miles of rights of way in England & Wales to conclude that more than half are in a good condition, treasured, enjoyed, and as well maintained as a vital part of the common interest should be. But the picture is uneven. The Ramblers estimate that around 14,000 miles (or 10% of the network) hovers between difficult and impassable.
Yet, as the Ramblers point out, walking is probably the best single way of promoting both physical and mental health yet to be devised. If everyone walked for two and a half hours a week, fewer people would need doctors and the NHS could be nearly £2 billion better off. It is something that almost everyone can do. No special equipment is needed – just paths there to walk on. Safe, traffic-free and easy to reach.
There is even a budget, just not the obvious one. Under the largely destructive Health and Social Care Act of 2012, there is scope for local interpretation too, to choose what form of public healthcare local people will get the most benefit from. Some things – stop-smoking and substance abuse programmes – are usually essential. But walking, along with facilities like green spaces and play areas, could be part of the programme too. Our thousands of miles of rights of way that, like parks and play areas, should be playing their part in keeping the NHS solvent by making us all healthier. Footpaths are not part of the problem they are part of the solution.
So to recap - walking makes you feel happier and healthier, and we think everyone should enjoy the benefits. Which is why we’re getting Britain on its feet. Join us for a walk, invite your friends and help us get everyone, everywhere to discover the joys of walking.
So get walking Britain and get happy doing it!
The walking class hero playlist:
Get Happy – Jimmy ‘Bo’ Horne
Big Yellow Taxi - Joni Mitchell
Alright - Steve Mason
I Feel the Earth Move - Carole King
Light & Day/Reach for the Sun – Polyphonic Spree
To My Surprise - James
Happy – Pharrell Williams
Follow me @walkngclasshero