16 December 2015 by Benedict Southworth
Having spent much of the last few months completing planned walks around my adopted Big Pathwatch squares, we’re now coming to the end of our most ambitious survey ever, and I find that I am going to miss Big Pathwatch.
Here are my top five reasons why I’ve enjoyed the Big Pathwatch so much – and what I will miss the most when the survey closes on December 31st.
Finding new places to walk
I’m hoping that many of the places people discover through the Big Pathwatch will end up on Ramblers Routes, or that they become incorporated into group walks. Picking random squares that I haven’t walked through before and walking every footpath has opened up new landscapes that I want to take people back to – I’m sure I’m not the only one!
The fluffy animals – all those squirrels and rabbits
I have been genuinely surprised – and delighted – by just how many deer live in the stock-broker belt. The highlight was a herd that crisscrossed the path through an overgrown beech coppice. The resilience of wildlife to survive is incredible. Right next to the M23 and under the flight path to Gatwick, I was treated to a hedgerow alive with flocks of birds
Walking with my teenage daughter
“Pathwatch is great – you have to look at everything and not just plod along”. I am a great believer in the power of walking, not just to keep teenage girls exercising, but also to provide an opportunity to discuss things that are harder to talk about across the dinner table. The Ramblers are now an accredited provider for Duke of Edinburgh awards; doing the Big Pathwatch survey contributes to the Bronze award. I hope we can provide ongoing opportunities for DofE participants to work with us.
The Towy valley
Tony Drake, the man who established the Cambrian Way, described this as one of the most beautiful valleys in Wales. In the autumn colours it was splendid. Tony left a legacy to Ramblers to help maintain the Cambrian Way. A sub committee of the Welsh national committee is coordinating the work, which I hope will enable many others to enjoy the landscape long into the future.
Being a real size 34 again
(just) - and not just because I measure under my stomach. It feels like every week a new bit of science tells us what we have instinctively known; that walking is good for mind and body. Now my jeans agree too!
There is still time to complete more squares. Take a break from the Christmas shopping, skip the re-runs or escape from the mince pies and find out for yourself why surveying paths can be a secret pleasure.