09 September 2016 by Walking Class Hero
In the Autumn 2016 edition of walk magazine you’ll find an engrossing list of Urban Escapes by Antonia Kanczula. Here you can read about serene slices of the countryside to be found in many of Britain’s towns and cities.
Regular readers of this blog or those who follow me on twitter or those that just know me will be familiar with my love of urban and edgelands walking. Walks in towns or cities that celebrate the urban, the grittiness and the street culture. And being a fiercely proud Londoner I can think of nothing better that wandering round the streets flaneur-style armed only with a smart phone and a bit of spare time.
Judging from the day I got off the Overground at South Acton I’m guessing this area of west London isn’t high on the urban walking spots of most people’s lists. I hardly saw anyone that afternoon but I did see marvellous street art. It’s the sort of delight that you can only discover on foot.
Prominent among this art is the work of ATM. The contrast between nature and the urban environment is something that is at the core of his work. ATM’s first street-painting was of a snipe, abundant in the north and south-west of the British Isles, but whose numbers have dwindled in lowland wet grassland of the south-east. The painting was part of a project by Acton Community Forum to bring art to the bleak South Acton Estate, but, for ATM it was also an attempt to return the spirit of the bird to a part of suburban west London that was once marshland. His paintings have since begun to thrive across the capital and especially in areas where the ‘spirit’ might be said to be needed the most.
You can check out some more of his work on various websites but you know what why don’t you venture out on foot a give the real thing a look. Other street artists are, of course, also available.
I know that most walkers in London are not wandering around, seemingly aimlessly, like me. They’re commuters, tourists and residents. Rushing to work, hustling to the next tourist attraction or maybe heading for the shops. Millions of journeys are made on foot in London and if this number could be increased even a little we wouldn’t have such overcrowded trains and buses and we’d have less traffic congestion, better quality air and probably a healthier populace. With all this in mind it means I was really happy when I read the other day that Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, is seeking a ‘Walking and Cycling Commissioner’.
The Commissioner will bring together all the activities undertaken by Transport for London and key partners designed to promote and support healthy, active, non-polluting travel in London. This post exists to provide strategic advice to the Mayor and TFL on the overall content and direction of the programme and strategic oversight of delivery of the programme. They would work collaboratively with a wide range of partners in the public, private and voluntary sectors and with London’s diverse communities to support delivery of the programme.
It’s not only me that’s pleased with this announcement. Check out the Ramblers LoveLondonWalkLondon campaign. With the help of over 1000 of you, they made a real impact. Mayoral and Assembly candidates from across the major parties met London Ramblers for discussions, walked with us and tweeted their support; their researchers contacted us for information, and we made contacts and allies with friends groups for local parks, the Greater London National Park City campaign, Living Streets and more.
And, of course, even though it looks like the first ever walking ambassador for London – the primary ask of the campaign – is near appointment, there is still much work to do. Leading members of the campaign were very pleased to have had a meeting with Val Shawcross, Deputy Mayor of London for Transport. They came away inspired by the commitment of some at City Hall to make London a world-class walking city.
If you want to help here’s a few things you might want to do:
The walking class hero playlist:
London Calling – The Clash
London Fields – Darren Hayman
Waterloo Sunset – The Kinks
My Hometown – Bruce Springsteen
Shout Above The Noise – Penetration
Pop or Not – Whyte Horses
Follow me @walkngclasshero