training – first walk

As I’ve not walked more than about 5 or 6 miles since I was 18 … I have some training to do 🙂

… and add to this (1) I always wear sandals, so even putting on a pair of walking shoes give me instant blisters and (2)  have become so so nesh1; I’ve got so used to not being uncomfortable and need to train as much to be prepared to go out in all weathers, to get wet, too hot, too cold, and put up with it.

My plan is to walk a short 6 mile-ish walk every other day through the winter and then longer round the island (17 mile) walk once a week, and had I planned to start as soon as I got back to Tiree after being away in September … but I’ve been busy, deadlines, etc.; hardly left the house let alone long walks in last month 🙁

However, today, at last, my first walk.  Just a short 6 mile circuit down to Hynish and back.  I think that will be my standard short walk as it cuts along the sea all the way, and is not busy with cars (well this is Tiree no road is that busy!).

I’m planning also to experiment using a digital recorder while walking, so the time walking is not ‘wasted’ (hmm, is there a worker-holic tendency in there somewhere?), but today just a stroll by the sea.

When I walk next year I will only need to average 17 miles a day, so fairly relaxed, more the fact of doing that day on day that needs a bit of practice.

  1. Nesh is a lovely dialect world that means soft, not hardy.  The online dictionaries all relate it particularly to cold, although the etymology in the thefreedictionary definiiton is broad “Old English hnesce; related to Gothic hnasqus tender, soft; of obscure origin”.  [back]

measuring it out

I’m going to put up a page with the rough itinerary, but need to estimate approximately how long it will take to get to each part of the coast.  The Coast Path web site has downloadable brochures for each segment of the path, which give the length of each part.  However, (i) some of these are a little vague, and (ii) the brochures are long and thin so hard to print out to read.   I will address these sometime, but for now, simply traced round the coastline from a 1:625,000 road map1.

It took a while, but I did it while listening to Stef Lewandowski and Lucy Conway from EiggBox on  AmbITion Scotland webcast from Shetland, which was great.

I found it fascinating how long, and how short, some sections were.  The entire north coast from near Chester to the Menai Bridge was only just over half a paper strip long, whereas going round Anglesey, which doesn’t look that far, was nearly whole strip (one strip approx. 120 miles or 7 days walking).  This is a combination of the fact that circumferences are bigger than you think (recall pi x diameter) and the fact that Anglesey has a ‘rougher’ outline (more coves and headlands) than along the north coast.

It will be interesting when I add up the lengths to see how they compare with the official 870 miles of coast2, tracing on a map rounds off all the little bumps and bends, so I’ll get some idea of just how fractal the Welsh coast is!

  1. Not the map in the photo; that is an old quarter inch OS map; it just looked prettier than the road map.[back]
  2. The cost is 870 miles, the 1000 mile total also includes 170 miles of Offa’s Dyke up the Welsh-English border.[back]

Walking Wales – first blog

The post on my personal website announcing the walk: “Walking Wales” (21/9/2012). You may recognise some of the text has been borrowed for this site!

Since then I have made some progress … Facebook and Twitter set up and now this web site is starting to shape up too!

Walking Wales

As some of you already know, next year I will be walking all around Wales: from May to July covering just over 1000 miles in total.

Earlier this year the Welsh Government announced the opening of the Wales Coastal Path a new long distance footpath around the whole coast of Wales. There were several existing long distance paths covering parts of the coastline, as well as numerous stretches of public footpaths at or near the coast. However, these have now been linked, mapped and waymarked creating for the first time, a continuous single route. In addition, the existing Offa’s Dyke long distance path cuts very closely along the Welsh–English border, so that it is possible to make a complete circuit of Wales on the two paths combined.

As soon as I heard the announcement, I knew it was something I had to do, and gradually, as I discussed it with more and more people, the idea has become solid.

This will not be the first complete periplus along these paths; this summer there have been at least two sponsored walkers taking on the route. However, I will be doing the walk with a technology focus, which will, I believe, be unique.

The walk has four main aspects:

personal — I am Welsh, was born and brought up in Cardiff, but have not lived in Wales for over 30 years. The walk will be a form of homecoming, reconnecting with the land and its people that I have been away from for so long. The act of encircling can symbolically ‘encompass’ a thing, as if knowing the periphery one knows the whole. Of course life is not like this, the edge is just that, not the core, not the heart. As a long term ex-pat, a foreigner in my own land, maybe all I can hope to do is scratch the surface, nibble at the edges. However, also I always feel most comfortable as an outsider, as one at the margins, so in some ways I am going to the places where I most feel at home. I will blog, audio blog, tweet and generally share this experience to the extent the tenuous mobile signal allows, but also looking forward to periods of solitude between sea and mountain.

practical — As I walk I will be looking at the IT experience of the walker and also discuss with local communities the IT needs and problems for those at the edges, at the margins. Not least will be issues due to the paucity of network access both patchy mobile signal whilst walking and low-capacity ‘broadband’ at the limits of wind-beaten copper telephone wires — none of the mega-capacity fibre optic of the cities. This will not simply be fact-finding, but actively building prototypes and solutions, both myself (in evenings and ‘days off’) and with others who are part of the project remotely or joining me for legs of the journey1. Geolocation and mobile based applications will be a core part of this, particularly for the walkers experience, but local community needs likely to be far more diverse.

philosophical — Mixed with personal reflections will be an exploration of the meanings of place, of path, of walking, of nomadicity and of locality. Aristotle’s school of philosophy was called the Peripatetic School because discussion took place while walking; over two thousand years later Wordsworth’s poetry was nearly all composed while walking; and for time immemorial routes of pilgrimage have been a focus of both spiritual service and personal enlightenment. This will build on some of my own previous writings in particular past keynotes2 on human understanding of space, and also wider literature such as Rebecca Solnit’s wonderful “Wanderlust“.  This reflection will inform the personal blogging, and after I finish I will edit this into a book or account of the journey.

research3 — the practical outcomes will intersect with various personal research interests including social empowerment, interaction design and algorithmics4.  For the walker’s experience, I will be effectively doing a form of action research!.  This will certainly include how to incorporate local maps (such as tourists town plans) effectively into more large-scale experiences, how ‘crowdsourced’ route knowledge can augment more formal digital and paper resources, data synchonisation to deal with disconnection, and data integration between diverse sources.  In addition I am offering myself as a living lab so that others can use my trip as a place to try out their own sensors and instrumentation5, information systems, content authoring, ethnographic practices, community workshops, etc.  This may involve simply asking me to use things, coming for a single meeting or day, or joining me for parts of the walk.

If any of this interests you, do get in touch.  As well as research collaborations (living lab or supporting direct IT goals) any help in managing logistics, PR, or finding sources of funding/sponsorship for basic costs, most welcome.

I’ll get a dedicated website, Facebook page, twitter account, and charity sponsorship set up soon … watch this space!

  1. Coding whilst walking is something I have thought about (but not done!) for many years, but definitely inspired more recently by Nick the amazing cycling programmer who came to the Spring Tiree Tech Wave.[back]
  2. Welsh Mathematician Walks in Cyberspace“, and “Paths and Patches: patterns of geognosy and gnosis“.[back]
  3. I tried to think of a word beginning with ‘p’ for research, but failed![back]
  4. As I tagged this post I found I was using nearly all my my most common tags — I hadn’t realised quite how much this project cuts across so many areas of interest.[back]
  5. But with the “no blood rule”: if I get sensor sores, the sensors go in the bin 😉 [back]