"There's no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing"
That's a statement that's been used an awful lot over the last month in our house. The weather has been awful and wet for most of April, but that's not deterred Little Miss C and I from heading out on foot and exploring the local parks and other outdoor spaces. I was therefore completely delighted when I received an invitation to take part in a guided walk as part of Living Streets' The Great British Walking Challenge.
If you're someone who travels by foot then you may not realise it, but Living Streets is there for to stand up for you as a pedestrian. Their aim is to work with pedestrians to create safe, attractive, enjoyable streets where it's great to walk. There are many, many times that I find myself grumbling as I walk with LMC and her buggy about the state of the pavements – times when kerbs are not lowered where they should be, when road signs have been positioned in such a way that you have to step into the road to get round them, times when footpaths just run out and you're left having to cross a busy road to be able to continue your journey. Until Friday I have to admit that I hadn't realised that there was someone out there trying to make the sorts of changes I want actually happen.
The Great British Walking Challenge is running for the month of May and the aim is to get people to log how far they are walking so that we can see how many times we can collectively walk between Land's End and John O'Groats. You may "only" be walking to work or school, but all those steps add up, and you will be amazed once you realise just how far you are really walking in a month. Walking is also a form of exercise that nearly everyone can do, and in these tough economic times it's worth remembering that you don't need an expensive gym membership to go out for a walk!
Our part of the Great British Walking Challenge was a guided walk through the canals and parks of the East End of London. We started at Mile End underground station and followed the Regent's Canal to Victoria Park. We then stayed by the water and skirted round the new Olympic Stadium in Stratford, before ending up at the Food Cycle Pie in the Sky community cafe in Bromley-by-Bow (which was fantastic and will be getting a blog post of its own very soon). I've lived in or near London since 1999, but don't know the East End of the city at all well and was therefore thrilled to be able to discover more of it. I have always walked miles in London and found it the best way of getting to know any town or city. Luckily LMC seems to have inherited this love of walking and she impressed everyone by only getting into her buggy for long enough to eat a snack and then insisting on walking the rest of the three mile route. For some adults three miles is a long way; for a not-yet two year old toddler it's outstanding!
One thing that this walk really proved is just how interesting walking in a city can be. Little Miss C had so many things to look at that she simply didn't know where to look most of the time; ducks, boats, dogs, other walkers, cyclists, police horses, pieces of art, pigeons and puddles. She completely loved the walk and when combined with the train and bus journey to get to our starting point she was beyond excited. In her eyes a perfect day that consisted simply of a walk through public spaces and a trip on public transport – it makes you realise that you really don't have to fork out for expensive attractions to entertain children!
The day also encouraged me to think more about how much we walk and when we could be walking when we're not at the moment. Next time we have an empty day in the diary I'll also be pulling out a map to decide what we should explore next.
Disclaimer: Our travel costs into London and lunch at the Pie in the Sky community cafe were paid for when Little Miss C and I attended this event.