Walk the Walk [images by Ian Beesley poems by Ian McMillan]

Beesley, Ian and McMillan, Ian (2015) Walk the Walk [images by Ian Beesley poems by Ian McMillan]. Bradford Institute for Health Research (BIHR), Bradford. ISBN 978-0-9569049-6-6

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"As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives."
Henry David Thoreau (1817-62)

In Bradford, like so many other cities, fewer people walk because they are no longer obliged to; cars, bikes, buses and trains all beckon. Walking in urban areas has sometimes been viewed in a negative light; an indication that you can’t afford a car or your bus fare. Once a necessity, walking has now become an organised leisure activity, part of a healthy lifestyle.
In 2003, Bradford Council was one of the first to recognise the benefits of walking, encouraging people to use local green spaces. The Parks and Gardens department identified 10 inner city parks producing leaflets with maps and suggested routes, showing how many minutes each lap would take and how many calories that would use. The initiative was promoted by the city’s GPs and began to take off; particularly in Myra Shay, Bowling, Horton and Lister Parks and many self-motivated walkers are now seen there every day. Friends get together to talk as they walk, the lonely find company, new friendships are forged and there is solace for all in the green environment.
Long ago Greek philosophers recognised the deep intuitive connection between walking, thinking and writing. Because it takes very little conscious effort to perform the act of walking, our attention is free to wander, to imagine, to stroll. This is the state of mind necessary for creative and innovative thinking. As American writer, philosopher and poet Henry David Thoreau wrote in his journal:

“Methinks that the moment my legs begin to move, my thoughts begin to flow”

Many other famous writers, philosophers and scientists have harnessed the power of walking and thinking. Charles Dickens walked twenty miles a night through the streets of London, absorbing the atmosphere and creating his storylines.
Wordsworth was a renowned walker; his poetry inspired by daily tramps around his home in the Lake District.
Apple creator Steve Jobs conducted walking meetings to help solve tricky problems.
But, of course, one of the greatest joys of walking is stopping to enjoy a view, as Welsh poet and tramp William Henry Davis wrote:

“What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare”

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