People walking

Our Head of Policy and Communications, Tanya Braun looks at the links that can be made from something as simple as walking.



Kate Humble recently wrote a book called Thinking on my Feet. In it she describes a year of her life through her walking journeys. She told us:

We’re so lucky here in Britain because our towns and cities have a wealth of green space. There has been a lot of research done between the connection between mental wellbeing and green spaces. Being close to nature really does make you feel better. So, if you’re having a bit of a down day go out to your local park, go out for a walk. Just being outside, seeing the flowers and hearing the birds, seeing someone who says hello. They can make a real difference. Something so simple and totally free.

Kate Humbles book
Paul West

Paul West, a London based artist drew the illustration for Kate Humble’s book, having run a project which saw him leave leaves with messages in parks across London for those who were walking through. He said:

I like to walk for hours when I’m on a painting break, absorbing the landscape like a form of meditation (I always believe that “a problem walked-out is a problem solved”) and I channel the simple pleasures from what I see into my work. In London I’ll walk my dog in Abney Park, London Fields and Walthamstow Marshes and you can meet fascinating people in these environments, once I met a herbalist in the Marshes hunting for Ground Ivy for its medicinal qualities and he told me how the Saxons used to brew ale from the plant before hops. I like the opportunities that come from walking and being open to conversations with random strangers along that path as we all have stories to tell.

My “Silent Voices” leaf messages came about from my love of trees and our relationship with them spanning thousands of years; the Anglo Saxon ‘Treow’ means “Tree” but also “Truth” (and why marriages used to be held by trees as a pledge not to be broken), the Cherokee Indians called trees ‘The Standing People’, the ancient Greeks said the sound of wind through Oak trees was the voice of Zeus, and my project looked at the leaf as a metaphor for the countless thoughts we are each of us putting out to the universe that go unanswered, but the trees listen, and speak back to us with their leaves scattered and unnoticed around us. I took leaves and printed messages on them, then left them wherever I happened to be walking – like my painting and charcoal landscapes I looked at the Silent Voices project as an energy that connects us all, and the messages were there to be read by people who look at life around them and not always at their screens.

Julia Hamilton picked up one of Paul’s leaves… She said:

I was going for a walk in London Fields, Hackney, which is my local park, because it’s a place I go to get some air and perspective. I love the tall plain trees and the paths. It’s a relief to go there if you have been feeling cooped up inside a flat. On the day I found Paul’s leaf, I had the need to get out. My mother had died that week and I wanted some fresh air.

I enjoy walking in London and in parks, I’m not particularly an outdoors type but when I walk, I can think, and I often come up with solutions to things I’ve been pondering over. 

It was an Autumnal day, there were many leaves on the ground, piles of them in fact, you couldn’t see the grass for them. For some reason I decided to walk through the leaves and not on the path this time; it felt like a fun, childlike thing to do. I’d only walked for about two minutes when something caught my eye. There was some white writing on a leaf. I looked at it and saw the message:

“When you’re frail, I love you most.” This was extraordinary. It felt like a kindness, a hug and a gentle phrase from someone who cared for me.  It felt like a message from my mother telling me it was ok to be sad and feel frail, and that was when she was loving me most. She had only died that week and it really did feel like a message from ‘above’, though I am not religious. It was a soothing message. I looked around to see if anyone had done this, I looked to see if there were any others. There were none. In all the hundreds of leaves, I’d found a message. I picked it up. When I got home, I typed the message into google, but found nothing. It was only several months later that I saw a photo on Instagram of a silkscreened leaf with a different message on it, that I recognised that this must be by the same person. It was Paul West.  I wrote him an email, telling him that I had found his leaf.

Yes, walking offers up things you would never expect. Ideas, objects, people. You see things you wouldn’t see if you took a bus, you meet people you would never talk to on a tube. It opens up opportunities to think and to come up with ideas you would never have thought about if you just sat at home trying to sort out a problem. It solves problems. The rhythm of walking is calming, peaceful, hypnotic and meditative. You are literally earthing yourself with your feet on the ground.  

If you have a story about how walking has changed something in your life, get in touch.

Julia Hamilton