Britain gets walking for the Olympics
For a few weeks the focus of the Olympics will be on the sporting achievements of a few elite athletes. But off the field there’s a whole summer of walking events and new trails for everyone to enjoy as part of the Cultural Olympiad – Britain’s largest-ever festival of culture and arts, to celebrate London 2012.
By far the grandest is an epic 22-day pilgrimage across South Wales, from Llanthony Priory to the cathedral city of
St David’s, organised by Ramblers Cymru and Cadw. Cauldrons and Furnaces (16 June, www.pilgrimage2012.co.uk) is open to all and passes through castles, holy wells and ancient sites, where special events will explore their medieval past.
In Yorkshire, a new 75km/47-mile poetry trail has been created using six specially commissioned works from Simon Armitage. The Stanza Stones trail (www.ilkleyliteraturefestival.org.uk) spans the Pennine Watershed from Ilkley to Marsden, with each poem engraved into rocks or riverbeds along the way. In Essex, meanwhile, local Ramblers have created the Hadleigh to Stratford Legacy Walk, which follows surprisingly scenic countryside from the Games’ official mountain-biking centre to the Olympic Park.
An intriguing new website from the Royal Geographic Society, Walk the World (www.walktheworld.org.uk) encourages people to discover their local area’s links to the 206 Olympic nations with an interactive map of walks to download. Among them are a tour of Liverpool’s international trade network and a look at how Edinburgh became the ‘Athens of the North’. And walkers are needed to help create a huge new artwork by Robert Wilson along a three-mile stretch of north Norfolk coastline in Holkham. Walking (20 August–2 September, www.nnfestival.org.uk/walking) will see participants slowly make their way through a variety of sculptures and spaces among the landscape, becoming an integral part of the work as they go.
If you’re lucky enough to have Olympic tickets, there will be expert-guided walks laid on to the venues from nearby transport hubs that take in local points of interest. And if you haven’t, you can always plan a walk that takes you close to the action or coincides with the Olympic torch’s circuit of Britain (through June and July, www.london2012.com/torch-relay).