I had a conversation with Ellis about urban hiking the other day.
OK, so we like to have a bit of a laugh but it also made me realise that probably not many people in rural areas have heard of urban hiking, considering they’ve got the countryside right at their doorsteps. And they probably don’t take it too serious either.
So, what is urban hiking and when does a walk become a hike?
Lets start with the definition of a hike. According to the Oxford Dictionaries a hike is “A long walk or walking tour.” However, this is considered to be done mainly in the countryside but with more people living in big cities this can be a bit of a challenge. This is where urban hiking comes into play. Basically you do the same thing but use the urban environment that is around you, utilising all the diversity it has to offer – parks, canals, hills, riverwalks, stairs, alleys etc. The great advantage of an urban hike is that often everything you need can be found on the way, most likely there is a loo nearby, shops for food and drink, benches to rest.
Overall it’s a great way of exploring a city and discovering new things by choosing lesser known roads and paths, whether you live locally or are just visiting. It is my preferred way of doing ‘sightseeing’. If you lay out a rough route beforehand and read up about the area, you are most likely to find the hidden curiosities of a place and less crowds of tourists. I can easily rack up 10-20 miles per day on a visit to London, Manchester, Hamburg or New York for example, rather walking everywhere than using public transport. And yes, if you walk at a decent pace it sure is exercise, my feet and legs will vouch for that.
I think the key for a successful and enjoyable urban hike is keeping a sense of adventure and discovery. Try new ways and paths, neighbourhoods and areas you usually don’t visit as much, see what the city looks like at sunrise – the list goes on and the possibilities are endless.
As with every hike there are a couple of things to consider before heading out:
Wear the right kit. A good comfortable pair of walking shoes is still a must. Wear the right clothes, the same you would wear in the countryside and forget about dressing up. Check the forecast! If you are in Britain be prepared for everything.
Have a look at a map beforehand, especially if you’re new in town. It gives you an overall sense of direction and makes navigating somewhat easier. However, don’t worry if you get lost, it might be a chance to discover things you hadn’t thought of before. And with reception in cities being better than in the countryside you can always refer back to digital maps.
Take some friends. No brainer really. Always more fun in good company.
Read up on the history of your route. It can be an eye opener for some features you see on your way. Or if you are a movie buff check up on some filming locations.
Look up and turn around. Urban hiking is all about the hidden little details of a city so don’t forget about the architecture that’s above you. Whether it’s gargoyles, carvings, clocks or just reflections of other buildings or the sky. Also, turn around every now and again. The path you just walked will look completely different from what you’ve seen and new discoveries can be made.
So next time you go on a city break give Urban Hiking a go. Or are you interested in some routes? Let me know.