What’s this about a donkey?


Hear the one about Slow Ways, Clare Balding, and a donkey? Read on!

Slow Ways’s Hannah went on BBC Radio 4’s Ramblings to talk about walking around Wales with her donkey Chico, and how that led on to really caring about stiles and kissing gates!

Everyone involved in Slow Ways have their own reasons that the creation of a national walking network just makes sense to them. Some people are excited by how good it is for creating bespoke long trails from your hometown to wherever your heart desires. Some people have promised to walk more with a loved one, and doing it on Slow Ways gives them extra purpose. Some people are walking Slow Ways to ease anxiety about the state of the world at the moment, or as something meaningful to do after retiring, or as rehabilitation.

Hannah Engelkamp once walked around Wales with her donkey, and it was then that she realised how few people remember the location of stiles and kissing gates if you ask them. Donkeys, of course, cannot get past either of these obstacles. They are also very risk-averse creatures, despite being famously very tough. So many donkeys may make a big deal out all sorts of other obstacles.

Chico, on occasion, refused to cross a six-inch rivulet, a sleeping pig, a noisy metal footbridge, Snowdon, puddles, and countless other things. Some of these things will always be the wildcards of walking with a donkey, which Hannah describes as the surprise joy of walking with a donkey:

“You are really in the landscape and in the moment – the adventure is where the donkey is. There’s no cheating and sneaking off to a hotel and returning to the route later. If the donkey won’t move, everyone is sleeping right there. You can never be sure where you’ll get to or what time you’ll arrive. Hugely frustrating, but actually humbling, and the perfect recipe for loads of good stories!”

Hannah And Chico finished their walk, wrote a book and made a film and carried on walking around the place. And by and by, Slow Ways came to being and Hannah could immediately see how a little information would go a very long way.

“It would have made a huge difference to look at the route ahead and know for sure whether it was donkey-friendly. We retraced our steps for four miles once after someone swore there wasn’t a stile, and we found it between an oil refinery and the seashore where there were absolutely no workarounds. And we were often cautious when we didn’t need to be, if there was no-one around to ask. Slow Ways is like always having someone around to ask.”

Maccar one, the route that features in Ramblings

“Donkeys are a special case of course. But in just the same way, a little information makes all the difference for people with wheelchairs, pushchairs, unliftable dogs, and countless other specific and different needs. Slow Ways means they can get the review and survey information, see the photos, and decide for themselves whether to try a route or not. It’s already, every day, making the difference between people walking somewhere or people not walking somewhere.

Power to the people.

And, if applicable, to the donkeys.”

You can hear the episode of Ramblings on BBC Sounds as soon as it has aired, and read more about Hannah’s trip around Wales on her website www.seasidedonkey.co.uk or Facebook here.

Slow Ways
Slow Ways is an initiative to create a national network of walking routes connecting all of Great Britain’s towns and cities as well as thousands of villages. It’s designed to make it easier for people to imagine, plan and go on walking journeys, walking further and for more purposes.