Working on the matrix

I have recently begun to create public transport distance matrices so that one may discover stages of about the right length along a multi-day route. These are time-consuming, but should be useful. I have started with a couple of relatively easy ones (including the Essex Way, pictured), then tested my technique on some trickier ones.

A matrix with 25 points is about the biggest to fit onto a piece of A4 and still remain legible, so what do we do with walks which have more stops en route? I have tried to create overlapping matrices, starting the next about half-way down the previous, but keeping sensible boundaries. For example, the Saxon Shore Way has five pages, split

  • Gravesend to Faversham
  • Gillingham to Sandwich
  • Whitstable to Dover
  • Sandwich to Hamstreet
  • Dover to Hastings

It took me two days to prepare the Saxon Shore Way matrices, so I shall concentrate on those paths which have the most need. The Wandle Trail, for example, will be of low priority, because there is a bus or tram stop, or a railway station, nearby throughout the route.

The Fife coast

Just as I was beginning to think about as a concept, I noticed a new edition of a book on the Fife Coastal Path, written by the legendary Hamish Brown. I was immediately transported in mind to the path I have known for more than sixty years, in days of sparkling sunshine, gunmetal-grey clouds, and (this is Fife, after all) the all-enveloping see-nothing haar.

The Fife Coastal Path has good transport connections along its length, so is a prime Green Walk. The only area where there is a dearth of public transport is in the north, between Wormit and Newburgh, but if that is too far for your day, two days based in Cupar, with buses to Wormit and from Newburgh, may be attained with a taxi link from and to Brunton (Hamish’s solution). The original route stopped at the Tay Bridge, thus avoiding the taxi question, but the route has now been extended to the Fife boundary.

I shall readily admit that I have not walked every metre of the path since my first faltering steps along the headland overlooking Crail harbour, probably in 1957 or 1958, but I look forward to remedying that soon. In 1986, a friend and I tackled that northern section as part of a proposed Tay-Tyne Trek from St Andrews to Hexham: heavy snow (it was in March) meant that the walk had to be curtailed at Hawick — so we just renamed it the Tay-Teviot Trek (thus keeping the alliteration).

And if the cliffs and sands, the seabirds and St Andrews, the harbours and the occasional hill are not enough to tempt you onto the path, there are world-ranking chip shops and ice-cream parlours to bring you further joy. Welcome to the coast of Fife, that “beggar’s mantle, fringed with gold” (James VI and I).

Welcome to

Green in outlook, though perhaps using a different colour palette at times out in the open. The green lane on the Essex Way may use the orthodox colour scheme, but a Green Walk may slip between factory and canal on a brownfield site, or across a pale sandy tract.

We aim to gather routes from around the country: at first, the routes will reflect (in part) the experience of our small team, but we look forward to receiving recommendations (with authoritative links and descriptions) as we move ahead.

We look forward to working with providers (such as bus companies) to develop options and deals — seventy years ago, Ramblers’ Returns (add the day return fare to each end of your walk, and divide by two) were part of the railway establishment: technology has made it easier for operators to parcel out the costs and revenues for such deals for those journeys unserved by regional capping, as practised by Transport for London and elsewhere.