Research Planning

Recognising the resourceful dimensions

Walking Interconnections has enabled us all, as co-researchers, to recognise the creative, adaptive, resourceful dimensions of disability. For me our chief insight has been that disability can teach us—in the words of Rosemarie Garland-Thomson—“to abide the unexpected, to live with dissonance, to rein in the impulse to control”.
Garland-Thomson, R. (2012). The case for conserving disability. Bioethical Inquiry 9: 342:432.
Sue Porter, PI

(available at Springer, ) (chargeable )


Planning and “Walking” – by Liz Crow


I have a weekend on my own and intend to go for a trike ride but I can’t get myself out of the door. I scour the internet for cycle routes and wonder if I need to acknowledge mild agoraphobia. I am afraid, but realise the fear is rational. I am afraid of too-steep hills and muddy/gravely backsliding, of punctures and running out of battery power, of being too far from a road and in a place deserted so that I cannot call for help, of being without a phone signal when I most need it, of finding myself stranded between a rocky path behind me, unnavigable for a return journey and a steep-beyond-steep hill ahead because the map ran out of explicit information, or of the flight of steps that materialise from nowhere and leave me stranded on the wrong side of an underpass, or of getting lost because I can’t remember or recognise the path or decode the map because my brain doesn’t much work that way anymore, or of the crash landing from the trike or seeing the engine begin to smoke, every last one of which has happened some time over the past few years. The last two scare me least, but the others immobilise me. And yet I love my trike.


For me, it’s a biting of the tongue at the word walking (because I’m not, am I?) for the gain of a ‘walking’ buddy. It’s a temporary answer to a well nigh on agoraphobic anxiety I feel at taking the trike out along anywhere with a modicum of adventure, ruggedness or isolation (that is, all the best places).

Various things occurred to me from the workshop:

That what should be pleasure is predominantly anxiety. Pleasure is mainly a thing of hindsight rather than in the moment. And whist I exaggerate a little – my broad grin whilst triking ‘wild’ belies my anxiety – even at its best there is always an undercurrent of fear.

There will always be a degree of risk (puncture, isolation, etc and fewer options for extricating myself) but much of the risk is linked to environmental design (eg. choice of terrain when laying paths), equipment design and information availability (eg. how steep, what ground cover, how accurate the information is).

That places change with familiarity. They – and the conversations we have – may, by necessity, begin chiefly access-focussed (rather than broader sustainability), but this shifts with knowledge of a space, of our own mobility and of our partners, as well as with features that change, such as the weather.

That I’m not sure I’m ready to share the scale of my anxiety (or my grief) with a stranger, but it’s a part of any evaluation of ‘walking’.

A child asked one of the researchers the most perceptive question of all: “How long is a walk?” I can answer that: it is 20 metres according to the Department of Work and Pensions. They have brought in a whole new ruling that sees people eligible for mobility assistance through PIP only if they can walk no further than 20 metres. There’s scarcely a blue badge space within 20 metres of any shop or public place and it’s a measure that bears no relation to real life, yet people will lose their vehicles, their mechanisms of managing everyday life and even their jobs because of it. It’s a change in the system that is meant to support disabled people that ushers in a whole new fear of being seen to walk. While sustainability encourages walking, even using it as a rod to beat people into compliance, the DWP turns it into an offence.


Trying to shortlist routes for my meeting next week and I realise how hard it is – a combination of adapting my way of moving to that of a walker (distance, speed) but also wanting to seize the opportunity of a hiking-triking buddy to try out somewhere new and push the bounds of access whilst not knowing how far I can without knowing her capabilities and willingness much more. Can I risk there being a stile or deep gravel, a too-steep hill necessitating we turn around and retrace our movements? Or do I have to play safe and turn to routes tried and tested and a little tired of?

We’re both expected to suggest a route to take the other along, but I’m wondering whether to suggest she makes a shortlist for us both. I just don’t want to find myself triking the same old same old.


This morning was a hike-and-trike with my friend H, from our front doors, up and round the Downs. Lovely: green and talk. Thought about it in relation to Walking Interconnections. So easy to do with a friend such as her, where we each know the other’s limitations but also know each other well enough to ask or state upfront when we don’t.

I always begin, years of training, from an assumption that I am the one putting out everyone else. We detour in search of dropped kerbs, around steep hills, flights of steps, stiles and other objects. Along a street, our conversation is disrupted as I divert to the road and we try to talk around and between parked vehicles. My companion waits, time wasting, as I attach my trike to my chair. Today, we stopped twice while H took a phone call and the waiting was mine and I realised it was fine (not always, perhaps, but today): I looked around me, saw what I would not otherwise have seen had we been absorbed in conversation or moving ever forwards.

I would like to join a rambling group. I listen to Clare Balding’s Radio 4 Ramblings and envy the ease with which they discover new places, discover familiar places more deeply, deepen friendships and even fall in love. For me to join a ‘mainstream’ rambling group, I would need to know people first, to know whether they could/would take me in their stride, and yet I could not know them, or they me, without first joining. I do not want to join a disabled people’s rambling group, where disability becomes the linking theme and non-disabled people under the guise of fellow rambler are more truthfully there as volunteers. I want an experience more often like this morning’s with H.


What I found today is that much of Leigh Woods – 400 acres of woodland just across the suspension bridge; what R referred to as the lungs of Bristol – is trikable. In dry weather at least, I have a new space to explore.

Asked to draw a map of the route in advance, we decided instead to explore as we went. Instead, we each produced a map of our impression of the woods before setting out. R’s was leafy green and full, the river a buffer between city congestion and breathing space, whilst mine was a large blank canvas bordered by river and road. Today has begun sketching into that canvas, light and loose but with promise.

Liz Crow
Walking Interconnections participant


Dialogical Art

Dear all,
I came across a reference to ‘Dialogical art’ and looking it up (but not reading books or getting buried in relational aesthetics – well not yet) I am asking myself and you are we doing dialogical art? It feels like it. I am guessing there is some cross over between arts based research methods and dialogical art?

Its not the label that necessarily matters, I am just ferreting about, trying to understand. Looking at PAR, performance art, making change etc (This has also prompted me to remember people I admired 30 years ago who were committed to community arts and social change. )

Best, Alison


Embodied memories

I am reading an essay by Hayden Lorimer, a cultural geographer based in the School of Geographical & Earth Sciences at the University of Glasgow.   Lorimer is also a regular runner and in this essay, he is writing about his bodily knowledge of different terrains accumulated over the years as a result of many runs.  When he is in Glasgow he runs and whenever he goes away he runs (business or holiday) – wherever he happens to be, he goes out running to get to know the place or, if home, to reacquaint himself with a familiar area.

He writes about running on different surfaces and how his bodily memory acts as a catalogue for a rich variety of surfaces and slopes, feelings and sensations.  As he states: “… it is in our bodies that we live out our lives”.  I respond to this understanding as I know from my own experience just how powerful body memories can be – whether they be pleasant or rather less so, whether they make me smile, wonder, fearful or tearful.

Running or walking can tell us much … both in the moment and through the raft of memories they evoke.  Vivid memories of other places and other people, other situations and other times all flicking through the here and now.  Memories that are stored in our bodies and involuntarily recalled as we run or walk.  And more specifically in this project, as we take a walk with others slowly through an environment – sharing the experience but each recalling different memories, feeling different emotions, depending on how our lives have been lived out so far.

A thoughtful and beautifully written essay by Lorimer that resonates in every bone of my body … that reminds me and simultaneously makes me think again.


Ref: Hayden Lorimer in Jones & Garde-Hansen (Eds), Geography and Memory (Palgrave Macmillan 2012)


mapping our walks

In the arts-based workshops we will be reflecting on the walks we have taken and exploring ways in which we might visually translate our own individual experiences of the various walks.

We will be using pens, pencils, crayons, different coloured papers etc and together with photographs taken en route, we will tap into our memories of the walks (as well as our creative imagination!) to consider different interpretations of our experience on the ground.  I will be bringing a variety of examples to show others but, as a taster and an inspiration, have a look at these terrific maps:

I look forward to meeting you at the workshops and exploring ‘memory’ maps/diagrams with you all!


handdrawnmaps: Brixton handdrawn map


Concrete Purpose of ‘Aimless’ Walks

by Dr Shawn Sobers


It was said by someone in an early research planning meeting that, for them, walking was the natural thing to do if they wanted to have a good chat with a friend.  Most of the rest of the group agreed but I didn’t, as walking for walking sake isn’t something I normally do, and if I arrange to meet a friend to chat we would usually go for a drink.  I only usually walk if I am going somewhere.

Well yesterday was slightly different.  After a work-related meeting with a friend, we both knew we had something on our minds and wanted to speak about it to each other straight away in private.  This intuition was prompted by a brief email conversation the week before, so after the work meeting I suggested we go for a walk to chat.  (I did not suggest a walk with this project in mind, it just felt like the right thing to do at the time).  They put their bags and things in the car, and we proceeded to walk up the high street, around the block and back to the starting point, which in all took about 45mins.  Along the way we slowed when the talking got intense, negotiating narrow pavements by walking in the middle of a quiet street, I stopped them at one point walking through dog mess, and we even sat on someone’s front garden wall for a while to talk more closely.  The owner of the house opened the door and was coming in and out with bags, putting them into his car.  I shouted to him laughing, “I hope you don’t mind us sitting on your wall!”  He laughed back saying he didn’t mind.  Whilst sat there another man came past whom my walking partner knew, so they chatted for a while, and in their exchange I found out new things about them – about musical talents they were both pursuing together, which was lovely to find out.

Of course I cannot see through parallel lives and envisage what our conversation would have been like if we had drove aimlessly, if we went to a café, or if we found an empty meeting room in the building we had just left.  There was something about walking being a confidential space.  I knew what we were going to speak about was confidential, so on a walk any ears are transitory, not fixed or fixated.  We could easily have driven somewhere, but where? The negotiation of traffic, burning petrol and trying not to crash whilst concentrating on an important conversation would not be ideal.  The passenger would get the impression the driver is only half listening, (and rightly so!), and would not want to distract from the safety of the road, so the communication would not be equal, candid or spontaneous.  In hindsight we probably should have gone to a café, as our previous meeting ran through lunch time, but I didn’t have any money on me so that would not have been my first option at that precise moment.  It wasn’t raining, so a wandering walk it was.

The walk was beautiful not only for the incidents shared along the way, but also as a platform of communication.  We shared personal things we didn’t know about each other, both directly in the conversation we had, and also in the ease of our body language in such circumstances – for example, giving way to each other, moderating our pace of walking to accommodate the other.

I started this article saying I only usually walk if I have somewhere to go, what I now realise I actually meant, I only usually walk if the walk has a concrete purpose.  Yesterday, the concrete purpose was to communicate.  The exchange of communicate was the destination that gave direction to an ‘aimless’ walk.  Aimless only in the geographic, not meaningful sense.

Near the end I reminded them that this was not the first time we had such a long heartfelt conversation during a long ‘aimless’ walk, the first time being about ten and a half years ago when we got lost together during a group trip to a holiday camp.  They had forgotten all about it, but recalled it instantly when I mentioned it, and laughed.

Walking is a metaphor for many things, and can attach itself to many concrete purposes; you can take ideas for a walk (brainstorming), walking to clear you head, to calm down, to get fresh air, to save money, to see new sights.  Some can only walk with music pumping in their ears, others (like me ) need to feel aware of their surroundings.  During this research I will be interested in pulling some of these threads of social uses of walks in my writing, entwined with the core themes of this research project – of the communication and awareness of environmental concerns through the ‘meeting of minds’ of the people we recruit to go on mutual walks.

My walk yesterday was intimate, not romantic, but it reminds me of the song ‘A Long Walk’ by Jill Scott.  Enjoy.






10 - Landed - Shawn Sobers

Website up and running!

Hello all,

It was really great to meet with you all last week.  Really looking forward to the adventures ahead….

The website still has some work to do on it, but hopefully you like it and feel propelled to use it.  Let me know if there’s anything I should change, or add.

I’ll send you separately the details of how to send a blog post directly to the site.

For now, happy walking, and speak with you soon.

Attached to this post is a photograph of my footprints, in the spirit of walking, and bunions!!

FYI this website theme seems to want an image for each blog post we do, so please do keep visuals in mind.

All best, speak with you soon.