These games were written by Harry Giles in and for Winchester, a small city with a long history on the western edge of the South Downs. Writing about walking is often about the exploration of large cities or open landscapes – from Charles Baudelaire’s Parisian flânerie to Nan Shepherd’s mediations on walking the Cairngorms – places which seem inexhaustible, where walking discovers new delights each day. It’s easy to forget about the walking pleasures of small cities, places neat enough to circumnavigate in a day, where a week’s walking could reasonably cover every street. When you think you know everywhere in your town, how do you make walking exciting again?
And in places as old as Winchester, with impressive architecture and weighty history, it’s too easy to think that only the tourist trails are worth walking, to get overwhelmed by the spectacle of history. But these places can offer a different kind of walking: less about discovery and more about presence, less about the sights and more about the details. The challenge is to find a new way to walk down the street you walk every day, to turn down the alley you always pass, to make the familiar unfamiliar, to take pleasure in the small details you might otherwise miss.
I wanted to write games that you can play – in your mind or with a pen and paper – when you walk from home to work, or round the corner to the café for lunch. Games you can play in ten minutes, or in little bursts over the course of a year. Games that are about walking not as a grand mission or as strenuous exercise, but that make us alive to the few steps we take each day. Each game is about noticing something in the way you walk, or how your city is built, or how people move and interact in ordinary and extraordinary ways. Some of them are strange, some are silly, some are hardly possible, some only take a moment: all of them can make walking new again.
Whether you’re playing these in Winchester – blessed with leafy side-roads, many parks, glorious buildings and cool river trails – or any other city, there is always something new to notice and another way to walk. Every city could be a joy to walk through (and if yours isn’t, let’s make it so). Even – especially – familiar places have small details to notice, if you look up, turn right, read the plaque, dream the history, feel your steps.
Harry Giles, June 2016