"As I walk I’m constantly being drawn to things that I can see, hear, and even smell – and there was a lot to enjoy in this underpass. A spider rolling
up a bee to eat later, sanitary towel street art (the first I’ve ever seen), and tiny plants sprouting from the most unlikely of cracks. I am frequently drawn
to the resilient plants that survive in some fairly hostile concrete environments. Taking close-up photos of these things calmed me put me and triggered a mental
flow that caused me to lose track of time despite the sound and smell of passing cars."
Dan’s meditative state remained high throughout the day and his excitement level remained similarly stable with only a few spikes in the afternoon. These occurred as Dan navigated the suburban areas of Surbiton and Berrylands, and were followed by a gradual decline towards the end of the day.
"The Wood in Surbiton is a wonderful place to stumble upon. After walking for over a kilometer down suburban streets, The Wood is rich with towering
ancient trees including larch, horse chestnut, copper beech and oak. I enjoyed watching three squirrels chasing each other through the lush canopy, and hoped
to spot an owl roosting. Going into the wood revitalised me before I headed down Oakhill Path towards Surbiton Station where I was distracted by walls covered
in graffiti and moss."
At around 4:37pm, as Dan walks through the level green areas between Kingston University and the Gurudwara Temple, we find that he is very engaged with his surroundings and seems
to be enjoying the landscape a lot. "I love exploring passageways, especially ones that you can't see the end of! I remember enjoying the foliage arching over
the path to make a sort of tunnel and then turning a corner to find myself in a graveyard. The bushes were ripe with end-of-season blackberries and the was air alive with
noisily shrieking birds. "
It is interesting to note that Dan is quite distracted as he enters the Green Lane Recreation Ground at 5:26pm. However, halfway through this stretch Dan’s focus tees up with
his engagement levels putting him in a very calm yet alert state of mind. "I was taking a photograph of some trees when I realised that there was a man going to the loo
in the bushes just ten metres away! Maybe that's why I was distracted? "
Day 2 Day Two saw some key events trigger significant changes in Dan’s brain activity. Walking through the leafy Royal Wimbledon Golf Course, Dan’s excitement
and focus spiked. On reaching a clearing of flat grass and roads these metrics dropped sharply and his stress level rose.
"Probably because I was nearly hit by a golf ball!"
As he moved into a wooded area dotted with ponds Dan’s stress disappeared again, his excitement and focus returned, and his engagement increased,
suggesting a very relaxed yet alert state of mind.
"I took my time to really enjoy Wimbledon Common, tuning into the wildlife and the trees."
When Dan reached Wimbledon Park a further change in his brain activity seems to reflect a change in his environment. Dan’s excitement and engagement shot up but he loses focus.
This indicates that his brain was taking in a lot of new visual information about something that particularly interested him.
"I remember feeling a bit of culture shock here. Up until here my walk had been very suburban with relatively few people and plenty of green open spaces to enjoy. However, from this
point forward the landscape started to feel far more urban with denser housing, more shops, more cars, and a much busier vibe. I have felt this many times when moving between London’s green
spaces and its residential and business areas. I always adjust quite quickly, but perhaps this an indicator of the everyday stresses we feel in the city but absorb and forget about."
A third significant change occurred around 1:47pm as Dan neared the inner-city district of Battersea. In response to his surroundings, Dan’s stress levels increased markedly
as he walked along its residential roads. This seems to coincide with his vocal irritation at the levels of pollution he finds in the city streets. His stress remained high and
peaked around 2:30pm as he entered Heathbrook. Here his brain activity again responded to his surroundings with his stress levels dropping dramatically as he walked through the
greenery of Heathbrook Park.
As Dan continues towards Central London his stress levels peak as he comes across the much neglected and heavily littered Lambeth Park at around 2:44pm. However, his
relaxation levels are soon restored as he enters “wilder streets” that are lined with an array of foliage and shrubbery.
Around 3pm we see another spike in Dan’s stress and then another rapid reduction in his stress level as he walked through another park. It seems that the green spaces
were acting as rejuvenating pit-stops for Dan as he navigated through the urban environment.
"I definitely recognise this and there is certainly less everyday low-level conflict and negotiation in parks. But there are other things at work too – trees for example. On sunny
days I physically feel the benefit of the shade that trees provide. What’s more, Trees provide colour, dappled light, movement, and shape that not only calm me, but raise my interest levels too.
It’s noticeable that across the UK’s cities, more wealthy areas appear to have more trees than poorer ones. This project has further raised my awareness of the value of beauty in the landscape’s
we interact with."
Dan’s stress levels stayed low for the remainder of the day which ended with his crossing London Bridge over the River Thames and entering the northern side of Central London.
The final day began in a highly meditative state with Dan calm and engaged. Unfortunately, this didn’t last long as Dan’s stress level soon rose and stayed quite high for the rest of the walk
indicating that he was feeling on edge. This was mirrored by low focus levels that suggest that Dan’s mind was relatively distracted for most of the day.
"There were two reasons why I was feeling more stressed than usual. Firstly, I needed to walk around 35km that day, which meant I had to walk a little faster, dig a little deeper,
and stop a little less. Secondly, on this walk I was tweeting more than usual and this put me slightly on edge. I knew this at the time and felt disappointed because I was actually really
enjoying the walk. It was definitely my approach to the city that was bothering me, and not the city itself. "
Passing Whitechapel Dan’s stress levels briefly dipped, suggesting he was more comfortable with his surroundings.
Dan’s consistently high stress levels spiked particularly high as he walked through Stratford where he also lost focus and was not engaged.
It looks as though Dan very much enjoyed his walk through Wanstead Flats around 2:51pm, with small spikes as he crosses the grassland with its flowered bushes.
Dan’s stress levels briefly dipped again while walking through Wanstead Park. He is calm and meditative until there is a sudden blip of high excitement and engagement when he spots his first fox at 3:38pm!
"I love foxes and am always excited to see them. London would be a poorer place without them. "
Dan’s stress levels peaked again in Royston Gardens. Both here and in Stratford the combination of high stress, poor focus, and low engagement illustrate a high level of distraction and Dan’s
inability to harness his irritation about either his environment or a specific stimulus.
"Frankly, I was hungry and needed the loo. Things got back to normal once I managed to attend to both these basic needs! "
Dan’s engagement goes up significantly at 5:17PM as he walks through Claybury Park, but drops again the moment he leaves the park. This shift was coupled with increased enjoyment, perhaps because the return
to a suburban environment signified the home stretch? There is also a moment of distraction but Dan quickly regains a high level of engagement after just five minutes and maintains this engagement level until the end of his walk.
Dan ended his journey at Grange Hill where he was both highly focused and engaged. His stress was replaced by excitement as he walked the final few hundred meters to the finishing line.
"I arrived at Grange Hill in the dark. I’ve walked across London in a single day, and crossed it in two days many times. For this walk I gave myself three days, but it was still not enough! The problem with London
is that it’s just too fascinating. "
Trip highlight: Wimbledon Common Day Two saw a series of ups and downs that seem to relate to the environments in which Dan found himself. He set off from New Malden with a calm and relaxed state of mind, apparently looking forward to the day ahead and enjoying the tree lined streets of Cambridge Avenue. As he walks we see Dan’s excitement and focus spike as he happens across little gems such as a beautiful hedgerow lining a footpath. As Dan approaches Wimbledon Common his excitement and interest ramps up in anticipation of crossing this large, famous and scenic swathe of semi-wild space. His excitement and interest remains moderately high for the duration of his walk across the Common, and we can see his relaxation levels spike as he stops to listen to the sound of leaves rustling and birds chirping.
As Dan approaches the edge of the Common and begins to hear the traffic and the noise from building sites his stress level rises again and spikes at the sight of a bag of rubbish hanging from a tree.
Lowlights - Stratford For most of Day Three Dan is in a highly stressed frame of mind. Starting off in Central London and heading through Poplar towards Stratford, his frustration and engagement levels are high as he negotiates his way through the busy streets and across areas that appear to be long neglected. This prompts him to think hard about the environmental transformations that could benefit our relationship with our living space. Dan’s stress levels remain high as he is affected by the “noisy and hard” environment of the city.