"I have to say what I have seen and discovered on this journey I personally rate my most important of all journeys. It has changed the way I personally see life and how I am going to live after the journey. Who knew!"
Swedish explorer Mikael Strandberg (Fellow of the Explorers Club, The Royal Geographical Society, Travellers Club and The Long Riders Guild), came to the UK having been commissioned by Swedish TV (SVT, Public Service, the Swedish equivalent of the BBC) and Film i Skåne to do a documentary about contemporary England.
Based in Moss Side, Manchester, for ten months he then took to the road on foot to continue his research and filming. Accompanying him were his 2 year-old daughter, Dana, and his expedition companion Georgia Villalobos, and together they walked 460 miles from Moss Side to Buckingham Palace pushing a heavy loaded pram.
Whilst planning this expedition across England, Mikael contacted ViewRanger for help sourcing digital Ordnance Survey Explorer maps and a route planning tool, since carrying paper maps for such a big area would have been too cumbersome. We were very happy to help and contribute what we could to make his expedition a success.
On his return, I asked Mikael some questions about his walk and experiences:
Q: You walked from Moss Side to London. How long did it take you?
A: It took 2 months and 460 miles of very interesting walking. Small country roads to walking through cities.
Q: What was the purpose of this walk?
A: The purpose for this Expedition was to do a documentary about contemporary England. It has dramatically changed from what I remember living here on and off as a kid in the late 60´s and early 70´s. I lived with my family and filmed for 10 months in one of the most densely populated suburbs (mainly by African, Caribbean and Asian immigrants) in Europe, Moss Side (south of Manchester), this neighborhood is unfairly called the Bronx of Manchester. Through the tabloids it is negatively known for riots, gang violence, drugs, hooligans of the past and less for its great integration of many different religions, cultures and personalities. And a survival mentality which everyone could learn a lot from is prevalent.
I also wanted try to figure out how to define Englishness and who the contemporary English in reality are today. And for this reason, I walked 750 kms from Moss Side to London. Together with Georgia Villalobos, a local lass from Bolton and my toddler daughter Sardana (in a stroller) we expected to live with the people we come across throughout the journey to do a fieldwork as well as possible to fully understand.
Q: What type of accommodation did you stay in?
A: 99% of time in a tent. the rest with people who invited us.
Q: How much kit did you carry?
A: I carried all tech on the pram, which was about 15 kg, plus 15 kg on my back and Georgia the same weight.
Q: How did you chose your route?
A: We figured out most of it as we went along. Initially i wanted to end my trip in Buckhurst hill in the northeastern part of London where I grew up, on and off,, but realized that Buckingham Palace would be the best as an opposite to Moss Side.
Q: I'm assuming that you aimed to go through as many towns and villages as possible, rather than avoiding them?
A: Yes,the idea was getting people to talk and us to meet them!
Q: How far did you walk each day on average?
A: Average 13 miles. It all depended on the daughter how much she liked being in the pram!
Q: What were you impressions of the English countryside and the network of public footpaths?
A: The public footpaths where completely off limits due to these dumb styles which made it impossible for us to pass with a pram. Makes no sense at all. it is so hard to have a family in England compared to Scandinavia. It is expensive to have the kids in school, very little play parks and space. And getting out in nature requires a lot of planning.
The English country side is extremely busy. Always noise. Either trains, traffic, airplanes, the hedges where amazingly high most of the time making it impossible to see anything when walking and then..this issue with private land is just astonishing for a Scandinavian. How can you allow a few to own so much and keep most people away from using it? I cannot understand it.
I did prefer the cities more. And the South more than the North. It was really hard to get people to talk in the north. Either due to their worries about the tabloids or that we were doing some nasty documentary which would ruin their lives.
Q: You were travelling with a companion and one of your young daughters. Did she enjoy it? What were the best and hardest parts of travelling with a child?
A: She loved it. Every bit. The daughter. the companion was really, really the best of the best, Georgia Villalobos. We were a good team in many ways. Me working class, she public school girl and since accents and class exist in England, it was perfect. The hardest with the daughter was when I was worried she didn't get enough water or food. otherwise dead easy.
Q: You have done many long walks as part of your travels. Could you tell us a bit about your most memorable ones?
A: Woow, I have done some treks in the coldest and hottest area of the world. Yemen and Siberia are probably the most memorable. Yemen is still considered one of the most dangerous countries in the world and of course the truth is the other way around: it is actually one of the most welcoming and exciting in the world. Siberia has the same reputation of being a difficult place to visit, but in reality has the best people on earth. Hospitable, generous and interesting. [See Expedition Yemen By Camel; Crossing The Sands of Al Mahra and Exploring the Kolyma River in North-Eastern Siberia.]
Q: How did you use ViewRanger and which features did you find most useful?
A: ViewRanger was really good throughout, especially in the countryside. It is very accurate and simple to use. I highly recommend it.
Having said that, in cities we used Google Maps. [Note: He could have also used OpenStreetMap through ViewRanger which would have done the same thing.]
It is hard to summarise Mikael's expedition report, so here is a short extract, which will hopefully leave you intrigued and wanting more:
"I, like I imagine most human beings on earth do, had this image of England as a rich, powerful, just, equal, free and opinionated country. After spending 10 months living in Moss Side, one of the most densely populated areas in Europe, and walking from there to London, I beg to differ. Please let me clearly point out that I am basing my opinions and discoveries on almost 30 years of exploring the world, having visited over 100 countries and being Scandinavian where class is not an issue, yet, feminism is very strong and there are still not too many hungry and destitute people. I am still slightly in shock about what I have experienced in England."
You can also download the full 27-page Expedition England with a Pram report from the bottom of the main expedition report page.
More about Mikael Strandberg:
Mikael has travelled to 121 countries. He has slept more than 2500 nights in his tent. He started his professional career as an explorer and traveller 28 years ago. He is currently working as an explorer, a motivational speaker, writer and film maker.
Mikael's Explorer credentials
- 1986-1987 Bicycle from Chile to Alaska, a distance of 27,500 kilometers, passing through The Darien Gap.
- 1989-1992 Bicycle from Norway to South Africa a distance of 33,000 kilometers, passing through the Sahara Desert.
- 1994 –1996 Bicycle from New Zealand to Cairo traversing Asia, a distance of 30,000 kilometers.
- 1997- 1998 Patagonia 3,000 kilometers by horse through Chile and Argentina.
- 2000 A walk through Maasailand in Eastern Africa, Kenya and Tanzania, exploring all clans of the Maasai people.
- 2004 Exploring the Kolyma River in North-Eastern Siberia. 3500 km:s by canoe and by skis in temperatures below -58 degrees Celsius. He and partner Johan Ivarsson carrying Explorers Club´s Flag 95.
- 2011 Expedition Yemen By Camel Traveled from Zabid to Sanaa. 380 km:s really rough terrain just to show the world that Yemen is something totally different to what global media says.
- 2012 Expedition Yemen By Camel; Crossing The Sands of Al Mahra. 350 km:s from Al Ghardaia to Rumah in the summer. He and partner Tanya Holm carried Explorers Clubs Flag 179.
- 2013 Expedition Frozen Frontier: Travelling through Siberia with reindeer and sleds. Mikael travelled 650 km:s from Oymyakon to the village of Arkah. Temperatures reached close to -60 degrees Celsius during this February trip. He and partners Slava Serginov, Tolya Andreyev, Vika Andreyevna, Yura Grigorovich Osenin. Egor Petrovich Makarov, Yura Stepanovich Berezhnev and Bolot Bochkarev carried Explorer Clubs Flag 179.
- 2014 Expedition England With A Pram (Stroller). Mikael and his partner Georgia Villalobos walked and pushed Mikael´s daughter Sardana 490 miles in a stroller from Moss Side, Manchester to Buckingham Palace, London.
Documentaries in English: (click on the links to see the trailers)
- Patagonia – 3,000 kilometres by horse (1997)
- The Maasai – 1,000 kilometres by foot (2001)
- -58 degrees – exploring Siberia on skies and canoe (2006)
- Expedition Yemen 52 degrees in the shade (2013)