Adeeba Malik - My Yorkshire Weekend

Bradford teacher turned national charity campaigner Adeeba Malik on her love of walking Yorkshire's waterways

The ancient Greek physician Hippocrates said walking was man’s best medicine. And who are we to argue with a man considered one of the most outstanding figures in history?

Many poets, philosophers, writers and explorers have held a deep love affair with walking. But you don’t need a degree in philosophy to know there’s nothing that beats walking in Yorkshire.

Perhaps Bradford isn’t the most obvious contender when it comes to scenic walks in our great county, but the Leeds-Liverpool canal is really quite something. It isn’t just the beauty of the environment, or seeing Bradford from this unique angle, it’s the power of the canal; the history, the lifeline of the waterway that shaped the fortunes of the city when the mills were alive with industry.

Beginning my walk in Saltaire and setting out for six or so miles in either direction is a chance to combine my love of walking with my love of canals. I’ve always had a huge fascination with canals – I was a non-executive director of British Waterways, an organisation dedicated to rejuvenating the UK’s canal networks.

Canals represent a sense of opportunity which fits well with my psyche. My career, from teaching in deprived schools to campaigning for access to education, all boils down to my inability to keep quiet when I see something unfair. I work towards creating opportunity, to opening doors, so the canal has something of a metaphoric pull for me by opening up the world and opening new paths.

And there’s something about the act of walking that I find necessary. It’s not just for the physical exercise and fresh air, although that’s a big part of it, but walking creates time and space for thoughts to unravel.

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Your feet are busy below allowing your thoughts above to roam. Growing up in Bradford, I’ve always found the canal has a magical quality.

And Saltaire is a World Heritage Site, a status owed to the dedicated work of people from the local community. That’s a good feeling. Sir Titus Salt was a remarkable man, a true philanthropist and innovator who reduced pollution and built superior homes for his workers, as well as a library, park and public baths. He campaigned for a better life, which is perhaps why Saltaire has such an affinity for me.

There’s a romance around walking, not just the beauty of the nvironment but the act of moving and striving on.

‘The great affair is to move,’ wrote Robert Louis Stevenson. And he was right. In my job I’m always striving to move, to change things for the better, which is why walking is the perfect fit for me.

Adeeba Malik MBE is chief executive of Bradford-based national charity QED-UK (, which was founded in 1990 and is now the country’s leading ethnic minority-focused education, employment and training provider.

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