The Story of iWalk Cornwall

After I stubbornly refused to be born in Devon and finally made an appearance at Trebursye near Launceston, I grew up in Trewarmett and went to school at Tintagel and Camelford along with my my younger brother, Dave. Much of our childhood was spent beside, on or in the sea, sometimes in short, and unplanned, succession.

Following in Hawker’s footsteps, I went to Oxford to hone my eccentricity which culminated in a doctorate doing something involving equations and computers. Dave went to Nottingham to do a degree in Computer Science, which was to come in handy later on, then travelled the world as a dive instructor. None of it lived up to Cornwall. Meanwhile I finally found something useful to do and worked for the BBC in London, running the software team for the factual and educational websites.

On visits home to Cornwall, Dave mapped out a number of walk routes to drag our parents along and I wrote some local walks for the visitors of our parents' holiday cottages. Over the next couple of years, we expanded the collection for our visitors and put these on the holiday cottage website.

In 2011 I moved back to Cornwall and, in between commuting to London for contracts, managed to add quite a few more walks. Eventually we decided to split the walks onto their own website and call it iWalk North Cornwall. The site launched with around 50 walks in October 2012.

Meanwhile, Dave had been experimenting with using GPS-based geolocation on mobile websites (rather like Cornwall Council now have on their online map). It worked quite well but the 3G coverage in North Cornwall was bad enough to cut David Cameron’s holiday short. So Dave built an app that would run offline, and we spent another year refining the route tracking algorithms. We created an app for each of our walks and released these on Android during 2013. The American lady from Apple insisted that she could drive her RV from one side of this Cornwall place to the other and therefore it only warranted one app. Dave spent a couple of months building an open-source software library to manage the foibles of Apple’s in-app purchases and extended the app to enable navigation and purchase of the walks. We released the Apple app in Dec 2013.

In 2014, based on some positive feedback, we decided to expand the walks to cover West and South Cornwall. At the start of 2015 we renamed everything to iWalk Cornwall and added 20 new walks along the south coast. During 2015, Dave reworked the app on Android so it's now the same as on Apple - a single app from which the walks can be purchased. Meanwhile, I spent the year intensively creating new walks and there are now over 200.

We continue to add new walks, new information to the existing walks, and new features to the app, releasing any useful software libraries as Open Source for other people to use (Dave's "get driving directions" is now the #1 most downloaded user-contributed plugin for the popular Phonegap mobile framework). I hope you enjoy the walks.

John Alden