I once knew a man who owned a bookshop in Auckland. He always walked to work, and as he walked, he read books (this was before the age of the Ipod, so he couldn’t enjoy audio books en route). He told me he had only ever twice walked into lamp posts!
If I am walking a route I know well, or a route which is not scenic, I love to ‘read’ as I walk. However, a wonderful book I have read has made me think about the thinking we do as we walk, and how inspirational a walk can be. Robert Macfarlane’s The Old Ways is just fabulous. He sets off walking in England, Scotland and Europe, pondering the history of the paths he takes, linking them to poets (especially to Welsh poet Edward Thomas, best known today for Adlestrop), and reflecting on how inner landscapes are so powerfully built by outer landscapes. He provides many intriguing facts – it is estimated that Wordsworth walked 180,000 miles in his lifetime, for example – and the prose is superb. The book was chosen as best book of the year (it was published in 2012) by Jan Morris, Andrew Motion, Penelope Lively, John Banville and many other distinguished critics. I can see why. Macfarlane has written 2 other books in his walking series (The Wild Places and Landmarks) – I’m now looking forward to reading them.
His book made me yearn to put on hiking boots and set off to do some of the literary paths I’ve long wanted to do – the Coleridge Way in the Quantocks, the Sir Walter Scott Way through the Scottish borders, the Tennyson Trail on the Isle of Wight, an Edward Thomas Walk in Hampshire, the Robert Louis Stevenson trail in the Cevennes, and my list goes on. Macfarlane’s book is inspiring in so many ways.
Tell me about the thinking you do and places you like to walk by leaving a comment.
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