Walking is more than putting one foot in front of the other to get from one place to another – from A to B. The tracks we use take us along contours, through landscapes, past things. They can also allow us to retrace old ‘ways’ – movements of people in the past – and understand current activities.
Robert Macfarlane writes of this at the very beginning of his book The Old Ways: a journey on foot:
Humans are animals and like all animals we leave signs as we walk: signs of passage…We easily forget that we are track-markers, though, because most of our journeys now occur on asphalt and concrete…(p13)
Walking is therefore an important activity for us – an opportunity to slow, to retrace, to feel the landscape/cityscape and its contours, an opportunity to meet people, to engage.
Whether long or short, in the bush, along a well-known trail or through urban landscapes, walking provides a means of engagement and understanding – of people who inhabit the landscape, of a landscape’s ecosystems and biodiversity and their relationships with people, and of our own values, actions and priorities. It’s both an outward engagement and, as Macfarlane would say, a reconnoitre inwards.
We no longer travel through, but within landscapes.