Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Why walk?

Found Stuart Maconie's latest book while browsing the map section of a bookshop and have very much enjoyed it.  It is a collection of his articles for a magazine called Country Walking and is largely about walking his beloved Lake District.  Opening at random, the first thing I read was his article 'Strides and Sweat Patches'.  It's a lovely piece of writing that expresses something I think I have discovered after a few days of gentle walking but couldn't have begun to put into words.  The best part of a good book in my opinion. 

Here's most of it, see what you think:

“Well, the other day I decided to walk to the pub.  I’d been writing all day in my Lakes lair and decided that a brisk four miles down country lanes to my ‘local’ would set me up for a pint of Black Sheep and a low-cal, high fibre feast of curry and chips.  It’s a route I’ve taken hundreds of times by car but I’ve never walked it before. The difference was a revelation.

For one, I saw things I’ve never seen.  Little coppices and mysterious hollows and clearings in the woodland to the right, a fine crag formation in a nearby farmer’s field, a lonely house with high windows up a hidden driveway.  I’d passed these by often but always as a car passenger where, even at a conservative and law-abiding 30mph, such details are gone in a blink and a blur. 

The journey even felt different.  I could feel the shifts of gradients in my calves and my lungs.  The distances began to take shape in my mind in a way that they never had previously. A village that I’d always thought of as roughly halfway between my place and the pub in fact turned out to be much, much nearer the latter.  When the journey takes six or seven minutes in air-conditioned containment, facts like that don’t mean anything.   But when the journey takes an hour and a quarter and is on foot, distance takes on new meanings as do every contour, vista and curve in the road.

It occurred to me that this is why we walk, to root ourselves in real human experience and real human scope.  The internal combustion engine has had many benefits, it has brought friends and family and the cultural and geographical treasures of many nations closer.  But it has also distorted our perspective of the world, made us lose sight (and sense, smell and touch) of the real physical world.  Walking lets you know how the world really feels again, a world measured in strides and sweat patches.  You literally get your feet back on the ground in a way that recharges the batteries and re-aligns your view of the world to a healthier perspective. 

And of course, the pint and the chips and the curry taste even better for the effort expended in getting to them.”   (p.73-75)      

Two more legs of the Cotswold Way start tomorrow!

No comments:

Post a Comment