One if the things about local slow travel is that the journey allows us to engage with the landscape and with its communities. Walking, cycling, paddling and so on encourage this engagement.
I’ve been recently reading Robert Macfarlane’s The Old Ways: a journey on foot (Hamish Hamilton, London 2012). This is a really enjoyable book which explores, as it’s name suggests, the relationships between walking, trails (ways) and landscapes (and, indeed, seascapes as well). In doing this, Macfarlane looks at the ways landscapes have shaped us, continue to shape us as we walk within them, and, ultimately, how landscapes have shaped civilisations (and vice versa).
There are two quotes I’d like to share:
These are the consequences of the old ways, with which I feel easiest – walking an enabling sight and thought rather than encouraging retreat and escape; paths as offering not only means of traversing space, but also of feeling, being and knowing(pg 24).
Leading up to this, Macfarlane has been discussing the ways walking has been represented through historical movements of people, their stories, journals and literature. For him, walking is not the negative pursuit of movement from one place to another, as many saw it, but a way of embracing a connection to landscape and, ultimately, to nature. The ‘feeling, being and knowing’ is of both oneself and the landscape.
On the same page, Macfarlane writes:
…and I have read and reread the Scottish writer Nan Shepherd’s accounts of how she came to know the Cairngorm massif on foot, following its ridge lines and deer tracks for years until she found herself walking not ‘up’ but ‘into’ the mountains.
Walking. Through walking ‘knowing’. Through ‘knowing’ becoming an inseparable part of the landscape. As we should always be.