Pilgrimpace's Blog


finding the way

Old paths rarely vanish, unless the sea eats them or Tarmac covers them.  They survive as subtle landmarks, evident to those who know how to look – as Edward Thomas did.  ‘Even when deserted,’ he wrote, ‘these old roads are kept in memory by many signs.’  He called such lapsed ways ‘ghostly roads’; Walter Scott referred to them as ‘blind roads’.  Such paths also expressed themselves in custom, law and place names.  ‘It is one of the adventurous pleasures of a good map,’ Thomas wrote, ‘to trace the possible course of a known old road, or to discover one that was lost.  A distinct chain of footpath, lane and road … leading across the country and corresponding in much of its course with boundaries is likely to be an ancient way.  For him, map-reading approached mysticism: he described it as an ‘old power’, of which only a few people had the glimmerings.

– Robert MacFarlane ‘The Old Ways’

This picture was taken by Meenakshi a year ago today as we walked out of heavy morning rain on the Camino Ingles.  We paused for a drink and I engaged in making sure that the instructions for the next few miles were clear in my mind.  Not a mystical activity, but an important one.  I am, though, indebted to my walking and reading of the past years which is leading me into a much deeper appreciation the land, the landscape, its history and its meaning.

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2 Comments so far
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Map reading and mysticism. I like it. Don’t think you can equate satnav in quite the same way!

Comment by The Solitary Walker

it’s a different relationship, isn’t it? I don’t think I’ve ever sworn at a map or gone the wrong way in an effort to annoy it. And I know if I go wrong with a map it is almost certainly my fault …

Comment by pilgrimpace




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