own train of wanderers. All told, thirty-six of them will head over open fields, wild places, parks and gardens, and cities.
The essay form perfectly captures the trajectory of a walk, whilst extracts from journals, diaries and letters reflect all the impulses – the whys, hows and wherefores of footing it. By the time we next depart – or, as Henry David Thoreau puts it, ‘silently unlatch the door’ – there will be even more reasons to mull over. Incidentally, Thoreau advises us to stay out for four hours each time. Really? Does the duration of a walk matter? Let’s not be distracted by that. Instead let’s join some of those who’ve committed their footsteps to print.
Walking brings that air and exercise. It also lifts the spirits. Philosopher Søren Kierkegaard urged his niece Jette to be off, otherwise she’d lounge on a chaise longue all day. His letter to her of 1841 bursts with the joys of motion: ‘health resides’ this way. You can ‘walk away from all morbid objections’, reaching a state of ‘bliss’ that you bring home ‘as safely as possible’. Surely it worked for her? Nicholas Shakespeare urges his own family to do likewise – two sleepy sons. At dawn on the fabulous Great Oyster Bay, all senses are sharpened before ‘calm’ comes to a father who leads them. And Rebecca Solnit is amongst ‘purple lupine’ and ‘black butterflies’, but as vital as the physical world ahead xii