Who We Are
Our names are Ed and Will, and we make journeys.
These journeys last many months, at the speed of man or slower.
“Why bother?” good people occasionally demand, and on some cold nights this doubt nags thorny.
For what can these slow, old-fashioned ramblings hope to achieve? Are we not disengaging, merely drifting in ancient dreams?
Our answer usually sounds like this:
Humans are the upright strollers of the great monkey family. Walking is our species’ root technology, and great advantage. It defines our kind.
Cars might shift you quicker, but they’re a shoddy replica of walking. Travel a thousand miles by car, and you’re still bored, sat still, cursing the other traffic, waiting to arrive.
On foot, this never happens. Outside, walking, you’re instantly part of living Albion, the hedged and wild-flowered land of our ancestors. Each corner turned brings new conjunctions of history, land and self. Secret doors curl inward, inviting deep exploration.
For the mind, soul and body, walking is an expansive act – it opens gates into the landscape, turning swift glassy images into smells, aches and wonders. The hedgerows bubble to glory as the birds scream the seasons. The land’s sweetest fruits wait to be plucked.
Walking welcomes you immediately into the great event of life on these islands. There is no other qualification; just go out, be on foot, and wherever you get to, you’ll have truly arrived.
In twenty-first century England, our coming-of-age ceremonies are plastic and embarrassing. With elders locked in overheated boxes, children insulated from experience, how shall we grow? With whose help shall we find our strength, and our role in our land?
Walking offers a simple answer. With the journey as guide, we may initiate ourselves. Irksome personal limitations, endured since birth, will fade in new contexts. Who to be, what to do, become the thrilling new destinations.
Living mostly outside, you learn to seek edible and medicinal plants. To keep warm, you trust the friendly strength of fire, or you keep moving. A journey offers knowledge and encounters that shake everything previously learned. Walking lets fate get closer.
This doesn’t mean it’s easy, simply unfolding underfoot. Full immersion is needed, observation in all directions, or you’ll end up sad and soggy on the bus home.
One good trick is to carry something you can give away often. Songs work well. They weigh and cost little, and rarely run out. Our journeys are fuelled by song, those trad numbers called ‘folk’, the true enduring British pop music.
For many years Britain was seen as the centre of the world. Look at your maps, and see which little island sits in the centre. It’s us, here.
But recently this land has begun to lose its pride. Instead of celebrating our natural heritage, our uniquely soft and kind landscapes, our wealth of community, tradition, literature and music, we begin to fear.
A spell of unease has been cast over our Islands. Fear looks sensible and commonplace, while trust seems ill-fated and unadvised. The stain of drugs, knives, debt, murder, racism, dishonesty and corruption have soaked into our consciousness, and we have monsters in our heads.
This will not do. Walking is a fine way to uncover the falsehood of all this fear. It is based in commercial sensationalism, and soon fades with immersive reality.
Hit the Footpath
It is a good simple dream to leave home with a headful of songs, a pack and a friend; to follow the setting sun, not turning back; to sleep in fields and woodlands, the sky your roof; to never know where you’ll lie down at night, nor what the rising day will bring. The ground underfoot becomes an ally, to be seen, smelt and slept on. It becomes your strength and best characteristic.
In twenty-first century Britain this is a rare privilege, but no lazy option. There are natural obstacles galore, all those storms, hills and frosts. And there are many internal self-limitations, those deepset ideas of ‘possibility’ and ‘success’ which dog daily steps.
A walker’s life is without central-heating, electricity, broadband, fridge, bathroom, mattress, carpets or television. Almost all the benefits of a modern housed lifestyle are removed. Living without these daily boons, and believing you are still winning, is a trick that takes slow-learning.
But a long-walker is not regretful, suffering the pangs of being homes-less. A long-walker is lightweight, wind-blown, and buoyed by the tantalizing freedom of living home-free. We do not stand beneath the property ladder, feeling unlucky.
We repeat, twenty-first century British nomadism is no mere whimsy. It is a defiantly valid lifestyle choice for those who dare. However things might look from the sofa, it is not getting too dark outside. What is beautiful remains always possible.
And that’s why we go walking.