There must have been a year of lockdown days by now in England and on most of them I’ve walked to the sea and back, in and out of the same net of roads. With the reduced variety in one’s general experience of being out and about, some things come through a little more, and one for me has been this simple prop and support from the past, maintained in the present, and occasionally tweaked for the future. The ever-present stamp of a community under one’s feet, the local roads.
At any one time, however chance or loose-knit the community may be, its groundwork gives it the scope to flourish, in a sense keeps it going. In the country the continuity with the past tends to be more settled; yet in any old town what a scent – or whiff – of the past there can be in a street or a street’s name. History is with us.
One can take it back and back. These tracks thumped out by feet, boots, machines are in our evolutionary DNA. Ancient ways abound. Once I walked the length of what may be the oldest road in England, the Ridgway, with one of my sons. Now a smart-road technology is thrusting our bipedal race ever more swiftly into the future, it seems; but as self-driven cars sweep us ahead on a freewheeling way from A to B, somehow a connection is still there with the wayfarers of old. After all they took on the same journey.
Birds have their sky-roads, arboreal animals their tree-roads, insects their trails. The touch of an Earth-map is in us as in them, a tangible and patterned link to our geographical existence as scampering beings.
So in lockdown my thoughts have been freed up a little, treading a new path along with the old.