After the conclusion of my clothing-myself project in 2008, I have a new project for 2009.
I think that most things are seen better when seen from on foot, and I am often struck by just how much more atuned one becomes to the changing uses and meanings of a landscape when walking through it. Walking radically changes one’s sense of place. For example, when I walked from the West to the East coast of Northern England in 2006, I became very aware (as I passed fishing ports, and slate quarries, and leadmines, and sheep pasture, and reservoirs, and grouse-filled moors) that I was moving through the landscape’s many different economies, sometimes encountering the relics of old economies as well. I noted the shifting geology and ecology of the ground under my feet, and began to look at hills and valleys in a completely different way. I developed a fondness for limestone and an antipathy to bracken.
Though one is perhaps less concerned with geology in an urban landscape, similar things can be said about walking in towns and cities. Walking allows the walker to really read an urban space — to encounter corners and ginnels, neighbourhoods and the boundaries of neighbourhoods — in a way that is completely impossible in a private car or from public transport. On foot, you can seek out and be party to a city’s particular vernacular.
I have long been intrigued by peripatetic projects — for example, Patrick Keiller’s Robinson in Space, or Ian Sinclair’s London Orbital — and this year seemed like a good time to pursue one of my own. There are downsides to commuting, but one of the good things about it is the four daily walking miles I can clock up, as well as the many amazing things that I see on my way. My weekends often involve walking in more remote locations, but I am most interested, I think, in the ordinariness of walking — in walking as a daily, quotidian activity. Anyway, armed with podometer and camera, I intend to document a year as a pedestrian.
I’ll be keeping the visual record over on flickr, but will certainly be making remarks about the progress of the project here from time to time. Meantime, here’s a taste of the project’s beginning, and some walks from the first couple of weeks of 2009.
January 18th, 2009. Pickled eggs (after seeing Charles Avery’s The Islanders: An Introduction). 6 miles.