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.

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Loch Uigedail circuit. January 8th, 2009. 7 miles.

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.

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January 2nd, 2009. Post Hogmanay crowds, Edinburgh. 3 miles.

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.

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January 4th, 2009. Kilchoman – Kilchiaran circuit. 4 miles.

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.

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January 5th, 2009 Bunnahabhain, 2 miles.

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January 9th, 2009. Goatopia. 5 miles.

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January 18th, 2009. Pickled eggs (after seeing Charles Avery’s The Islanders: An Introduction). 6 miles.

21 thoughts on “in with the new

  1. Ah Kate, I am so looking forward to this year’s adventure. We have used some of your walks for our own. And since I’ll be spending another year here in Scotland, I may take you up on walking too. Enjoy , I know we will enjoy your treks..

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  2. Great read & gorgeous pictures of beautiful landscapes! Right now I’m writing a piece on Avery to be published in a Norwegian art magazine – so I must admit: I enjoyed the eggs as well.
    Happy walking!

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  3. I love your insight. Somehow I wish I could capture my thoughts in the same way on my blog – I have a lot of the same ideas about walking and about travel, but I can’t seem to sit down long enough to get them into a single blog post! One of my resolutions was to share more completely with my blog’s readers something more of myself.

    Have you read ‘Desert Solitare’ by Edward Abbey, or ‘The Mountains of California’ by John Muir? Both were great ‘walkers’ and I adore their writing.

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  4. Ah, you’re going to be a flâneur (to be a bit art-school and reference Baudelaire!)

    It sounds fantastic, I look forward to hearing about it throughout the year. Although my illness limits my walking, I’m hoping to do a lot more of it this year.

    When I’m in a new place I far prefer just wandering idly around instead of rushing around to ‘see the sights’. I think you get a far realer sense of a place if you just potter around soaking up the atmosphere.

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  5. I agree that one of the best ways to view the world is on your own two feet.
    I love walking and when I travel I often find myself walking almost everywhere… one’s perspective is so much better.
    I also love walking in Copenhagen, though I’ve done it so many times I always find something new to look at or discover another dimension to my city.
    I look forward to following your pedestrian project.

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  6. I have been having similar thoughts myself about psychogeography, walking and my sense of place and the landscape. In fact walking has become another activity that is a creative working activity; something I do for ideas, for inspiration, to organise my mind, to find things, as a deliberate action intended to imaginatively ‘fund’ my work.

    For me this is compounded by the whole recording/sonic aspect of my walking, and my increasing desire to connect with places by listening to them as I walk in them. I am doing many of the walks from the Oxfordshire and Berkshire book I got, and I think that the best way to experience a place is on foot.

    I am inspired by your project and am really looking forward to reading about it throughout the coming year.

    Walking from London Victoria to Bethnal Green and back (10 miles all together) gave me a really great perspective on London that I’ve not had before, since I ordinarily take the tube everywhere in the city centre… I can highly recommend the Derive through the city.

    I thought of you when I passed Threadneedle Street, off Bishopsgate.
    x

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  7. Having read this, I thought you might like the idea of “cultural ecology” in terms of walking – have you heard of it? It’s basically the impact of the environment on the shape of culture.

    So, for example, the Aborigines feel that everything in the physical environment is the result of the actions of their spirit ancestors during a time called the Dreaming. Each physical place – mountains, rivers, trees, etc. – in the present, then, has a one-to-one correlation with a site in the Dreamtime. The land directly connects them to their ancestors. Each clan uses songs as a way to remember these important places, which mark their Ancestors’ journeys over the land. So there will be a story about each place in their territory, and each member of the clan is considered the owner of different parts of the story: each part of any given song is specifically tied to a specific piece of land where an Ancestor had at one time walked. Together, the stories add up to a complete song, and because each part of the song is a story about a specific place, a song in complete form is a map.

    Everybody does this in some shape or form: if you walk through the streets of Paris, you are walking through a physical map of the history of the country’s collective memory. The history that is impressed on you as you walk through starts with the 17th & 18th centuries, and then focuses quite a bit on the 19th century, & finally there are references to the 20th century. Traveling through the streets of Florence, you are immediately in the fifteenth and sixteenth century city of the banker family, the Medicis. The physical city maps out an official, collective history. It emphasizes what the culture finds important.

    In other cities, like New York, our sense of history isn’t mapped out against the cityscape as a collective memory. Instead, there are so many alternative histories at play in New York that none has taken root and become official. New York, as a city of immigrants, is reflected in the many, individual histories that you find here.

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  8. finding the orbital heavy going, as the references are very topical/colloquial and i know neither the place names nor the things they signify. i’m sorry cause it seems like an important book. if it were only written in a language i speak…..

    http://www.amazon.com/Discovery-France-Historical-Geography-Revolution/dp/0393059731

    this one is. he bicycled through france/geographically and historically and it is specifically about geographers, among other things. the best book i read last year.

    i’m very excited about your project.

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  9. I’ve always been a fan of Hamish Fulton and Richard Long, and the idea of art being integrally tied to an action/experience. The physicality and utter simplicity of walking is a wonderful way of connecting with the landscape. I’ll be looking forward to following you on your journeys on the other side of the world.

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  10. This is such a great idea. I’ve been meaning to do a photography project for ages; now you’ve inspired me to try to think of a theme…

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  11. It’s a great idea and one you will really, really enjoy. For two years I walked the same two mile route to and from work each day. Over that period I made friends with total strangers, whose names I never came to know, but we would smile and say hello, or remark that one or other of us must be late or early if we found that our paths crossed sooner or later than usual. It was a long time ago and pre-digital cameras, but I kept meaning to take a camera with me in order to photograph certain parts of my route on a regular basis in order to see how they changed throughout the year, but it was big and bulky so I never did. My journey took me across Albert Bridge in South London, and in the early morning it looked magical wrapped in mist. It also carries a funny sign warning soldiers to break step as they cross in order that the vibration caused by so many marching feet doesn’t damage the bridge – something few drivers would spot. So, I am glad that you’ll be taking your camera and your plan makes me wish that I had a longer daily walk – these days I work from home, and the walk to my children’s school is only a matter of minutes. You’ll find it quite addictive – just knowing that you will get home exactly ‘X’ minutes from leaving work has a powerful effect on stress levels – or at least that is what I found, and I loved the thinking time my two mile walk gave me.

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  12. What a great project! I love walking, and in all but the darkest months walk to work. In the winter I take transit as my route is too dark for my personal safety. I find that walking makes me more attentive and mindful. I also love the feel of the air, and smells of the city, which are vastly superior to the smells of public transit!

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