Everywhere I went on these journeys, I encountered men and women for whom landscape and walking were vital to life. I met tramps, trespassers, dawdlers, mourners, stravaigers, explorers, cartographers, poets, sculptors, activists, botanists, and pilgrims of many kinds. I discovered that walking is still profoundly and widely alive in the world as a more-than-functional act. I met people who walked in search of beauty, in pursuit of grace or in flight from unhappiness, who followed songlines or ley-lines; I witnessed walking as non-compliance, walking as fierce star-song, walking as elegy or therapy, walking as reconnection or remembrance, and walking to sharpen the self or to forget it entirely.
Perhaps some version of this idea is why so many people seem to need the ritual walk now more than ever. In a context of the drastic privatisation of most aspects of culture, walking can offer freedoms that still escape capital's structures of credit and debt, service and obligation. The gifts offered by walking are, at their best, radical because unreciprocal. "They give me joy as I proceed," wrote John Clare simply, of field paths. Me too.