A common man marvels at uncommon things. A wise man marvels at the commonplace. CONFUCIUS

Saturday, 30 June 2007

Changing Attitudes

I've been rereading the book Shanks's Pony: A Study Of Walking written by Morris Marples and published in 1959. In chapter 3 he talks of a German pastor named Carl Philipp Moritz who visited England in 1782 and spent 6 weeks tramping from London to Derbyshire and back. Compared with the benign attitude towards walkers in his homeland, Moritz was surprised at the pedestrian's reception over here: A traveller on foot in this country seems to be considered as a sort of wild man or an out-of-the-way being who is stared at, pitied, suspected, and shunned by every body that meets him... In England any person undertaking so long a journey on foot is sure to be looked upon and considered as either a beggar, or a vagabond, or some necessitous wretch, which is a character not much more popular than that of a rogue... To what various, singular, and unaccountable fatalities and adventures are not foot-travellers exposed, in this land of carriages and horses? Although there are some mad, eccentric, and, no doubt, occasionally even roguish hikers still out there on the highways and byways, things have surely changed in the main. Indeed, many people positively welcome the trail-walking stranger, not least because his/her expensive waterproofs, carbon fibre trekking poles and state-of-the-art GPS equipment betray a healthy bank balance just waiting to be spent on local goods and services. On the Pennine Way, which I walked recently, I encountered an inordinate degree of friendliness and hospitality in most of the places I passed through (even though I did it as cheaply as possible and with old gear!)

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