Thoreau once wrote somewhere that walking inevitably leads to other subjects. He was right. The subject of walking itself is a vast one, but the paths upon which it takes you circumscribe the whole physical and mental world.
One of my favourite books on walking, and, I think, one of the best and most eclectic ever written on the subject, is Rebecca Solnit's Wanderlust: A History Of Walking. This book crosses so many boundaries, it's uncategorisable. Walking's the theme, but it encompasses so much else - poetry, philosophy, anatomy, history, religion, politics, psychogeography, mountaineering, landscape gardening, personal confession. All the things you encounter while walking. And consider while walking.
Solnit believes the culture of walking has evolved out of the disembodiment of everyday life resulting from automobilisation and suburbanisation. She also uncovers a long historical association between walking and philosophising. When walking, she says, the mind, the body and the world come into alignment. She points to a strong sympathy between writing and walking, between language and the path: Language is like a road; it cannot be perceived all at once because it unfolds in time, whether heard or read.
The photo below shows some of my 'walking book' shelves. The books assembled there are wide-ranging in their scope, 'fragments' of a 'secret history'. For walking is the starting point for a thousand byways, a thousand ideas, a thousand connections. There are all sorts of subjects here - social history, landscape history, nature writing, travel, adventure and exploration, farming and agriculture, autobiography, mythology. All these things are written into the landscapes and mindscapes through which we walk...