Colette and I have recently got back from a week in Devon, staying with friends in Totnes and then in B&B’s as we walked the coastal path from Start Point to Plymouth. What a lovely holiday it was, and it has prompted thoughts about walking as a means of transport.
For most of human history people walked. Most of our collective history has been nomadic, as hunter-gatherers and as pastoralists. We have augmented this with pack animals and ridden horses for many thousands of years and used wheeled transport for a couple of thousand years, but for most people walking was until very recent times the cheapest and most practical option.
The desire to go ever further and faster drove a long wave of technical innovation in horse drawn chariots and carriages, sailing ships, steam trains and ships, the internal combustion engine, cars, trucks, aeroplanes and space flight. Technologically impressive, but with a downside: going faster nearly always means using more energy. Faster cars tend to be less energy efficient than slower ones, faster trains less efficient than slower ones, faster planes less efficient than slower ones. Learning the pleasures of travelling more slowly may be one of the most important lessons we need to learn to make our culture more sustainable. So instead of spending billions on high speed rail and ever more roads, perhaps those billions could be put to better use getting us all to walk and cycle more.
Of course not everyone is capable of walking or cycling very far, but for those of us that still can it is good to explore our limits. I, like many other walkers, find great pleasure in walking, and can’t believe that any billionaire gets any more pleasure from their Ferraris, Lamborghinis and private jets than I get from walking. On the South West Coast Path Colette and I have walked the first 210 miles; only another 420 to go. Can’t wait!