1 March 2016


"The Old Ways" by Robert Macfarlane is a challenging read. Though the main text finishes on page,364, the book contains a further seventy pages that variously include indices, notes, acknowledgements and a bibliography. For the author, it was all undoubtedly a well-considered labour of love.

This is mostly  a book about walking. Not a series of recommended routes or how to read a map but about the history of walking, about its spiritual dimensions, about how walking affects people and what it means to walk where others have gone before.

Following paths and the processes of walking are woven into our DNA like the arteries and veins that criss-cross our bodies just beneath the skin. Ancient hunters and gatherers walked and so did pilgrims. Soldiers walked back from battles, brides walk down aisles, we have funeral processions and today desperate Syrians walk to safer, happier lives. 

And when we walk the rhythm of our footsteps echoes the beating of our hearts. Paths and steps and strides. Moving onward. Leaving the past behind. And where there are junctions, where routes cross, we try to pick the best paths though sometimes our judgement fails us.

Some of these thoughts, my own experience of walking and the immediate aftertaste of "The Old Ways" made me create this poem before dawn today...

* * *
The Path

After a mile
You will cross an old stile
Walk on by a chirruping hedge
Then cut across
That broadening field
Following a line
That others have trod.

Down to a brook
That burbles its way
Through a sycamore stand
Then over a rustic bridge
And up to a grassy ridge
If you look back
You will see
Where you have been.

Ahead the tower of
Saint Cuthbert’s
Will be visible
Beyond the ruins of a barn
With a copse
Sitting squat
Like a bonnet
On a bulbous hill
To the west.

Walk on
Along an old green track
That clings to the contours
Of the rising land
Till you come to a sign
By a galvanised gate
Then head straight
Along the line
In the sod
Where others have trod

Across a tapering meadow
Beside a hedge of laurel and beech
Where unseen sparrows
Quarrel and screech
Soon to cross an old stile
With another mile or so
Still left to go.


  1. Did you write that wonderful verse, Yorkie? Well done, if you did; and well done to he who did if you didn't!

    Your post, not only the poem, is very descriptive...wonderfully descriptive.

    1. Yes I wrote it Lee. I wanted to hint at the path coming full circle and perhaps carrying on forever.

    2. Well done! :)

  2. I could read this book. I will look for it. It must have been goo in order to move you to poetry

    1. It wasn't "goo" Red, it was good. To really appreciate it I think you must also have relished the pleasures of walking so from my memories of reading your blog I think you'll be okay.

  3. Well done Poet Pudding - I walked along every line of your poem.

    Ms Soup

    1. We walked in the valley
      Following the loop
      My companion that day
      Was Ms Alphie Soup

  4. The book sounds like something I would enjoy reading. I shall certainly be looking for it, thank you for recommending it.
    I like your poem. It does really "get" what walking (at its best) feels like.

    1. Thank you MR. As I say, it is a challenging read and it contained a several words I had never encountered before but written with intelligence and an almost mystical interest in "the old ways".

  5. We have that book in our library, though I haven't read it. We also have another one you might like, "The Walker's Handbook: Everything You Need to Know about Walking in the British Isles," by Hugh Westacott. I haven't read it either, I gotta admit.

    1. Thanks Steve. You would probably prefer to read "The Sitter's Handbook: Everything You Need To Know About Sitting in a Library" by Donald Trump. It's a very short book with lots of small words.

    2. LOL -- I definitely don't want to read ANYTHING by Donald Trump!

  6. I love your poetry and the walks you take us along for.

    Is Shirley excited for our upcoming birthday? March is my favorite month.

    1. Yes. She is so excited she can't sleep at night! We won't be home for her/your birthday. We're going on a little break to The Isle of Man - somewhere we have never been before.

    2. I love his books - they open up new aspects of the countryside which make any walk more interesting.
      I like the lilt of you poem - reciting it while walking would carry you along well.

    3. Thank you for reading it Mrs Weaver.

  7. Another good poem YP, but miss your photos - I like a nice selection.
    Will you remember us when you are Poet Laureate?

    1. Ode to Coppa's Girl

      Dear Coppa's Girl
      I'll remember thee
      When walking by
      A steel grey sea
      With wild waves
      Bursting on the shore
      I'll think of thee
      Forever more

    2. Dear Yorshire Pud,
      That poem's good.
      It's nice to hear you mutter
      Such lovely words,
      just for me,
      Now I've come over all of a flutter.

    3. Perhaps your last line should have been - "You really are a a nutter!"

    4. As if I'd be so rude - you have your ending and I'll have mine !

  8. Walking is fun
    Says the dad to his son
    But the son just mutters and cusses
    'If god meant us to walk,'
    He started to squawk
    He'd never have given us buses'

    1. Through gritted teeth, I have to admit that this is an excellent contribution fair Bard of Dukinfield!


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