A few days ago I decided that I wanted to go on a long country walk from one village to another village. There wasn’t any real particular reason other than to see what it would be like to walk on a route that is largely used by car drivers and a few road cyclists.
So I began my walk from Meltham on a hot summer evening. The path started on the B6107 Slaithwaite Road where fortunately for me there was a pavement! But then after a while the pavement disappeared ….
… I got the feeling that walkers were not really meant to walk beyond this point or maybe it was because it was assumed that no one would be crazy enough to walk on these sorts of roads in the countryside. My view on that was that I wanted to experience the ambience of the countryside by going on foot.
Walking is a very different experience to driving. When driving in a car from one place to another, one loses that connection with place and doesn’t really feel as much the undulations, contours, smells and sounds of places. Indeed, as Will Self has argued, driving is like seeing the world through a cinema screen, with the front window as being like a cinema screen! If driving is like going to the cinema then I say that the films that I ‘watch’ and ‘experience’ are a mixture of road trip films (where I’m either actually going on a road trip), slow paced dull films (where nothing really happens and the storylines are quite dull) or angry films (where all the characters get really angry with each other – ie. road rage).
I can’t say that I felt very safe but at least the car drivers gave me a wide berth! This part of the walk made me feel quite unnerved as there were a lot of U bends and hills where it was not as easy for me or the cars to see each other. Indeed I would think that car drivers would not expect to come across people walking on this route. And probably the fact that there was no footpath showed that it was not really somewhere for people to walk. Silly me deciding to go on such a walk! But hey, I like walking! It my job to walk (and to write and teach).
So on that note I carried on walking. Once I’d got upto the top of the hill, the whole landscape ‘opened up’ and I could see for miles around me. It really was a pleasure to behold. There was the beautiful and undulating countryside all around me and in the distance I could see Slaithwaite, Marsden and the town of Huddersfield. So I continued onwards and then the road began to descend downwards.
One thing to note about West Yorkshire is that it’s very hilly! You don’t really get that much of a feel of that in a car but try cycling up some of the hills around Meltham and you’ll experience the ‘pain’ … particularly up Wessenden Head Road. I mean even the Grand Depart of the Tour de France takes place around here next year! The scenery is quite frankly breathtaking but the roads are hilly and tough!
Anyhow, many of the car drivers drove pretty fast through the countryside and that really destroyed the sound of the birds singing and gentle wind blowing through the trees and plants all around. The writing on the roads said ‘slow’ in capital letters but none of the car drivers seemed to take any notice of that.
As I walked on a police car appeared in the distance. I think it slowed down in speed when they saw me. Maybe they thought that it was quite bizarre that I was walking on that route? Anyhow, I carried on walking and took a few photos along the way. Photography is quite important to my walking practice (as I’ll explain in more detail in a future blog entry).
In conclusion it took me an hour and 15 minutes to talk from Meltham to Marsden. That’s a distance of three and a half miles. When I got there I was rather thirsty and went to a cafe for a cup of coffee. Coffee, beer and tea are essential beverages for flaneurs and flâneuses!
So that’s the end of that walk account. See you soon and I hope you enjoyed reading my first blog entry. I’ll be writing all sorts of blog accounts relating to projects about the changing form of urban and rural environments, effects of gentrification and neoliberalism, psychogeography, deep topography and other critical approaches to investigating environments … Bye bye!