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Walk to Connect with Ancient History,
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This review is from: The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot (Hardcover)
The Old Ways is a poetic book - whatever that means: lyrical, elegiac, figurative; the writer walks, and the reader follows, but the images conjured up by our footfall on ancient paths, slow us down, as we try to make sense of their meaning.
Macfarlane doesn't walk to get from point A to B, nor is he a "pilgrim" concerned with himself. He's not "testing his limits" - yet his walks can be very demanding. His first journey on foot takes him up the ancient Icknield Way. He cracks a rib or two even before starting his trip, but this only seems to him a minor impediment to walking - a entrance fee for admission onto a mythical path: He considers this to be his "entry fee" to the old way, "charged at one of the usual tollbooths".
The fact that he covers a hefty thirty miles a day and sleeps rough, Macfarlane only mentions in passing. And while other foot travel writers can go on for pages describing the slog of finding a place to sleep, Macfarlane simply notes: "I slept that night in a Neolithic dormitory on a seabed of chalk".
Neolithic - the New Stone Age. For Macfarlane, who estimates to have walked 6000 to 7000 miles on foot paths in his life so far, walking the old ways is about connecting with a landscape and its history - crossing over into a forgotten world.
If footpaths and walking them is not just an ordinary activity for you, but a profound, and, at times, even a mystic experience, this book is for you.