getting out of it
I started hillwalking in the early 1970s because as soon as I got near a hill I could relax. In fact I couldn’t relax any other way. I’m not overstating this. It was a feeling that might be lost later in the walking day for any number of reasons, but for me the venue itself–the upland outdoors–acted like a tranquiliser & an antidepressant. Later in the day–whatever had happened in the interrim: you might get soaked, you might get lost, you might get blisters, you might experience a little low-wattage sublime–tiredness took over & provided another kind of chemical cosh. This never worked for me in towns & cities, or in lowlands. The built environment offered an anxious trudge, a failed yet persistent attempt at leaving yourself–or more likely the venue–behind. Exurban lowlands I just found uninteresting–I’m not saying that’s true now, & I’d rather walk on agricultural land, which I hate with a passion because it’s so clearly owned, than not walk at all. It’s the sense of ownership/not ownership, in the end, that makes the difference to me. I know rationally that I’m not “free” on access land: but at least, for the moment, no one can stop me being there.
I felt something related the first time I was in Ireland. Told it was okay/normal to walk across a farmer’s land without their permission, I was completely baffled by the idea that I would not be shot without warning, or even shot at all. This created the simulacrum of unowned land, or something close to “freedom”.
Hi Brendan. National Parks & Open Access Land make a big difference. I don’t think anyone would actually shoot you any more here, even on private land. Luckily that’s not an issue. Of course, there are vast implications to the Tories’ coming attempt to break the Human Rights act–but I worry that while we’re defending the more important rights, they’ll take the opportunity to quietly curtail or reverse the “right to roam”, which their traditional constituency hates like poison.