Walking in the footsteps of others

 

footpathI recently spent an amazing week in the Lake District.  I wanted to explore some of the higher hills that I hadn’t visited before.  Technically they qualify as mountains, (and certainly felt that way!) but that term feels odd to apply to our English landscape.  I walk regularly, and certainly take sensible precautions, but these hills can be dangerous, especially to the inexperienced.  The thing about challenging yourself is that you can’t do it by doing things that you know you can do.  That makes this kind of venture intrinsically scary.  There are a number of challenges such as could I physically cope with it and could I find my way.  These routes mean you are slogging uphill for two to three hours and then, faced with an equally challenging descent.  A 7 mile walk can easily take 5 hours. 

One thing you can’t help noticing in the Lakes is how the landscape is scarred by people’s passage.  However, there are are also places which are totally unmarked and they make you very aware that you can very easily get lost.  These days people seem obsessed by doing their own thing and being original but actually there is an awful lot to be said for following in the footsteps of others.  When I saw these paths I knew that they worked; I didn’t know if they were easy, but I knew if I followed them I would get down.  Isaac Newton referred to “Standing on the shoulders of giants” as a positive that comes from following what others have done.  I have spent my life challenging the status quo and just repeating what others have done, but there are times, and fell walking is one of them, where you can appreciate why this can be a very smart option.

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