The series Notes and Quotes highlights interesting people, writings, places and quotes while reading books I like. This is a way to store this information in my external memory, because my human memory often fails. Most of the topics are mapped on Discover British Isles.

In The Old Ways. A Journey on Foot (2013), Robert Macfarlane takes you along footpaths people have used in the past. Traversing England, Scotland and some places abroad (the latter not selected) he walks on prehistoric, Roman and medieval paths. Mostly Macfarlane is accompanied by a friend (colleague writer, artist or adventurer) well known in the region he discovers. For me, a question asked by Roger Deakin, the late friend of Macfarlane, is the essence of this book:  “Why would anyone want to go live abroad when they can live in several countries at once just by being in England?” Do I need to answer?

Chapter 1 – Track

Chapter 2 – Path
Utsi’s Stone – Cairngorms – 15

17 – “Paths are the hobbits of a landscape. They are acts of consensual making. It’s hard to create a footpath on your own.”

27 – “‘I can only meditate when I am walking,’ wrote Jean-Jacques Rousseau in the ninth book of his Confessions, ‘when I stop I cease to think; my mind only works with my legs.’”

Chapter 3 – Chalk
Icknield Way – 37-55
At Ivinghoe Beacon joining the Ridgeway – 41
Edward Thomas – 43

Chapter 4 – Silt
Broomway – 59-81
Foulness – 59
Sands of Morecambe Bay, from Hens Bank to Kents Bank – 60
Wakering Stairs – 65
Doggerland – 69-72

79 – Roger Deakin: “Why would anyone want to go live abroad when they can live in several countries at once just by being in England?”

Chapter 5 – Water – South
Shiants – 87-115
Astar mara – 88
Kenneth White – 92, 94-5
Stornoway – 96-8
Adam Nicolson – Sea Room – 110
Tim Robinson – Topographies of the Irish Aran islands – 111
St Columb – overseas travel from County Mayo in Ireland to Iona – 112

88 – “Sea roads are dissolving paths whose passage leaves no trace beyond a wake, a brief turbulence astern. They survive as convention, tradition, as.a sequence of coordinates, as a series of way marks, as dotted lines on charts, and as stories and songs.”

95 – Peregrini – wandering devout – travelled by boat on their pilgrimages, making landfall on distant islands and headlands (Iona, North Rona) long before the Norsemen reached such places.”

111 – “Small islands have often inspired dreams of total knowledge in those who love them.”

Chapter 6 – Water – North
Sula Sgeir (the Rock) – 119-38
North Rona (the Pasture) – 120-1

Chapter 7 – Peat
Clachan Mhanais – Manus’s Stones – 141-65
Manus’s Stones (footpath) – 144-  from Camus Mol Linis/Bay of Boulders (154) – Dubh Loch/Black Lake (156) – Loch Hamnaway (157) – border Lewis and Harris (164) – Tarbert (164)
Finlay MacLeod – 144
Anne Campbell – 150
Frank Fraser Darling – 160

158 – “When the day was at its warmest, and the peat at its spongiest, I took Anne’s advise, tugged off my boot and socks, and walked barefoot for an hour or so. The peat was slippery and cool, and where I stepped on sphagnum it surged up and around my foot, damp as a poultice.”

Chapter 8 – Gneiss
Geocrab – 169-82
Artist Steve Dilworth

Chapter 9 – Granite
Cairngorms – 185-205
Lairig Ghru Trail
Blair Atholl up the Glen Tilt – 188
Pools of Tarf – 190
A.R.B. Haldane – The Drove Roads of Scotland – 191
Nan Shepherd – 192
Lairig Ghru – 195
Pools of Dee – 200
Vast pine forests of Rothiemurchus – 202

201 – “‘A mountain has an inside,’ Shepherd had written. It is a superbly counter-intuitive proposition, for we customarily imagine mountains in terms of their external surfaces and outward-facing forms: cliffs, plateaux, pinnacles, ridges and scarps. But mountains are also defined by their interiors: their corries, caves, hollows and valleys, and by the depths of their rivers, lochs and lochans. Once our eyes have learnt  to see that mountains are composed of absent space as well as massy presence, then we might also come to imagine walking not ‘up’ a mountain but ‘into a mountain. Shepherd was always  looking into the mountain landscape…”

Chapter 13 – Snow
Ridgeway – 291-304
Christopher Tilley – The Phenomenology of Landscape – 291
Eric Ravilious – 294

Chapter 14 – Flint
South Downs – 307-30
Edward Thomas – The South Country – 308
Chanctonbury Ring – 317-9
Kingston – Jugg’s Road – 324
Cradle Hill – 327

Chapter 15 – Ghost

339 – “During the Kent and Hampshire years, when [Edward] Thomas is not walking he is reading about walking. Coleridge and Hazlitt, the nonconformists: path-following as dissent. Bunyan an the Puritan tradition: path-following and obedience. Cervantes and the picaresque, Malory and medieval chivalry, the Mabinogion and Wales and Giraldus Cambrensis.”

Chapter 16 – Print
Prehistorian footprint – 359-64
Formby Point, a few miles north of Liverpool – 359


Imprint: Penguin
Published: 30/05/2013
ISBN: 9780141030586
Length: 448 Pages