University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK
This ambitious collection of essays sets out to define a new type of cultural heritage – a long-term history of how movement and path-making have shaped the landscape, and how communities and individuals can be shaped by their interactions with paths, tracks and trails.
Public interest in walking increased dramatically during the pandemic, but walking and hiking both have a long tradition as outdoor pursuits, as do trail running, mountain biking and horse riding. Access to the countryside has been a long cherished right in many countries, and a right which has been fought for over the course of the 19th and 20th centuries in particular. The physicality of paths as historic features is often undervalued, and they are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of development, climate change and in some cases to over-use.
This collection aims to explore many of these issues and to investigate the different approaches and methodologies which can be used to explore the concept of ‘movement heritage’ through studies of paths and path-making. The varied and engaging essays are the result of a workshop held in April 2021 to explore the concept of ‘movement heritage’, bringing together historians, curators, archaeologists, folklorists and artists. The book is split into three sections, which deal with the past, present, and future of walking and movement in the landscape.
Both focus on the historical narratives that are embodied in the trails, and the ways in which modern walkers can both experience the past and maintain pilgrimage routes in the present by the simple act of walking and rewalking these routes.
The first section is rooted in the past, with chapters exploring the various ways in which paths and trails have come into being and have been shaped by historical processes and ownership. Three of these essays deal with Britain – Readman focuses on the ways in which footpaths in England became the subject of progressive politics and popular protest for walkers and ramblers from the 19th century onwards, whilst subsequent legislation in the 20th century actually helped to preserve the status quo and the primacy of the rights of the landowner over those of the walker.
The dynamics of power over public access and rights of way also comes to the fore in Anderson’s essay which contrasts the fight for public access over the upland moors of northern England with access to the mountains in Austria – powerful landowners and vested interests loom large in both landscapes. O’Hara and Hickman also draw attention to the way that the state has legislated on access rights through the creation of the ‘definitive’ maps of the post-war period in England and Wales, defining and mapping public rights of way for the first time. They also point to the creation in the 1960s and 1970s of long-distance trails in England, carefully constructed routes which often rely on a sense of history to draw in tourists and walkers, but which actually offer a rather synthetic historical experience.
Sensory experiences are at the heart of the essays by Karen Lykke Syse and Stefano Morosini, including the ways that modern walkers and hikers can capture some of the experiences of the past by using historic trails and paths. Syse focuses on the ways in which paths were created and maintained by both local communities and animals in the complex grazing landscapes of 19th-century Norway, and the how these were experienced by early tourists and modern hiking enthusiasts. Morosini traces the archaeological remains of the First World War in the Alps and the evidence of that conflict on Mount Scorluzzo, which has recently been interpreted for walkers and tourists using an app to follow the defensive lines established by Austrian troops.
Part Two focuses on experiences of paths and trails in the present, and the ways in which the cultural heritage of paths can form a focus for storytelling and narratives. Here, the tangible heritage of paths in the landscape becomes closely linked with their intangible heritage – our experiences, memories and stories as we move along these routes in the present. Two essays by Österlund-Pötzch and Brudin Borg explore the trails of the Åland islands in Finland and the well-known pilgrimage route the Camino de Santiago. Both focus on the historical narratives that are embodied in the trails, and the ways in which modern walkers can both experience the past and maintain pilgrimage routes in the present by the simple act of walking and rewalking these routes. In doing so, walkers contribute to the intangible cultural memory which is vital for understanding these routes, and the landscapes they run through.
The same can be said of the other landscapes and trails that are covered in this section – Jorgenson explores how paths and trails in the digital world of video games replicate those in the physical landscape, and the social and cultural expectations in the way that players are expected to engage with virtual trails. Essays by Bertens and Lilja explore artistic and design-led responses to paths and place, with the audio-scapes and walks of the artist Janet Cardiff, and Lilja’s own experiences of walking in a limestone quarry in Sweden, both of which are infused with a rich materiality of both the physical environment, our bodily reactions to it, and a sense of ‘deep’ time.
In Part Three the essays look to the future as well as the past, with essays which consider the idea of movement heritage as a type of heritage practice. Essays by Subarna De and Martin examine paths and place-making in a global context – in the Indian region of Kodagu where the practice of walking paths on colonial coffee plantations contributed to a continuous evolution of indigenous knowledge of local flora and fauna and memories, whilst in the Philippines the Ifuago Rice Terraces are now part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but the importance of paths and trails within the landscape is sometimes overlooked in terms of their heritage value. Other essays in this section take us on paths through the industrial heritage of mining landscapes in Belgium (Valisena), ancient pathways in the settlement of Aristi in Greece (Athanasiou and Sklavounos), established and spontaneous trails in Norway (Richards) and the Martyr’s Trail in Israel (Piekarska). All these essays explore the practice of walking as a way of memorialising the past, and the importance of paths and moving through the landscape as a form of cultural heritage.
This collection is intended to start a conversation among historians, heritage practitioners and others with an interest in the history and heritage of movement and the landscape, and it is a thought-provoking and wide-ranging set of essays. This is surely an area in which there is fruitful research to be done, and one in which historians of sport and leisure could make an effective contribution – this collection is focused almost entirely on the act of walking, but there are many other ways of making and experiencing paths and trails, on horseback or on bicycle, for example. As a conversation starter, this is an effective and immersive volume which will be of interest to historians of sport and leisure, environmental history and heritage practice, which should reach a broad audience thanks to being an open-access e-book.
Copyright © Sarah Spooner 2023
Table of Content
Introduction: Movement Heritage and Path Dependence: Layering the Past
Section I – Past Preconditions of Paths
Section II – Off the Beaten Tracks
Section III – Searching for New Path Heritage