You don't have to go far to find information linking walking and creativity. Let's start with Nietzsche who said “All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking.” Of course there are hundreds of other reasons to go for a walk, and I imagine that anyone's motivation to go outside and put one foot in front of the other varies every time they do it. Of all the things that have changed so much over the last 18 months, one thing that almost all of us have in common is that our approach to walking has changed. Perhaps you got thoroughly sick of walking during the first lockdown and have vowed never to walk "for fun" again; perhaps you're a hillwalker who felt stifled through all the weeks we were unable to leave our local area; perhaps you're someone who pre-pandemic was a regular walker but had to shield and so were unable to leave the house for vast periods of time.
This week I was lucky enough to be invited along to a Healthy Valleys Sketch and Walk event in Castlebank Park. It was a gentle led walk around the park, with ‘sketching breaks’ to encourage us to be aware of the nature around us. Sue McMillan, an artist with her studio in the Clyde Valley joined us to encourage and support us. Before we set off we were put through some warm up exercises; not your usual stretching and balancing, instead of getting our limbs in gear we were activating the right side of our brain, getting it ready to draw. Unfortunately despite this, even with the added benefits of walking to spark my creativity, I was unable to produce any masterpieces; there is a reason this blog is accompanied by a photograph not a drawing, but the idea that I was there to draw made me look in much more detail both at the small things in front of me, the delicate veins on the leaves of a rose bush, and the broad vista, gently sloping hills above and the deep swooping valley below. It also sparked some interesting conversations, often about nature, the type of tree, the multitude of autumn colour, but also history, as we stood in the William Wallace rose garden.
Also accompanying us on our walk was Dee Heddon from Glasgow University who is currently leading a research project exploring walking and creativity, looking at whether the two have become more connected as a result of the pandemic. You can hear her talk about it with Claire Balding on Ramblings; the data has already showed, unsurprisingly, that more people walked, and more people walked more over those months of last year when there was little else to do. The team working on the project are investigating how people felt about those experiences of walking. Interestingly more than 50% encountered external creative input whilst walking including painted stone trails which I know have been a feature of parks all over Lanarkshire and which have helped create a feeling of community whilst we were otherwise disconnected. As well as the general public, the researchers are now looking at artists and how they included walking as part of their creative practice, to inspire them where perhaps the usual inspiration had been absent. I'm excited to follow their developments.
Ironically, after feeling very inspired by this event and by talking to Dee and all the reading I have done as a result, I am finding it very difficult to find the words to finish this blog! So, I think I will just leave you with some creative inspiration for walking that anyone can do. The 4th World Congress of Psychogeography happened a few weeks ago, and a walking artist called Sonia Overall created some walking prompts to investigate in your house, in the outdoors or in your mind. I am particularly drawn to the hide and seek wander - to search out things that are partially hidden. I've been doing this naturally over the last few weeks, looking for mushrooms in the woods; I've not found anything exciting - yet - so will leave you with a picture from someone I follow on instagram who found a purple mushroom and was very excited about it! Nature is very inspirational.