Confession: Every time I see a sign marking a public footpath I get a little bit excited. Our communal spaces have been eroded over the years, so when I see an actual sign telling me I can walk across an actual field on someone else’s actual land, I breathe a sigh of relief. In the UK, we’re lucky enough to have an entire network of them spanning our country, and it makes me very happy that we all have the right to use them.
The sign here is at Gatwick Airport, where I travel to and from every day. It’s hardly the sort of place you’d expect to see a sign like that. It’s a vestige of the old days, when all around were fields and hamlets. In a future post I’ll be telling you more about the secret routes behind the airport, where the passengers never go.
So my challenge this week is to find a footpath, follow its trail, and see where you end up. Why? You’ll be increasing neuroplasticity, that amazing ability our brains have to create new neural pathways. Even as our neurons die off with age, we can become more brilliant and cleverer than ever before. I love the fact that following a new physical path creates a new brain path too.
1. Buy a detailed map of your area, ie an ordnance survey map.
2. Find the public footpaths. They may be on the edges of your town, perhaps along parkland. With a marker, draw a route that you can get to easily.
3. On a weekend morning when you’ve a couple of hours spare, follow your footpath.
4. Take photographs en route. Mark your adventure.
Read the signs. Close gates, be safe, check your mobility first. Pushchairs, wheelchairs and dodgy limbs may need to be accounted for. Have fun!