What do you call a path that is no path? A riddle? A sequence of compass bearings? A deathtrap?
These are questions which Robert Macfarlane sets out to answer in his book, 'Silt', which documents his journey across the Broomway section of the 'Old Ways'. Throughout history, it has been a perilous passage, where time and tide really does wait for no one.
Macfarlane has authored a detailed description of his journey with his old friend and photographer, David Quentin. His writing charts his planning and implementation of a dangerous quest, which I had not heard of before. Over the centuries, this Essex offshore path has caused the loss of more than 60 lives. The lack of significant landmarks distorts time and space, disorientating the walker, who has very little time to reach his destination, along tidal sands between Wakering Stairs and Foulness. At the end of the book there are a collection of David Quentin's photographs, taken during their walk along the contingent path. Conveniently, the photographs are found at the end of the book. This enables the reader to create a picture in their mind, which is easy thanks to the amount detail that Macfarlane includes.
Having read this book, it has opened my mind to exploring more places. Maybe not perilous paths though! Even within a country that I have grown up in, there still places that I know very little about.
Macfarlane, R. (2013) Silt. Penguin Group: London