Walking Women

Walking is my meditation. It provides an opportunity to be in tune with the rhythms of my body, focus on my breathing pattern, and feel physically present in my body. Walking gives me space to think, and it gives me time to not think.

Drawing and painting give me that similar ‘hit’ of total immersion, clarity, focus and total concentration. In a world where I am bombarded with seemingly important distractions, the simple acts of walking, drawing, painting and writing connect me to myself and my immediate world. These acts nourish my sense of myself, and define who I am, how I feel and what I believe in: simplicity, honesty and care.

A long distance solo walk along the South West Coast Path, armed with sketchbooks, journal, camera, dictaphone and tent, I will be embracing the path as a temporary studio. Avoiding the ubiquitous presence of the internet for six weeks, my sole purpose is to walk, draw, write, experience and embrace the physical and emotional challenge of walking the 633 mile circular route, beginning and ending in Penzance.


Walking as a solo woman is a different experience to that of walking as a man. As a woman, I have different/additional considerations: safety, awareness, plan Bs, letting friends/family know where I am, texting girl friends when we arrive home, and carrying my phone with me are just some of these considerations.

Literature by writers such as Kerri Andrews, Katherine May, Jennie Tough, Libby DeLana, Jennifer Higgie and Rebecca Solnitt, engages me with the wider conversation surrounding the social history of women being able to (or not being able to) walk where and how we please, and the parameters placed upon us historically and in our present (Western) world.

As a regular runner and avid reader of running related literature, the narrative can often be different according to gender: safety for women is seems to be our female responsibility, from how we wear our hair and what we wear, to what time we choose to run, where we run, and whom we run with. In the town I live in, a running group recently started for solely female runners, so women could run in safety. I don’t feel critical of clubs like this, and I understand their purpose, but I feel frustrated by the limiting narrative, that as women, we cannot, or should not be doing things on our own for fear that something might happen. In Rebecca Solnitt’s words ‘walking is a form of resistance’ and I embrace being able to embark upon a long solo walk, enjoying and engaging with the landscape, then recreating these emotional or internal landscapes within the studio. Walking for me is not just about the external view of the landscape, but more about the internal conversations of physical and mental stamina, courage, perceived limits and pushing through. When making visual work, this sense of self awareness and internal dialogue is a starting point for marks, lines, shape, composition, colour, size of board and choice of materials.

Rain, mizzle, drizzle, torrential, mist, strong winds, sea fog, torrent, flood, deluge, downpour, heavy showers.

Wet tent, wet feet, wet skin, soggy sketchbooks, damp bedding, soaking tent, heavy pack, slippery underfoot, mushy feet. Grey sky, no distance, hood up and head down.

The walk I undertook was not the walk I had planned. Weather hampered my walking speed, my safety, my enjoyment of the whole project. A long walk turned into something that felt bitty, uninspiring, and on some days felt dangerous to be walking on cliffs in the pouring rain and high winds. So I stopped. I realised that this had become an unenjoyable task, a self-made monster of anxiety. Factors beyond my control meant I needed to pause, re-evaluate and eventually stop.

As I work towards responding visually to The Walk That Wasn’t I reflect upon the original planned length of the walk, the circular shape of the walk, the point of start and finish, the additional places along the way that have huge importance for me, the places I walked that were new to me, and the areas of the path that I had trodden well. I reflect upon Long’s 100 mile walk on Dartmoor in 1971/2, and the relatively small area of land he circled. I think about Libby Delana’s daily two hour early morning walking ritual and her written reflections on her blog. I consider what I wanted to find out by doing a longer walk over a few months and how I thought it might impact my practice further, compared to what I achieved instead.

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