Walking in the countryside is an increasingly popular pursuit in Britain. Much previous research within the social sciences has tended to concentrate on the physiological benefits, barriers or facilitators to walking. This thesis explores particular walkers’ complex motivations for and modes of walking, their individual engagements with certain types of (northern) landscapes and the significance of specific kinds of visual images, traditions and wider practices of looking. Constructions and discourses of landscape are considered in relation to the persistence of certain ideas and aesthetic traditions as well as and in relation to current concerns about individual health and social well-being. The research is multi-disciplinary and engages with studies of art history and visual culture, cultural geography, anthropology and sociology. Visual studies research methods are used to explore individual interpretations and experiences of landscapes, and how the circulation and consumption of particular kinds of images might inform attitudes to walks and walking. Walkers’ views and attitudes have been investigated using an ethnographic approach. In-depth qualitative interviews (including photo elicitation) have been undertaken with walkers who regularly walked five or more miles in the countryside either in organised groups, on their own or with friends and family, in order to capture how walking is perceived, felt, and made sense of. A grounded theory approach has been used for the interviews, building on theories that emerged from systematic comparative analysis, and were grounded in the fieldwork. Overall the thesis observes a marked persistence of and some striking similarities between particular ideas, cultural traditions and interpretations of walking in and ways of looking at types of countryside from the Romantic period to the present day.
|Publication status||Accepted/In press - Jun 2016|