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"A vigorous walk will do more good for an unhappy adult than all the medicine and psychology in the world". - Paul Dudley

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 It was a great time for us in Cornwall with you. Every day I´m in thoughts of the coastal path way.

- Brigitte, Germany

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Walking blog: The philosophy of walking

Desire Lines or Desire Paths

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Whilst walking around the Penryn Tremough campus of the University of Exeter where I have my office, I have become aware of long patches of what is presently mud and flattened grass. They veer around objects, connect low walls, merge and unmerge and basically connect buildings, major paths and areas of heavier traffic. These are known as Desire paths or Desire lines where people ignore what has been laid down as a route, normally a concrete or brick path and they traverse from one area to another to save time.

The scourge of designers? The laziness of typecast students - obviously eager to get to lectures(!?), multiple acts of subversive protest, asserting individualism or inadvertently automatic reaction to a choice of getting from a to b? In short they are paths that the public have voted with their feet that should be, and now are. Some, belatedly, have been partly paved with steps, somehow legitimizing common sense and the will of the people.

Research tells me that they are a common feature of public open spaces where the designers, whether in urban areas or amenity parks have found that their original design has not been adhered to and has been rejected, modified, utilised and embedded in the overall network of "access all areas".

Animals, and I mean other than bipedal humans, blaize the trail (pun intended) by walking directly from a to b. Having said that some animals do follow the contours of the land as it is an easier option. So here's a bit of advice. If you were thinking of building a shed, say, on the main migration route of, for example, Elk (do I have friends in Wyoming and Yellowstone National Park?), then I can guarantee the fact that they will not walk around it, and your shed will now be useful for tinder for your next fire.

Some of the tracks on the campus presently have not got the uniformity of public agreement as to the best route from the said a to b so that the trails are just multiples of stretches of bent grass, not yet acquiesced or matured into a formal or in this case informal path which these first attempts aspire to. Further research shows that when the grass on another campus was reseeded, the paths reappeared again over time. Planners and architects take note that 90 degrees isn't always what the public want

Here in Cornwall check out how many badger, rabbit and fox trails there are along the hedges. Also notice and expect that any path that takes you in a square around a field will have the tell tale signs of Desire paths or Desire lines where people just want to cut across the 90 degree formal path. Coming through a gateway? Check out the flattened grass fanning out at all angles to various points of importance. Now you've got your eye in, enjoy your new walks. Revolution or evolution?

I bet you will notice many more examples of not following the formality of a pre planned path. By all means send me some photos of your own as I will be using them in future research.

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