Walking connects us to the world around us

Every walk has the potential to be a challenge, but what kind of challenge? The Big Pathwatch is a chance to think beyond personal goals and take on wider concerns; what do our rights of way mean, and what does it say about us if we let them fall into disrepair?

A good walk is a challenge we set ourselves. It asks questions about physical fitness, stamina and organisation. I recently used a four-day walk across south east England to challenge my own understanding of a landscape I pass through every day when commuting to work. I realised that seeing the world from a window wasn't enough - I wanted to feel it and be part of it.

This started me thinking about challenges of an altogether different nature. Where, in my own country, is open and closed to me? Where can I and can't I go? The mass trespass of Kinder Scout was most definitely this kind of challenge - a provocative act intended to challenge centuries old laws about what is 'ours'.

I see the Big Pathwatch as being rooted in this kind of challenge, too. Even with freedom to roam, much of lowland England would be completely off limits and closed to the tens of millions who live there were it not for the extensive network of paths we enjoy.

Every time a stile rots and isn't repaired or a path becomes overgrown it’s like an artery being blocked, cutting off circulation. The challenge to each of us should be to keep the blood flowing. What would it say about our relationship with the land we live on if we let this network of paths wither? That we don't want to go there? That the hills, fields and tracks have nothing to offer us?

Keep that thought in mind the next time you plan a walk. Better still, use the Big Pathwatch to take some ownership of the paths near you.