Walks for the Royal Geographical Society
By Marianna Dudley
My participation in the History of Environmental Change network had extended an ongoing interest in movement and place in the research and writing of history – specifically, how walking (and the history of walking) can inform historical methodology. The inclusion of walks in the workshops stimulated many of the discussions of the networks, and introduced us to the local places we chose to engage with in an experiential way. Follow-on funding from the AHRC has allowed me to introduce other places that I know well from my research – military training areas – to the public, by creating 2 walks on training bases for the Royal Geographical Society’s Discovering Britain series.
The first of these walks, ‘Military Environmentalism on Salisbury Plain’, is now live on the Discovering Britain website, available as a free audio guide to accompany the walker along the 6 mile route. Along the way, you will walk along a prehistoric long barrow, skirt a replica-training village constructed in the heart of the plain, and experience the expansive grasses and big skies of the largest remaining chalk grassland in NE Europe. I hope the walk will open up the idea of military training areas as accessible landscapes to civilians, who often assume it is out of bounds. In fact, the MoD have a current presumption in favour of public access, and are opening more public footpaths around and in military land.
As well as a chance to experience an exhilarating landscape the walk will hopefully encourage people to think about the links between militarism and environment, and go beyond the notion that the military is intrinsically bad for the environment. The notion of military environmentalism itself is explored, and the walker is invited to observe both the impact of the military on the Plain, and nature’s responses to the military presence.
If you try the walk, do leave feedback – I’d love to here your responses to the walk, the landscape it covers, and the histories it encounters!