Why are paths important?
People use paths for different purposes but they can be split into two main reasons – they use paths to get to places and also simply because they enjoy using them. And often it's both!
Paths get you from A to B!
For as long as humans have been able to walk they have been creating paths and routes to and from places. In the past these paths might have been used as trading routes between towns and villages; they might have been used as pilgrimage routes to reach religious sites; as ways of getting animals from farms to towns on drove roads; and as ways of getting from home to work, such as miners paths. Scotways have a great website that shows ‘heritage paths’. You can use it to find old paths in your part of Scotland and to find out some more information about why they were created and who used them.
Today we still use paths for practical reasons and they form a key part of what we call ‘Active Travel’. Active Travel is where you travel for some or all of a journey under your own power – such as by walking or cycling. Paths can be used by to get from home to school, shops, park or to where you might catch a train or bus.
Paths are good for the planet and for you!
Active travel helps to save the planet as it means less people use cars that pollute the atmosphere. It’s also important because it helps to keep people fit and healthy. But people don’t just use paths simply to get to places – they also use them for fun and enjoyment.
Enjoy nature on your local paths
Being out and about in the outdoors is proven to make people feel more happy and relaxed. Going for a walk on local paths is something that lots of people have enjoyed during 2020's Covid-19 lockdown. It has been a great way for people to get out of the house and to enjoy being in nature. What things have you seen when you’ve been out for walks? Have you seen lots of flowers and animals? Were there birds and animals you heard but didn’t see? Do you enjoy playing in the outdoors?
If you enjoy the outdoors and would like to learn more about the natural environment as a family (or on your own) then you could sign up for The John Muir Award. To gain an award you have to discover a local place, explore it, conserve it and then share your experiences with others.
Staying active and healthy!
As well as just enjoying using paths to be in the outdoors, people use paths to stay fit and healthy. Going for a walk is a free activity that most people can do to get fitter and stay healthy. It’s also a great way of doing exercise in a group with your family and friends. Exercising with other people helps keep you motivated and can make you want to keep doing it. Do you see people out for walks on the paths in your local area? Maybe you can go for a short walk today with your family or friends.
Activities to try
Here are some ideas that you can use to enjoy your time while out on a walk and to appreciate how important paths can be:
Get your family to leave the car at home if you’re going on a short journey. Why not walk to the park or the shops instead. Going to visit family or friends in the local area? Why take the car? It’s better for you and it’s better for the environment to walk instead.
Take some photos of plants and animals that you see on your walk. You or your parents could post them on social media for other people to enjoy.
You could get involved in some citizen science. This is where people can contribute to scientific studies by reporting on what things you see or by taking measurements of the natural world. Lots of fantastic ideas for citizen science activities can be found here on the NatureScot website.
Take a few minutes to sit in a quiet place and enjoy being in the moment. Use your senses to experience what is around you. After you’ve sat for a while you could talk to the others on your walk about what you heard, saw or smelled.
If you’re out for a walk on your own you could listen to our ‘Mind to Walk’ podcast. Radio DJ and TV presenter Edith Bowman will talk you through a walk that will relax your mind as you move your feet.
If you like going on walks to keep you fit you could set yourself a simple challenge to get fitter. You could try walking a little bit further each day or time yourself on a short part of your walk and see if you’ve got a little faster over time.