Take a stroll through the mists of time
In her new book ‘A History of the World in 500 Walks’, Sarah Baxter reveals the treks that tell the story of mankind. Here, she selects some favourites
Llooking out over the glistening blue sea, I realised: it is possible to travel back in time. I was enjoying a well-earned lunch break on England’s South West Coast Path, a route forged by 19th-century coastguards on the lookout for smugglers. But I was also sitting atop Jurassic-era cliffs flecked with fossils, in turn topped by an Iron Age hill fort, since commandeered by the MOD. The millennia-old earthworks provided an excellent picnic spot.
By walking – and using a little imagination – you can take yourself back to bygone ages. Eschewing transport puts us on a level playing field with our forebears and we see the world through their eyes. Even if the view has changed, treading on ground stomped by the soldiers, kings, pioneers and pilgrims of the past forges a connection back to them. Wherever you walk, someone or something has almost certainly gone before. This enriches every ramble. It means we can stride out amid landscapes made wonderfully weird by geothermal activity. We can stroll via crumbling castles, walls that kept people in – and out – furrows made by slaves and escapees, streets lined with epoch-defining architecture, or really old trees. Sometimes I think: if only the earth could talk. Then I look closely – at the grooves and hummocks, at the ruins and wellpreserved remains – and find that, if you really listen hard, it does. Point in time: 100BC-AD100 (the peak of Petra civilisation) Length: 28 miles; 4-6 days Difficulty: Easy/moderate Best months: Feb-April, Oct-Dec
As I sat by the banks of the lazy Moselle, chilled riesling in hand, I made a toast to the Romans. For without them, this would be a far less intoxicating place. They first brought viticulture here 2,000 years ago. Wine was deemed essential, so when the legions forged into Germania – establishing Augusta Treverorum (Trier) in 16BC – grapes were planted to ensure a ready supply. Two millennia later, the Moselle is flanked by vines, even on the steepest slopes. Sections of riverbank that aren’t growing grapes are dotted with villages flinging open their