The 26 Steps

26steps-logo3October 2015 marked the 100th anniversary of the publication of John Buchan’s famous novel, ‘The 39 Steps’. In the book, the action moves from London to Dumfries & Galloway and then back to Kent. In later film versions, the Forth Rail Bridge also features. The hero of the novel, Richard Hannay, travels through the landscape to avoid his captors.

The novel was a stepping off point for this @26Characters project around the theme of walking in the landscape. There is something mindful about taking the time to watch & listen as we walk along a route, observing the changing weather, hearing the birdsong or traffic noise, letting the motion of our footsteps relax our physical selves and open our minds. We were keen to capture the essence of walking in the landscape by encouraging a writing project influenced by psychogeographical writers such as Robert Macfarlane, Eddie Proctor (@Landscapism) and Bobby Seal (@BobbySeal1).

The project identified 26 short walks in the UK going from a placename beginning with each letter of the Alphabet to a place starting with the next letter in sequence (e.g. Boarhills to Crail). The walks took in a range of landscapes; rivers, woods, farmland, coastal fringes, urban areas and mountains.

Each writer was asked visit the location they were matched with to undertake the walk. They will be asked to complete three tasks:

  1. take a single B&W photograph that sums up the essence of their particular journey; this image is the front of their walk postcard.
  2. create a hand-drawn black ink sketch map that represents their perception of the journey from A to B including any memorable features marked along the route.
  3. produce a Sestude inspired by the landscape seen and heard while undertaking the walk.

Each of these 3 outputs would form a virtual postcard from the places explored.

The walks took place between March and May 2016. What resulted was a wonderfully rich & eclectic portrait of the landscape and its effect on us.

Enjoy dipping into the images, words & maps on the project website. We hope it inspires you to explore these walks or others in your own landscape.

Sandy Wilkie & Michelle Nicol (Project Editors)

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