Thought paths

Has mobility and movement got anything to do with how we think?

It’s something Darwin considered as long ago as the 1840s. Settling home at Down House in Kent after his travels on the HMS Beagle, he created a gravel path, called the ‘Sandwalk’ that wound it’s way through nearby woods, across fields and back to the house. Darwin strolled the circuit daily and called it his “thinking path” recognizing that his thought processes where inherently connected with the movement of walking in nature (Milner, Natural History, August 1996).

My own research has explored similar such paths in nature and how it affects thinking in relation to our everyday strivings and goals. I found a walk in a natural setting was much more beneficial – as compared to an urban walk – to reflective thought and positively shifted people’s perceptions of day-to-day ‘doings’. I was intrigued therefore to discover that Stanton Williams’ new research laboratory in Cambridge – this year’s Stirling Prize winner for architecture – had woven a thinking path into the exterior landscape to promote intellectual thinking and reflection.

I have my own thinking route, the Meadows – a large green space in Edinburgh – which I jog around early morning or late evening and the birthplace of many an idea for my next seminar or research project. Perhaps Darwin’s ‘thinking path’ can help us in our own evolution and personal thought processes.

What’s your favourite thinking path?