BY RICHARD LOCKER
Footpath to Ruswarp
The French philosopher Gaston Bachelard first coined the phrase ’Desire Lines’ in his 1958 book 'The Poetics of Space'. Expressed as 'a term in landscape architecture used to describe a path that isn’t designed but is rather worn away by people finding the shortest distance between two points'.
It is considered that the perfect desire line is a well worn path that either runs parallel with an existing footpath or one that diverges from the said path only to intercept it later, usually shortening the length of the journey. It could be said that each one of the paths represents a subconscious desire to rally against the strictures of conformity and the town planners bludgeoning slide rule or maybe it’s the simple fact that it’s the most natural and obvious route from point A to point B.
I have vague recollections that as a child I was seemingly able to navigate the whole town using these secretive and endless dusty highways, never actually having to set foot on tarmac or concrete at all. But it appears that over the years the majority of these paths have gradually vanished, either through dereliction of use or as sometimes occurs, the local authority has actually taken heed of the lumpenproletariat’s wilfulness, and turned the paths into legitimate rights of way, although it has to be said that these apparently random acts of assimilation do go some way to ruining the enigma of what these dusty old dirt tracks actually represent.
Two former desire lines, now public footpaths