On Friday morning at 8 o’clock, I will set off at a laden-Landrover-defined speed of around 40 mph for Shrewsbury. I know exactly how long it will take, just under 2 hours, as I make the same journey on the same Friday each year. SatNav? SchmatNav! I don’t even need one of my much loved maps. The route is hardwired. The litany of Marcher placenames is entirely reassuring : Wimboldsley, Sound, Burleydam, Edstaston, Preston Gubbals. At Bomere Heath, I am almost there. No matter the names on the fingerposts, I am familiar enough with the hedgerows to home my way there.
Making the same journey at the same time each year brings other associations: the angle of morning sun, the likelihood of mist and dew on the meadows, the songbirds mustering voice for their last autumn hurrah after the lull of summer. Indeed, until I started doing Shrewsbury, I never realised just how autumnal is the August Bank Holiday weekend.
I could go by a different route, but I never will now. It would be almost blasphemous. It is fair to say that I order my world in geographical terms. So I can appreciate how set paths were used for processional routes, the carriage of coffins across moors to consecrated land; for pilgrimages; for the marking of life-sustaining territory. You can imagine how Chatwin’s Songlines struck a chord with me. The idea of a land known, revered and sung through a series of journeys, real and conceptual, made perfect sense.
There are other journeys that I make which I savour each time they come around – the descent from Greenup Edge into Borrowdale; a valley in mid-Wales with a particular hostelry at its head; my teenage cycle escape route to the Shropshire Hills. They all feel like homecomings and once the journey is started, I am comforted and know that everything will be just fine ( and appropriately enough, on Saturday night, Blowzabella will open with The Long Drive, and I will be in heaven ).
I don’t think this is just me. Tom Fort spun a whole book out of the idea of the A303 as a Highway to the Sun, an escape to family holidays. A lope to a tryst? A walk with the dog? Do you have journeys of meaning?