14 February 2022

Studio: Stanage Edge

Lines in our landscape and the human desire for choice.

Stanage Pole

An ancient track, known as ‘Long Causeway’ runs from Redmires Reservoir up to Stanage Edge, dating back to Roman times. This was a route taken by travellers for centuries, linking Sheffield to the villages of northern Derbyshire and beyond the horizon to Manchester. 

On the crest of the moor is Stanage Pole, a towering waymarker helping weary travellers navigate the moorlands through the toughest winter conditions. The pole, or iterations of the pole, have stood in place since at least 1550. 

If you follow the cairn marked path from the pole toward Hathersage, you’ll reach Stanage Edge; a 3 mile gritstone edge, world famous with climbers and hikers. This area of Standage is completely covered in desire lines, casually worn trails, veering off constructed paths, also known as ‘free-will ways’. These lines in the landscape exist in juxtaposition to waymarked routes, designed to guide walkers through the countryside. 

Desire lines can tell us a lot. They’re evidence of  movement, free will and the endless human desire to have choice. These lines in the landscape are a declaration of independence and a small act of defiance. Roman roads such as ‘Long Causeway’ were built on desire lines; an early indication of how human behaviour influences design and engineering. 

Desire lines are not just about directness, they are also routes which people prefer to use even if the route is just a little longer than the direct desire line.

Architects, interior designers and urban planners have used desire lines and paths to inform their designs for decades. From university campuses to liminal spaces such as airports, desire lines are considered an insightful tool into human choice, movement and a way of listening to a place.

We consider how we interpret our rural landscape, the practice of walking itself and the relationship between the two.

"Walking is a mode of making the world as well as being in it."

Rebecca Solnit: A History of Walking

Desire lines
Hope Valley from Stanage Edge
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