The Barefoot walk at Trentham, Stoke-on-Trent, United Kingdom

When the barefoot walk at the Trentham estate in Staffordshire was installed in 2008 it was England’s first and only, and its highlight was then and is now a nearly knee-high mud bath–carefully sifted to be gentle on the feet.  I especially like that amongst the different stages of the walk–running water, sand, grass, logs, planks, pebbles, flints–you’ll also tread on the site’s history in the form of stone and brick from the remains of the old house.

I learned from the Trentham site that the western approach to the barefoot walk with its emphasis on a variety of natural materials underfoot, was developed by 19th century Bavarian priest Sebastian Kneipp, an early naturopath whose advocacy of barefoot ‘cures’ led to a fad for walking in the dew (and the snow) across Europe and the United States.  See a tongue-in-cheek 1897 critique of the ‘barefoot cranks’ invading Central Park in Munsey Magazine via google books:

“Now the momentous question has arisen: shall we or shall we not allow our public to be invaded by a host of barefoot faddists?  It is all very well to give them carte blanche so far as snow drifts are concerned.  We have snow enough and to spare but urban dew is scarce and valuable and we think it be allowed to remain where it belongs than to be absorbed through the pedal extremities of the Kneipp believers!”

For 2013 Trentham has added new textures, including artificial grass, a new bridge, a water trough and a bed of rubber coals…no word on the dew.

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