‘Isn’t it really quite extraordinary to see that, since man took his first step, no-one has asked himself why he walks, how he walks, if he has ever walked, if he could walk better, what he achieves in walking... questions that are tied to all the philosophical, psychological, and political systems which pre-occupy the world - Honore De Balzac
Before the 18th century, travel was difficult and the conditions of the roads were appalling and they were often plagued by highway men. As the 18th century moved on, the state of the roads improved and the practice of walking became more acceptable.
William Wordsworth and many of his Romantic contemporaries utilised this new found freedom to begin walking for pleasure (people had walked before, often further and in worse conditions). Poets before them had begun to admire the landscapes and the wilder features in it such as the mountains, cliffs, storms and the sea, but Wordsworth and the Romantics who followed are said to have made walking in the landscapes into something new and different, the practice of walking for the sake of it and for the pleasures of being in the landscapes.
Notes from: ‘Wanderlust: A History of Walking’, Rebecca Solnit
(Quote from: Honore de Balzac, quoted in note 15 in Andrew J. Bennett, ‘Devious Feet: Wordsworth and the Scandal of Narrative Form’, ELH, Spring 1992 – found in ‘Wanderlust: A History of Walking)