Mark Reid on two books that consider the restorative power of walking. In The Salt Path, Ray(nor) Winn and Moth, Cer husband of 32 years, are devastated. They\u2019ve lost the house and farm they\u2019d owned for over two decades and where they\u2019d brought up their children. They\u2019re evicted when they lose a legal battle and are liable for debts after an ill-advised investment with a once-close friend. Moth has also just been diagnosed with a life-shortening brain condition. And yet they set out to walk England\u2019s 630-mile South West Coast Path, with just \u00a347 per week in tax credits to live on. At first, and for a long stretch of the walk, Ray can\u2019t stop thinking of all they had to leave behind, and her sense of loss is colossal. Lost, they shout and argue about all their \u2018wrong decisions\u2019. Gradually \u2013 despite being \u2018battered by the elements, hungry and cold\u2019 \u2013 they adjust, and going for a swim in the sea becomes \u2018an oasis of clarity, clear water, tide-rippled sand, free from time.\u2019 Moth feels much better and comes off the pregabalin prescribed for his aches and pains. They wonder if it\u2019s because they keep moving and ask, \u2018the huge wash of oxygen, can it somehow affect the brain?\u2019 Shane O\u2019Mara is a professor of neuroscience at Trinity College Dublin, and his In Praise of Walking takes us through the evolution and mechanics of walking, which he hails as \u2018an astounding neuro-musculoskeletal achievement\u2019. Among the many mental health benefits established are those of a 2014 Stanford University study in which one cohort remained more-or-less immobile while another group walked briskly outdoors. The active ones showed a marked increase in creativity and problem-solving when tested afterwards. Walking stimulates the body\u2019s molecular growth factors to produce new brain cells and the blood vessel network is enhanced as muscle use increases. O\u2019Mara\u2019s findings are paralleled in The Salt Path \u2013 he\u2019s not saying that walking cures brain disease, but it may make it more manageable, just as it eases Ray\u2019s harrowing thoughts. O\u2019Mara calls it \u2018mindlessness\u2019 brought on by the body\u2019s walking rhythms, which are set by a \u2018central pattern generator\u2019 in the spinal cord. He describes how this can then take the walker into a state in which \u2018huge areas of ground are covered for what feels like minimal effort, with great enjoyment and feelings of control, of oneness, of immersion, of being in the zone\u2019. Indeed, as Ray\u2019s psychological wounds slowly heal in The Salt Path she \u2018could feel the sky, the earth, the water and revel in being part of the elements\u2019. There are, though, frequent reminders along the way that they are homeless and poor. They are often on the receiving end of other people\u2019s bigoted perceptions of homelessness. It\u2019s fine when they are assumed to be happy-go-lucky retired homeowners on a big adventure. But when they tell people, \u2018We\u2019re homeless, nowhere to go\u2019 they\u2019re met with contempt or fear. \u2018One man reached out and pulled his child towards him, his wife winced and looked away\u2019. In their one encounter with the urban homeless, Ray and Moth know immediately they have no desire to join the street drinkers and the repetitive demands of addiction. \u2018I wanted to run\u2019 writes Ray. \u2018Walk without expectation\u2019 says In Praise of Walking. The Salt Path echoes this: \u2018We walk until we stop walking and maybe on the way we find some kind of future\u2019. The wisdom Ray and Moth are granted is a triumph of the spiritual over the material: from being bereft at losing the bricks-and-mortar of home, their epiphany is that they \u2018don\u2019t need to own a piece of land\u2019 to be content.