Trails from a different angle

I really have to learn some orienteering. Many of the long distance routes here have combined with other trails and each tends to have it's own method of signage. Confusion reigns and there are times you just have to take your chance and see if it goes in the right direction. Once I have the compass usage down, I can just enjoy myself and not worry about lousy signs.

The best I can do on this is general direction, because going between a and b in a straight line in England is almost impossible (it's a cultural thing, even the Romans had trouble on this score). So just keeping track of left and right turns should keep me on course—sort of. Which will be interesting at times.

Often, when I do these hikes, I wear a special shirt. Even in hot temperatures it keeps me fairly cool and I can roll down the sleeves to protect my arm from: ticks, thorns, thistles, stinging nettles and poison leaves (whose sole purpose for earthly existence is to see how much damage they can do to human flesh).
There really is a path under here—honestly. Plus, I had barbed wire, nettles and thorns to contend with.

This one was nicer.

Lunch stop, on a much walked trail.

There are all kinds of different trails here, almost to excess. Some are narrow and overgrown, like the first one above. Then you have the partially or barely walked ones which sometimes are just animal tracks. Paths which are well trodden come into play quite often and I can stride out if I want to. Of course there are those which include all of the above and more—with tree roots, rocks and often slow you down considerably. This is England, so mud is the norm, but this year we've had what I term a normal summer Big Grin (lots of sun with temperature in the 80's and 90's).

Why the orienteering?

I've threatened myself for some years, that I must learn this, but did nothing. Then, this last Spring, a hike changed all that.

Enough of the chances?
It was mid April, there had been a number of days with no rain, the temperature was in the 60's and in the sun a lot warmer. All I wanted to do was put about 6 or so miles behind me in an afternoon. Simple enough yeah? Well, exercise is one thing, fighting a battle on two or three fronts is another and most definitely not the kind of thing that will get you in shape.

Training it took over 2 hours for me to reach the town of Otford in the County of Kent because the trains were their usual total mess. It should have taken less than an hour but eventually I arrived.

It was easy, well sort of anyways, to find the trail. It's part of the North Downs Way, one I've walked before and not liked but I thought that another chance might do the trick. Maybe I give this place too many chances. Looking back—I know I have.
Oy vey—not again!

When I saw the sign, my heart sank, it's barely readable only because the trees did not have their leaves on yet. In summer it would blend with the background foliage and you'd probably not even know it was there because of the deep shade. I almost turned back at this point, but again—gave it a chance.
Nothing to do with people or place, just very thick sticky mud, the kind that does not return when you step in it, 2-5 inches deep and I managed to do about 1/2 mile in almost an hour. That meant I would've still been out there at 10 pm in the dark. Another chance, maybe it might clear up.
The final straw was this sign. Can you read this? I couldn't. That did it.

I don't know what it says—and I really don't care! From now on I approach trails from a different angle.

I must learn how to use a compass, not bothering much with signage and asking people.

Yet another chance
The area was familiar to me from many years ago, so knew where to go, but had never approached it from this side. Memory of the area was that I might need to watch out for some of it's residents. The middle class village did indeed become a problem. Brand new fences and locked gates, with holes in the ground where any signage had been—these people had totally isolated their crappy little town from just about everyone and will tell bald faced lies just to get you out of the place.

I eventually found the trail, with the help of a working class man doing a job there (not a resident). He drew me a spot-on little map, thanks guy. It's a main national route that I don't like all that much and left it as soon as possible on a side trail.

By now the umpteenth chance
Learning to use a compass is one thing and worthwhile, putting up with lying middle class locals and signage wrecked on purpose—is another. I did finish this trek and thought I would give the country one last chance. On the old Torn Dot Blog I wrote it off, for much less. A line has to be drawn somewhere.

Torturing myself instead of enjoying my treks is not what I want to do and that is exactly what happened. A week later, signs ripped off their posts on another, "Oh isn't it wonderful" national trail, ended with me trapped inside an area, next to a main river, with high voltage wires (and no warning signs—which is legally required) on a fenced off place.
There, I found this on the ground—says it all.

. . . . . . .

Enough is enough—no more chances.

Sep 01, 2018

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