Tuesday, 31 July 2012

This way, that way

My brother and I were urban brats, townie children.  Consequently, our playground was the largish back garden and then the pavements and alleys of the streets around our house.  Although I have no accurate recollection of doing so, I am sure that at some time one or other of us would have laid a trail for the other to follow, a trail of arrows chalked on the pavement, arrows about a foot long and generally no further apart than about four feet.  Not exactly a challenge for a nine-year-old boy let alone a North American Indian tracker.

The next time I had any experience of tracking was after I had joined the Scouts.  One of the tests to be passed before a boy could be awarded the Second Class badge (the one a step up from a tenderfoot) he had to follow a half-mile trail made from natural materials.  The signs might be an arrow made by lying three sticks in the appropriate shape, a bunch of grass tied in a knot, an oak leaf spiked on a beech tree.  All sorts of things, some of which were difficult to see anyway and some of which might or might not have been deliberately placed.

Very much easier to see and follow are the public footpath signs found around England.  The design varies according to which authority has paid for them and they have a nasty habit of disappearing completely after one has followed the footpath across two ploughed fields and through a copse.  An Ordnance Survey map is a good stand-by in places not well known to the walker, or perhaps I should say the serious walker.

The Old Bat and I have, in the past, walked many miles while on our holidays, especially when we have been on smallish islands.  We walked practically the whole of the coastline of Guernsey in one day and spent many happy hours wandering the coastal paths and green lanes of Jersey.  Malta we found surprisingly barren and completely void of bird-life. (We were, however, surprised to see a Brighton dustcart tucked away in an odd corner of the island.)  Madeira we loved.  The levadas, canals to bring water from the wet north to irrigate the banana groves of the sunny south of the island, each have a narrow footpath alongside and we especially liked following these through those banana groves and stands of eucalyptus trees.

And then there is France.  When we first started going there regularly we bought a book detailing various walks in the area where we stayed.  The French don't go in for signposts as much as we do in England, although those they do have are usually much more elaborately decorated than ours, but they do waymark the footpaths.  It's a very simple system, but great fun to follow.  The signs are painted on trees, lamp-posts, walls - anywhere usueful.  They will consist of two horizontal bars, one above the other, to indicate "you're on the right path"
or a similar sign quite obviously indicating to turn left or right.  In case the walker misses the turn sign, a cross will be painted a little further on.
They might be in a single colour or they might be a mixture as shown here.   Unfortunately, we are no longer able to follow these paths and stroll the green lanes like this one not far from our house.


Buck said...

An Ordnance Survey map is a good stand-by...

Best maps on the planet, IMHO. The Second Mrs. Pennington and I had quite the collection of those maps. They are wonderful.

Suldog said...

That's a lovely path. I wish I could walk it now, just to see what's on the other end...