How to get lost on a large Common

There are plots of land all over the UK that are called Commons. You can free range, walk and on some, get lost—like I did. They come in all sizes, some small, others fair sized and several that are huge.

During my getting back in shape treks, I headed out to the fringes of London to a large Common. Initially I headed the wrong way from the rail station, but finally found the road which lead to the beginning of it. One mile gone.

At first there was an area of green (the size of a park by itself), full of people walking their dogs. All the dogs know each other: would take off running at full speed, tails wagging and generally have the time of their lives. The people just talked. My imagination got the better of me there. I wondered what it would look like to see humans running around like mad things and the dogs sitting together.

I had a map on my smartphone which I had prepared and found the beginning of the main trail shown. It took about 10 minutes of people and dogs to go by, before I could take a photo of it.

hyc1.jpg
The beginning—well walked and a bit splodgy from
the recent rains which have been soaking the land.

It didn't take long to discover there are virtually no signs here and instead of the 5 main trails shown on the map, there must be 50—the map has not been updated for over a hundred years. So I figured what the heck and turned the 2 mile walk into 6. I wandered all over the place, even went in a circle for a while.

hyc2.jpg
One of the unmapped trails.

I you don't go hiking around through unknown territory, you will not have experienced the likelihood of falling flat on your face. Such events happen when your eyes are not on the path ahead. The trouble with that is you can end up missing stuff.

To compensate, time has to be taken to stop regularly for a few seconds or minutes to soak in the surrounding landscape. In winter on commons like this one, it tends to look pretty much the same, until you stop and raise your eyes.

hyc3.jpg
Web of bare branches

hyc4.jpg
A patch of young Gorse

The bushes here are called Gorse. You don't get a lot around this part of the country, but where my father used to live there were almost forests of the plant, a lot higher (like 6 plus feet high) than you see in the photo above. You do not want to fall into this stuff in summer, it will go through your clothes and leave a lot of little tiny punctures (and drops of resulting blood), especially on the older, tougher, Gorse (voice of experience—ouch). At least it's tips don't have the mild poison of Yucca and Mesquite (mucho oucho).

hyc5.jpg
This is the part I usually hate. Here I had a decent verge to walk along, usually room is at a premium and you tense up trying to keep yourself from getting killed by drivers who should never have been allowed behind the wheel.

The last little bit of the trek was beside the road as I headed for a pub. There I finished my lunch with a glass of Shandy and had a short chat with a guy who is in Materiel Management for the National Health Service.

The sun was going down fast and the temperature plummeting big time, so I caught a bus back to the train station and arrived home in the dark (and it wasn't even 5pm yet).

Jan 18, 2016
This is all about to change as I head off for Florence, to begin my next trip, at the beginning of February.
Jan 04, 2016

Comments
latest comment at top
Ted
Pubs are always welcome Sue, especially when it's a few degrees above freezing out there Wink
Sue
Love a map that hasn't been updated in a hundred years. Smile Im not a great map reader at the best of times so i might find it a bit challenging. I like the post hike pub visit. Always a good motivator. Smile
Ted
Don't know where you live Carrie Just realized you live in Ohio. All I know of it is Columbus from decades ago
Carrie Rubin
I should do more hiking. The Commons sound like wonderful places for exploring. I've been to London, but I'd love to see more of the UK some day.

Florence--how exciting. Have fun!



Hi, I'm Ted Hawkins, I like to get out as much as possible to various places. more...

Some countries in some years.
Numbers don't impress me.
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