Monthly Archives: March 2019

Three Points of the Compass enjoys a lentil curry as the sun sets over Sandwood Bay. Cape Wrath Trail. August 2018

Trail food- lentil curry

South Downs Way in winter. A hot meal of lentil curry being prepared

Three Points of the Compass on the South Downs Way in winter. A hot meal of lentil curry being prepared. The zip lock freezer bag containing this is sitting beneath my down beenie

Three Points of the Compass was talking to another long distance hiker a couple of days ago and I was asked what I favoured as an evening meal on trail. That was easy to answer. Lightweight, easy to prepare, plenty of flavour, cheap and loads of carbs and protein- Lentil curry. A perfect backpacker’s meal. That is what I am eating above as I watch the sun setting over Sandwood Bay on the Cape Wrath Trail in 2018.

Resupply at Fort William prior to setting off on the Cape Wrath Trail.. Included are the makings of six-eight lentil curries with a variety of carbs- instant mash, couscous and noodles. July 2018

Resupply at Fort William prior to setting off on the Cape Wrath Trail. Included are the makings of six-eight lentil curries with a variety of carbs- instant mash, couscous and noodles. July 2018

Boiling up beside Loch Shiel. Cape Wrath Trail, August 2018

I make most meals on trail in ‘pour ‘n’ store’ freezer bags. These will take boiling water, will sit flat with a gusset base and can be simply sealed up after a meal until reused if there is no opportunity to wash out, or water is limited.

After a days hiking I want a good filling meal with the least amount of hassle. Also, to use the minimum amount of fuel in preparing it.

Tubes of tomato and garlic puree are easily found in most supermarkets. Garlic puree is 55% garlic and remainder mostly sunflower oil. Tomato puree is 65% tomatoes and the remainder different oils and flavourings

Tubes of tomato and garlic puree are easily found in most supermarkets. Garlic puree is 55% garlic and remainder mostly sunflower oil. Tomato puree is 65% tomatoes and the remainder different oils and flavourings

Lentil curry with noodles. Cashel. West Highland Way. July 2018

Lentil curry with noodles. Cashel. West Highland Way. July 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All I do is heat an almost full 900ml Evernew pan of water, Once boiled, pour over four handfuls of split red lentils in a freezer bag and seal the top. This then sits in my reflectex cozy with either a hat over it or wrapped in a puffy jacket or something else. The remainder of the water goes to making a tea or oxo. Then I simply rest and wait for around twenty-five minutes. I might munch on a block of cheese or something while waiting.

We can never say that fried onions are a healthy choice, but they add flavour, crunch and calories to a meal

We can never say that fried onions are a healthy choice, but they add flavour, crunch and calories to a meal

Once the lentils have continued cooking in the boiled water, I test them, almost always soft though I will tolerate al dente if in a hurry. A quick squirt of garlic puree and rather more of tomato puree along with two or three good spoonfuls of madras curry powder. A brief stir then I add a carb to the water. This is either a couscous or instant mashed potato (my favourite), less frequently, I drain a little water and add scrunched noodles. I don’t like doing the latter as it wastes precious water. I have sometimes added both noodles and potato. Another stir and, if I have them, a handful of dried fried onions. I have found that these are not the easiest of foodstuffs to be found in lonelier spots of the country but if it is just a week’s hike then a small ziplock containing a few handfuls weighs very little, and that, is that…

Lentils curry with couscous, Sandwood Bay. Cape Wrath Trail. August 2018

Lentil curry with couscous, Sandwood Bay. Cape Wrath Trail. August 2018

Another resupply. This time at Ullapool on the Cape Wrath Trail. Again, the makings of lentil curry's for the evening meals are the preferred option. August 2018

Another resupply. This time at Ullapool on the Cape Wrath Trail. Again, the makings of lentil curries for the evening meals are the preferred option. There are around four to five days supplies here. August 2018

1927 advert for the Co-operative Holidays Association

Organised outdoor activity in the UK- Arthur Leonard and the Co-operative Holidays Association

There are some movers and shakers from the earliest days of organised outdoor activity that are barely known today. Mention their name to anyone on the hills and and only a handful would know who you are referring to and how connected they are to the activity that they are enjoying. One such individual is T. A. Leonard.

T.A. Leonard, a Congregational Church minister from Colne, Lancashire

T.A. Leonard, a Congregational Church minister from Colne, Lancashire

Thomas Arthur Leonard, OBE, 1864-1948, was born in London. His father, a watchmaker, died when he was five and his mother raised him almost alone. She ran a boarding house and, being the daughter of a Congregationalist minister, it is not surprising that this influenced the young Thomas enrolling as a student at the Congregational Institute in 1884.

Marrying in 1888, he took pastoral roles in Barrow-in-Furness and Colne. It wasn’t long before another influence guided his movements and energies for the remainder of his life. In June 1891 he arranged for 32 male members of his Young Men’s Social Guild to holiday in the English Lake District. Just four days long, this was a great success and he believed that encouraging working males to holiday together in the countryside, with no alcohol and enjoying simple, spartan pleasures, daily walks and, most importantly, group singing, was the way forward.

Factory workers in the north of England, in common with the lower paid workers elsewhere had only recently had conditions slightly improved by the various Factory Acts, a series of UK labour law Acts, that sought to improve the conditions of industrial employment. Workers sought to escape the confines of still dangerous and unpleasant work environments. Rambling became a respite and popular recreation amongst the working class. In addition to this, mills and factories would close down on an annual basis for maintenance. ‘Wakes weeks’ had their roots in the Industrial Revolution and were particularly prevalent in the north of England and industrialised areas of the Midlands. They started as unpaid holiday and poorly paid workers had little choice on how to spend their newly found leisure time. There was little or no work to be had elsewhere as almost all industrial works within a locality coincided their closure period. This was the root of the annual summer holiday and entire families would decamp to spend their wakes week elsewhere, such as at the increasingly popular large coastal towns as sea bathing was held in high regard for its perceived health benefits.

CHA pin badge

CHA pin badge

In 1893 Leonard introduced the Co-operative Holidays Association (CHA). His holidays provided cheap, simple accommodation and an itinerary of walks, singing and evening lectures. Experts would instruct on geology, wildlife and botany. Later, painting, climbing and other pursuits were introduced. Leonard believed that the holidays that he provided were not an indulgence, but a necessity. A holiday was subject to strict itinerary however, communal activities were not only provided but participation was a requirement.

It wasn’t all plain sailing, those fortunate enough to reside in the towns and villages of the Lakes, regarded with suspicion those who sought simply to visit and ramble in ‘their’ hills. Any such influx was resisted. John Ruskin, amongst others, penned numerous letters to the local press decrying any influx of working class holiday makers. But, obviously, this was a tide that could not be stemmed.

By 1907, workers in the Lancashire mills were guaranteed 12 days annual leave, including Bank Holidays. This had increased to 15 days by 1915. Many would take time off in Blackpool and Morecambe, drink too much, party too hard and generally get up to various activities that Leonard and his fellow ministers frowned upon. Leonard believed that a simple communal life, with compulsory daily walks was far preferable.

At first, holidays were mostly based in the Lake District but quickly spread further afield. The Co-operative Holidays Association moved beyond the English Lakes, beyond Snowdonia and the Peak District, in to Europe, to bring travel, exploration, camaraderie across ethnic, social and class barriers, an ethos, and singing, to thousands. This was an entirely new form of ‘holiday movement’ that led the way for other similar businesses and organisations. Near derelict buildings were rebuilt and restored. This was also an era where large country mansions were put on the market and some were purchased at relatively low cost. However, modest income struggled to meet the upkeep of large houses and grounds.

Daily walks of 18-20 miles were compulsory. Sing-alongs were encouraged, both on the walks and each evening. An official songbook was produced. At first these were mostly psalms but over time became more secular. Everyone would join in and rounds were part of the routine. Despite the best efforts of the organisation however, such group singing had become less popular by the inter-war years. Alcohol was only permitted from the 1960s though no doubt there were those who flaunted such restriction prior.There were many walking and cycling groups and societies starting up and the social and physical aspect of these was invigorated by those who had just returned from a week’s rambling with the CHA in the company of like-minded souls. The idea of escaping to the hills once escaped from the collieries, factories and  dark satanic mills had been propagated.

Postcard showing the Moor Gate guest house owned and operated by the Co-operative Holiday Association

Postcard showing the Moor Gate guest house in Derbyshire, owned and operated by the Co-operative Holidays Association

By 1913 the Co-operative Holidays Association had 13 British holiday centres which catered for over 13,000 guests annually. This increased to 30 centres attracting 30,000 guests by the 1960s. However Leonard had long before become disaffected with the organisation. Leonard was an idealist who quickly became disillusioned with projects and his life choices when he felt that outward influences were compromising his ethics. He took up and resigned his position as a congregational minister three times, serving as a minister for just eight years in all. He dismayed at improper dress and attitudes on the fells. Anything that smacked of elitism and excluded the working classes was, he believed, to be resisted. Middle class workers expected the comforts of home, hot water, boots polished for them and no chores to perform while on holiday, however such things came at a price. Both figuratively and practically. This did not hold with other practices such as the offering of free or subsidised holidays to people who could not afford the fees that were still out of reach of those most disadvantaged.

The Co-operative Holidays Association committee began to aim its advertising at the middle-class rather than the working-class. The advertisement at the head of this post dates from 1927. Believing that the Co-operative Holidays Association was heading away from his ideals and wanting to spread his vision still further on the international stage, Leonard distanced himself from it to start another, back-to-basics, organisation- The Holiday Fellowship.

A group photograph of a happy bunch of people enjoying a weeks holiday with the Co-operative Holiday Association at Grasmere in 1958

A group photograph of a happy bunch of people enjoying a weeks holiday with the Co-operative Holidays Association at Grasmere in 1958. Few, if any, of these would have been working class and the organisation had by this time moved away from its roots

Referred to simply as the ‘CHA’, there were now as many women as men attending their holidays and despite fraternising between the sexes being slightly frowned upon, particularly amongst unmarried youngsters, there were those who referred to the organisation as the ‘Catch a Husband Association’!

The Co-operative Holidays Association was renamed Countrywide Holidays Association in 1964, operated independently until 2002 and stopped providing holidays the same year.

Leonard himself wasn’t finished with organised outdoors activity. The CHA had been encouraging youngsters in to the outdoors from early on, decades before the Youth Hostel Association and Leonard was involved in the formation of the YHA, standing as its first vice-president. He was president of the Ramblers Association from 1935-46. He founded the Friends of the Lake District in 1934 and worked with a number of different organisations increasing access to the outdoors and holidays for the poor or disadvantaged. He was made an OBE in 1937 and died in Conway in 1965. There is a memorial plaque, now by-passed by a redirected path, on Catbells, near Keswick in the Lake District. On this, Leonard is hailed as the-

founder of co-operative and communal holidays

and

“father” of the open-air movement in this country

There is a timeline of many of the most important or influential UK outdoor organisations over on my main website. I will occasionally write on a few more of these over the coming months.

South Downs Way

The South Downs Way in winter- water sources

Three Points of the Compass walked the South Downs Way in winter 2018. I wrote a brief blog on that walk soon after. This piece covers my water sources on that five day trip of a tad over a hundred miles. I carried clean and dirty water bladders and a water filter, also a 0.85lt. bottle for drinking from during the day.

Three Points of the Compass travelled to the start of the South Downs Way at Winchester by train. The blue cuben bag in the side pocket of my Mariposa is my hydration kit comprising 2lt Evernew bladder for clean water, 2lt HydraPak Seeker bladder for unfiltered and a Katadyn BeFree filter. I also carried an 850ml Smartwater bottle for drinking 'on the go'

Three Points of the Compass travelled to the start of the South Downs Way at Winchester by train. The blue cuben bag in the side pocket of my Mariposa is my hydration kit comprising 2lt Evernew bladder for clean water, 2lt HydraPak Seeker bladder for unfiltered and a Katadyn BeFree filter. I also carried an 850ml Smartwater bottle for drinking ‘on the go’.

I was fortunate to enjoy fairly good weather for most of the walk. It was often simply cool and bright. However, it was a late in the year walk and I also experienced occasional thick mist, driving rain and sleet on the final day and cold frosty nights. Snow blanketed the hills two days after I finished. Some of the water taps provided along the trail are turned off for the winter months and I did find a couple that were not working. Other than that, I had absolutely no problem in keeping myself well hydrated both during the day and for night halts.

I set off early morning from a Winchester hotel where I had spent the night. I had a couple of mugs of tea prior to leaving and carried one and a half litres of water from the get go. My first halt to refill was at a tap near Keepers Cottage, SU 537 288. This is immediately beside the path and was specifically installed with cyclists in mind and also has a pump etc. This is a popular trail for cyclists and some times of the year can see as many cyclists as walkers. However, at this time of year I saw few hikers and only a handful of cyclists and horse riders.

My first halt on Day One for water was near Keepers Cottage in the Temple Valley

My first halt on Day One for water was near Keepers Cottage in the Temple Valley

If I had not replenished with water at Keepers Cottage my next halt would have been at Lomer Farm where, despite this notice stating that repair would be made in Spring 2018, it still hadn't taken place

Lomer Farm. Despite this notice stating that repair would be made in Spring 2018, it still hadn’t taken place

Tap at Lomer Farm- out of use (SU 601237)

If I had not replenished with water at Keepers Cottage my next halt would have been at Lomer Farm- however the tap was out of use (SU 601237)

It is advisable to take any opportunity to replenish with at least a bottle of water if a tap is passed as some sources are not only seasonal but could be vandalised, under repair or simply no longer in commission.

My first day was a little over twenty miles so I felt I had earned yet another halt in the afternoon when I passed the fly fishing ponds at Meon Springs. The fishing lodge (SU 655 215) at Whitewool Farm is often open as the fishery offices are situated inside, alongside a tackle store and ‘help yourself’ to hot drinks facility. Snacks were also available but I didn’t need anything as I was carrying just about all the food supplies I required for the whole trail. Instead, a mug of tea (£1) was very welcome. A tap was available here if it had been simply water I was after.

Fishing Lodge at Meon Springs, Whitewool Farm

Fishing Lodge at Meon Springs, Whitewool Farm

My first nights halt was at the Sustainability Centre, Wetherdown Lodge (SU 676 190). This is a Friends of Nature Eco centre and due to my early away from Winchester in the morning, I arrived around 14.40, so not only had time to get the tent up in the lower fields, but also managed to get to the onsite Beech Cafe five minutes before it closed for a welcome pint. At this time of the year, night comes early and my evening meal of lentil curry was obviously eaten in the dark.

Day One on the South Downs Way saw me camping at the Sustainability Centre where water is readily available. Even if not staying there, a water tap is only a hundred metres off the main route

Day One on the South Downs Way saw me camping at the Sustainability Centre where water is readily available. Even if not staying there, a water tap is only a hundred metres off the main route

There is a cafe at the Queen Elizabeth Country Park however no water outside of opening times

There is a cafe at the Queen Elizabeth Country Park however no water outside of opening times

Day Two was a twenty four mile hike, so I rose early and simple breakfast and 500ml mug of tea saw me on my way while it was still dark. I had hoped for second breakfast at the Queen Elizabeth Country Park visitor centre (SU 718 185) but arrived to early and wasn’t prepared to sit around for a couple of hours waiting for it to open.

I was carrying just under a litre of water with me and this was sufficient until a water tap opposite Manor Farm at a minor crossroads of tracks at Cocking (SU 879 166).

A number of cattle troughs are passed on the South Downs Way, mostly on Days two and three, any water from these sources requires purifying or filtering. I had no need to use these sources as there were plenty of others

A number of cattle troughs are passed on the South Downs Way, mostly on days two and three out of Winchester. Any water from these sources requires purifying or filtering. I had no need to use these sources as there were plenty of others

Some of the taps on the South Downs Way have been placed there by cycling or walking organisations, others have been sited in memory of a much loved individual. The tap at Cocking was sited in memory of 14 year old Peter Wren.

“He loved the English Countryside and walked the South Downs Way in the summer of 1978”

Any wise hiker not only tops up with water at these sources but also drinks as much as he can before moving on. I had doubts on finding another source before this day’s halt so took opportunity to carry another two litres away from here in addition to my 850ml bottle.

Tap directly beside the path at Cocking. A notice beside the tap records that the next available sources are at Amberley, 11 miles east, or Buriton Farm, 4 miles west

Tap directly beside the path at Cocking. A notice beside the tap records that the next available sources are at Amberley, 11 miles east, or Buriton Farm, 4 miles west

I wild camped at the end of Day Two and it was a cold evening and even colder night so plenty of hot drinks with my evening lentil curry followed by the usual mug of tea in the morning took just about all the water I had with me. It was a cold and bright day with deer in the frosty fields and red kites overhead. Soon after crossing the River Adur, prior to reaching the B2139, south of Amberley, there is a tap and trough (203 124) provided by the Rotary Clubs of Arundel, Steyning & Henfield, and Storrington in the hope that…

“…those who drink here will remember those elsewhere who have nowhere to drink”

Tap provided by the local Rotary Clubs soon after crossing over the River Arun at Houghton

Tap provided by the local Rotary Clubs soon after crossing over the River Arun at Houghton

I reached this tap a little after nine in the morning and this refill saw me well until another, six miles on, in Glazeby Lane, near a road crossing south of Washington (118 119). As I mentioned earlier, there are quite a few water sources on this trail and if one if unavailable for one reason or another, it is usually not too far to another. It is only if wild camping that a little care is required to ensure that enough is available for a nights halt.

Another tap directly beside the path south of Washington. Many of these are suposed to be turned off once the weather turns colder from October, but I found many were still operating at the end of November

Another water tap directly beside the path south of Washington. Many of these are supposed to be turned off in October once the weather turns colder and there is a danger of freezing, but Three Points of the Compass found many were still operating at the end of November

I didn't require it but there was also a working tap between the River Adur and the road crossing of the A283

I didn’t require it but there was also a working tap between the River Adur and the road crossing of the A283

While I had plenty of water with me and it was only a relatively short hike to my days end, I also drank a litre at the tap provided by the Society of Sussex Downsmen at Botolphs (TQ 197 093).

Day Three was a 19.5 mile trek to the YHA at Truleigh Hill. I knew that I couldn’t stay in the hostel at it was on exclusive hire however the warden had kindly agreed to my camping in a field opposite. Not only did I also have use of the campers w/c adjacent to the building, but there is also a tap outside for passing hikers (TQ 220 106).

Brewing up at Truleigh Hill

Brewing up at Truleigh Hill

It was another cold night and I was pleased to have ready access to unlimited water as I rehydrated and kept myself warm with a succession of oxo, tea and hot chocolate drinks.

Hikers tap outside entrance to the Youth Hostel at Truleigh Hill

Hikers water tap outside entrance to the Youth Hostel at Truleigh Hill

There is a small cafe, the Hikers Rest, at Saddlescombe Farm, but that was closed as I passed through. However the tap in the wall was still working

There is a small cafe, the Hikers Rest, at Saddlescombe Farm, but that was closed as I passed through. However the tap in the wall was still working

Day Four was just over twenty one miles to the South Downs YHA just three miles from Lewes. Not only did I have a dorm room booked for the night, but I knew I also had a couple of decent halts on this section. Setting off with a full water bottle, the first halt was at the tap in a wall at Saddlescombe Farm (TQ 271 114).

I had no real need to stop here as it was only another fifty minutes walk to the ‘Pilgrims Church’ at Pyecombe. With the aid of grant money, the parishioners here have provided an excellent extension to the church with not only w/c, but also tea and coffee making facilities for walkers. Just be sure to leave a donation.

I spent some time at the church wandering around and looking at items of interest, there is much to see here and it makes a great rest point.

Really good facilities are available at Pyecombe Church. Open 10.00 - 18.00 in the summer, until 16.00 in the winter

Really good facilities are available at the Downland Church of the Transfiguration at Pyecombe. Open 10.00 – 18.00 in the summer, until 16.00 in the winter

There are a number of dew ponds situated on the top of the rolling South Downs. All are contaminated with animal faeces and filtering and purification is an absolute necessity

There are a number of dew ponds situated on the top of the rolling South Downs. All are contaminated with animal faeces and filtering and purification is an absolute necessity if using as a water source

Tap in wall of Housedean Farm, A27

Tap in wall of Housedean Farm, A27

Walking on, I took time to explore the slightly off trail Jack and Jill windmills but my next halt for sustenance was a late lunch once I reached the A27. The trail turns right here to pass Housedean Farm prior to crossing the road via a bridge. In the wall of the farm is a walkers tap (TQ 368 092). However, a more favourable option is to turn left instead and walk down to the truckers stop where there is often a sandwich wagon.

It is only a hundred metres or so to the busy and noisy lay-by to ‘Oscars mobile catering’, where I chomped my way through two huge bacon and egg baguettes alongside a couple of mugs of tea. Never look a gift horse in the face…

Snack wagon beside the A27 on day four

Snack wagon beside the A27 on day four. Only a hundred metres off trail

Only a kilometre away from my days halt at YHA South Downs, I had no need to avail myself of the working tap in the wall of Southease Church. The uncommon tower is one of only three round towers found in Sussex

The uncommon tower of Southease Church is one of only three round towers found in Sussex. There is a walkers water tap in the wall here

Back on trail, I crossed the road and carried on, in deteriorating weather, back up on to the Downs. This is an arid stretch, with a lot of large agricultural fields however it was only a three hour walk to my nights halt at the relatively new and quite large hostel of YHA South Downs. Only a kilometre before my days end, I took time out to explore the fascinating interior of Southease Church. I had no need to avail myself of the working tap in the wall of the church ( TQ 423 052).

Reaching the YHA around 16.30, I booked in and was shown to my shared dormitory room.

Having showered, changed into clean clothes and rested, I declined from cooking yet another lentil curry in their campers kitchen and chose instead to eat in the hostel’s Courtyard Cafe. Hydration here in the form of a few decent beers alongside my evening meal of pizza.

Opened by HM The Queen in 2013, YHA South Downs is situated in a Sussex farmhouse

Opened by HM The Queen in 2013, YHA South Downs is situated in a Sussex farmhouse

After a nights decent snoring on the part of the two other room occupants, I rose at an early hour ready for my final day on trail. I had the usual mug of tea in the campers kitchen alongside a simple breakfast as second breakfast was only a few miles away. It was just under 22 miles to my day’s end halt at YHA Eastbourne, via the walk into town and back out again, finishing at the town pier rather than the official halt at the towns western edge. I don’t think that the sad little start/finish post is a fitting end and was to happily continue past it further down the coast to the impressive Victorian Pier. Prior to that I had a day’s walk to complete however.

Second breakfast in the Singing Kettle Tearoom in Alfriston

Second breakfast in the Singing Kettle Tearoom in Alfriston

It was raining hard when I set off from YHA South Downs and a halt at the Singing Kettle Tearoom (519 031) in Alfriston three hours later proffered an opportunity to dry out on the outside while I put a pot of tea and a sausage sandwich on the inside. The proprietor filled my water bottle prior to my leaving and this did me until I pulled into the Seven Sisters visitor centre (TV 518 995) overlooking the spectacular Cuckmere River meanders.

There was little open at the Seven Sisters visitor centre, however there was a working tap outside the open public w/c

There was little open at the Seven Sisters visitor centre, however there was a working tap outside the open public w/c

Most visitor centres have a working tap somewhere outside. While many are intended to provide water for dogs, a tap is just as welcome to the thirsty hiker. It had only taken me around an hour and a half to reach here after leaving Alfriston and it was another ninety minutes jaunt along the lovely rolling Seven Sisters before I reached my final tap (TV 553 960) on the South Downs Way. This was at Birling Gap, adjacent to the Coach Park.

Easily missed, there is a tap at Birling Gap. Again, with an open w/c alongside

Easily missed, there is a tap at Birling Gap. Again, with an open w/c alongside

I was on the home stretch now and I had no need to refill my bottle for the rest of my walk as it was only another two hours walk to Eastbourne Pier. After which it was the long haul back out of town where, rather than travel home that night, I was stopping for the night at Eastbourne YHA. And that was it. 108.11 miles since I left Winchester. I had absolutely no problem in finding plenty of water or alternative drinks along its entire distance. There are a lot more options than I have shown above. There are other farms and pubs that can also provide water either directly on the trail, or close by.

The above was correct for the dates of my walk- 16th – 20th November 2018. As it turned out, I had no need to use my water filter, not the emergency sterilisation tablets that I carry in my ditty bag. There was good potable water readily available on every day.

There is a downloadable guide to water sources on the South Downs Way via the National Trails website. But it doesn’t appear to have been updated in some time and fails to list quite a few points. Their mapping system is useful as you can list the points of most interest to you which can include water points. An online cyclists’ guide has a similar list, equally wanting in places. However it includes some useful images.

Three Points of the Compass walked the South Downs Way in November 2018

Three Points of the Compass walked the South Downs Way in November 2018

How to stop a mad dog. Ogden's cigarette card

‘How to stop a mad dog’

While I don’t own a dog and never have, on many an occasion I have walked large and powerful dogs with family and friends. Sometimes the dog is on the lead, sometimes off. On every occasion the owner, with a sharp and direct call or command, has been able to halt the dog or bring it to heel. However, on hundreds of occasions I have witnessed other owners with little or no control over their charges.

So, how many times have YOU been attacked by a dog while hiking? Certainly Three Points of the Compass has had a few run ins, always when on public land or path. I don’t count those weekend walks where a myriad of dog walkers and their ‘harmless pet’ are encountered. Those times when to the shrill “he’s only playing, he just wants to get to know you” an unwanted dog proceeds to climb up your front, paws spreading liberal amounts of mud over trousers, hip belt, shirt or jacket. That is just annoying. More those occasions when no owner is around and a large and very angry hound runs full pelt toward you. What do you do then?

Cigarette card issued in the 1910's by Ogden's, branch of The Imperial Tobacco Co. (of Great Britain and Ireland) Ltd.

Cigarette card issued c1913 by Ogden’s, branch of The Imperial Tobacco Co. (of Great Britain and Ireland) Ltd.

On a couple of occasions hiking in 2018 I have had to circle, keeping myself facing some furious, slavering, sizeable beast. They didn’t bark, all they wanted to do was to rip me to shreds, it was very very apparent, teeth are bared and snarling is pronounced. I have been very fortunate in having trekking poles to hand and have kept tips to the animal, while circling, keeping myself facing the dog while trying to get further away. None of the animals have been rabid, if they were they wouldn’t suddenly decide to give up. I have had holes ripped in trousers but have not yet been bloodied. I know of some hikers who have been far less fortunate. If the fangs went in, then clubbing the damn animal is about all you can do. There is some lovely advice that you should simply stand calmly with your arms at your sides. I can assure you, if I had done that I would either not be here now or sporting some impressive scars. As to the advice to let it sniff you…

Certainly there is no point in shouting at the dog, that is going to hype it still further. Running is pointless too, any dog can run faster than you. Attempting to stop it getting too close while moving out of its territory promptly is wise. If a dog does latch on then prying the jaws open from the side with the tip of a pole may get it to release, but most dogs have immense strength in their jaws.

Around a century ago, this Ogden’s cigarette card gave sage advice to Boy Scouts and others, stating that staff, walking stick, hat or handkerchief should be held in front, as the dog paws this down this gives “opportunity of disabling him by a kick“. I can imagine the outcry if such advice were circulated widely today. There are a few other ploys that it is worth considering, or being aware of.

This doesn’t help much when some yappy little cur struggles their way below a fence or squeezes under a gate and follows you down the lane, constantly nipping at your ankles. At times like these it is inadvisable to waste time and look to try and film it for evidence, you need your wits about you. There is never an owner around and if there were, the last thing you want to be doing is heading further into the dog’s territory, possibly to meet a larger cousin. Again, time to retreat while cursing quietly, or perhaps not so quietly. While it is the animal that is attacking you, it is the owner who is at fault.

Austrian stamp

Organised outdoor activity in the UK- Friends of Nature

The Friends of Nature was founded in Vienna in 1895. Variously known as Naturfreunde / Naturefriends / Amis de la Nature in Europe and USA, it is an organisation with enjoyment of the outdoors at its heart. Emerging with the burgeoning Social Democratic movement, it sought to link people and countryside by facilitating travel and accommodation. Buildings were taken over or built. In other places simple huts sufficed. These provided affordable accommodation for people walking the mountains and countryside. They continue to do the same today.

Georg Schmiedl was a socialist, free thinker and teacher. He placed an advert in a Vienna newspaper inviting like minded people to found a touristic group. There were some thirty interested people, including  Alois Rohrauer and Karl Renner (future President of Austria). They had their first meeting on 28 March 1895 and a founding committee was formed.
The first clubhouse opened in Vienna in December 1900, the first Swiss and German groups formed in 1905. By 1920 there were over 20,000 members and a group had been formed in England by 1925. Banned by the Nazis in 1933, the organisation was revived following the Second World War.

Three Points of the Compass stayed at the Friend of Nature Eco camping barn while completing the North Downs Way in 2017

Three Points of the Compass stayed at the Friends of Nature Eco-camping barn while completing the North Downs Way in 2017

Simple overnight accommodation at the Ec-camping barn, Puttenham

Simple overnight accommodation at the Friends of Nature Eco-camping barn, Puttenham, on the North Downs Way

One of the largest non-governmental organisations in the World, the organisation now has over 500,000 members in 47 countries yet its impact in the UK has been relatively small. There are over 800 houses in Europe, USA and elsewhere yet at the time of writing, Friends of Nature UK lists only eight houses affiliated to Naturefriends International. These are mostly run by volunteers and pre-booking is advisable. All are situated in great walking locations and are in considerable demand. When Three Points of the Compass completed the Pennine Way in 2018 there were few accommodation options in Kirk Yetholm. The Friends of Nature hostel, also affiliated to Hostelling Scotland, was a great place to finish.

Kirk Yetholm hostel, 13th July 2018, end of the Pennine Way

Kirk Yetholm hostel, 13th July 2018, end of the Pennine Way

Prior to writing this blog I had a brief search to investigate which of the eight houses affiliated to Friends of Nature I had passed, seen or stayed at. I was surprised to find that I have actually stayed at four of them, half of their UK total. That is perhaps testament to how well situated they are in walking hot-spots. Though I had actually camped at two of these- Wetherdown Lodge and Court Hill Centre.

Three Points of the Compass camped at the Friends of Nature Court Hill Centre, Wantage, while walking the Ridgeway in 2016

Three Points of the Compass camped at the Friends of Nature Court Hill Centre, Wantage, while walking the Ridgeway in 2016

At both of the Friends of Nature locations where I camped, I was able to make good use of washing, drying and basic kitchen facilities. Always a boon for a hiker after a day of rain, as it was on both occasions.

Camping in the grounds of the Sustainability Centre on the South Downs Way in November 2018

Camping in the grounds of the Sustainability Centre on the South Downs Way in November 2018

In 2016/17/18 Three Points of the Compass stayed at:

Court Hill Centre, Oxfordshire on Ridgeway

Puttenham Eco Camping Barn, Surrey on North Downs Way

Kirk Yetholm hostel at the northern end of the Pennine Way

Wetherdown Lodge, the Sustainability Centre, Hampshire on the South Downs Way

There is a timeline of many of the most important or influential UK outdoor organisations over on my main website. I will be covering a number of these later in the year. Do have a glance at the list and see where today’s organisation fits in, you may even be able to suggest a glaring omission to the list!

English language leaflet, 2012

English language leaflet, 2012

Friends of Nature UK