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Free maps for exploring London

Trail talk: A brief history of FREE maps for walking in London

London is pretty big. While the City of London is just 1.12 square miles in area, Greater London today covers over 600 square miles. Local learnt geographical knowledge is great for residents or frequent visitors, but what of the individual who historically has wanted to explore the unfamiliar streets and parks or wished to visit a particular destination?

Anyone who has used an Ordnance Survey map will appreciate that they are probably the finest aid to country walking, however try and use one in a city and it is just about impossible to follow a route on their maps. An alternative would be sought. There have been a number of commercial London maps produced, there have also been quite a number of free maps that have frequently been all that is required. Three Points of the Compass takes a glance at some of the useful maps for London that those in the know could, and can, be obtained for FREE. Clicking on any image will enlarge it.

Map showing the streets within the South Eastern Postal District. From 'Post Office Principle Streets and Places. London and its environs as divided into Postal Districts with maps'. Printed by George E. Eyre and William Sottiswoode in April 1857, the public could view this publication in Head Post Offices

Map showing the streets within London’s South Eastern Postal District. From ‘Post Office Principle Streets and Places. London and its environs as divided into Postal Districts with maps’. Printed by George E. Eyre and William Spottiswoode in April 1857. In the nineteenth century the public could view this publication in Head Post Offices

The production of a map costs money, to produce a good map costs a lot of money. However over the decades visitors to London have been able to pick up or consult, free of charge, paper maps to aid in walking the streets of the largest city in the United Kingdom. Such maps would often only show more central districts and environs are traditionally poorly served. Free paper maps for the public have usually been produced with a particular purpose in mind. That is- advertising particular products, services or to encourage tourism.

Paper maps were also provided for members of clubs and associations where a membership fee had already been paid, that subscription going toward the cost of producing or licencing maps. The public could for many years also view maps at Head Post Offices and Libraries for free. When Three Points of the Compass was a young man, Ordnance Survey maps could be borrowed with a library ticket just as any book from the shelves could. The public also had the opportunity to examine, free of charge, specimen maps produced by the Ordnance Survey at over 700 Head Post Office across the UK. Sadly, this is no longer the case.

Small folding map of London given out in post offices in the city

Small folding map of London given out in post offices in the city

In the 1990s and 2000s, it was possible to pick up a small, but free, folding map in larger post offices in London. Normally, these maps were distributed to tourists exchanging money at the Post Office Bureau de Change. However, ask nicely, and it was invariably possible to receive a free map without exchanging currency. Other UK cities had similar maps available from their larger post offices with similar detail of their neighbouring streets. The detail on these maps is minimal with few street names included. However tourist spots are named and paths are shown across larger parks. So successful was this product that they are now widely available, with a different cover, focusing on differing city features, now with a cover price, in many shops and are aimed at overseas tourists.

Folding map produced for the Post Office and published by thinkmaps. Copyright Trailzoom Ltd. 1996-2007, touristmaps.uk.net 2007

Folding map produced for Post Office distribution and published by thinkmaps. Copyright Trailzoom Ltd. 1996-2007, touristmaps.uk.net 2007

The history of walking London by foot for leisure isn’t a particularly old one. For London residents, the idea of actually exploring it’s streets didn’t extend beyond the Georgian penchant for promenading. This was when the upper class walked the safer streets and green spaces in the late afternoon with the aim of being seen by others in the social elite. None of these well-dressed, and well-heeled, pedestrians were interested in free maps so there was no market for them. Later, at the end of the 19th century this same social class indulged in flâneur- a more strict definition of which was to wander or stroll without purpose other than observation, however this was still mostly an exercise in vanity. Again, there was little commercial point in the production of free maps.

Section from a 1968 map prepared by Kellys.

Section from a London districts map prepared by Kelly’s in 1968. The Post Office produced accurate directories and maps from 1800. One of their officials, Frederic Kelly, began producing his Post Office Directory of London from 1836, albeit without official sanction. The Kelly maps were especially detailed and accurate and could be viewed by the public in larger post offices and libraries as well as being available for purchase

1851 saw a massive influx of visitors to London, many for the first time. The majority of these visitors were from the middle and lower classes. They were visiting to view the first ever World Fair taking place in the nation’s capital. This was an exhibition of culture and industry organised by Henry Cole and Prince Albert, husband to Queen Victoria. It took place In Hyde Park, London from 1 May to 15 October 1851 and was a direct response to the successful fairs that France had mounted in Paris since 1798. Over six million people, equivalent to a third of the entire population of Britain at the time, visited including Charles Darwin and Charles Dickens. Though in reality some visitors went two or more times. For this event, new time visitors to London could, quite literally, follow the crowd, and an intimate knowledge of the streets was not necessarily required.

Map of London for visitors to the Great Exhibition, 1851. Prepared by J. Reynolds, 174 The Strand

Map of London (part) for visitors to the Great Exhibition, 1851. Drawn by H. Martin, published by James Reynolds

An excellent map of both London and the park itself, together with helpful information was drawn and engraved by Henry Martin, 8 Dyers Buildings, Holborn, and published by James Reynolds but, like the exhibition itself, this was intended to turn a profit. It cost 1 shilling, a fifth of the cheapest cost of entry to the newly built Crystal Palace itself. While most members of a party taking advantage of the special rates provided by the railway companies would not have purchased such a thing, they would no doubt have consulted a copy held by their group leader, frequently the local town vicar. Beyond viewing such a map purchased by someone else, there was very little, if anything, available for free for someone to use when walking in central London or it’s fringes. Beyond a visit to the exhibition itself, within the map’s accompanying booklet was good advice on the best way to explore London:

“the best way for a stranger to ascertain the plans of London is first to explore what may be termed its arteries- the main thoroughfares and lines of street which divide it longitudinally. Starting from Hyde-park along Piccadilly, turn down St. James’s street and continue along Pall-mall, by Charing-cross, the Strand, St. Paul’s and Lombard-street, to Whitechapel Church,; and return by Leadenhall-street and Holborn, and along Oxford-street to Hyde-park. This will be a walk or a ride of about nine miles through the heart of the metropolis. He may afterwards make another circuit by passing from Charing-cross southward, crossing Westminster-bridge, passing the obelisk, and reaching London-bridge by the Borough, Gracechurch-street and Bishopsgate-street, will conduct him to Shoreditch Church, and, turning short to the left, he may return to Charing-cross, by the City-road, Kings-cross, New-road, Edgeware-road, Park-lane, Grosvenor-place, Pimlico and Westminster Abbey. This will be a route of about eleven miles”

London transport maps

Probably the earliest free paper maps that anyone could practically use for walking to a destination in London were those produced in the late nineteenth century by the London transport companies. These companies needed to show where their routes lay and encourage workers and travellers to use their services. Such maps continued to be produced into the 20th century in ever increasing numbers and formats and production continues to this day. Maps showing tram, omnibus/bus and coach routes would overlay lines and stations over a street map. Some would also show the route of the London Tube system that lay mostly underground. Available for free, they were often perfectly adequate for anyone who chose to walk rather than ride. However every now and and then, quite terrible maps have been produced.

The first map of the London Underground showed the lines, few that they were at the time, overlain on a street plan. However the map was not particularly helpful to those travelling above ground, not those underground. 1908

The first public map of the London Underground showed the lines overlain on a street plan. However the map was not particularly helpful to those travelling above ground, nor those underground. 1908

Harry Beck, the map responsible for the radical redesign of the London Tube map

Harry Beck, the man responsible for the radical redesign of the London Tube map

The first maps of the London Underground system had normal street maps and the lines of the underground railways superimposed. This was replaced in 1921 with a tube network map with above ground detail other than stations and the River Thames omitted. This was more than adequate for underground rail travellers but obviously of no use to those walking above ground.

The central area of the tube map was squashed and Harry Beck’s idea of expanding the central area, distorting above ground geography and making the map diagrammatic rather than geographic, was a step change in map design.

Map of the General Omnibus Routes provided free to the public by the London General Omnibus Co. Ltd. 1928

Map of the General Omnibus Routes provided free to the public by the London General Omnibus Co. Ltd. 1928

A striking step-change it may have been, but of limited help to those walking London streets. Despite mirroring the success of the Beck Underground maps, some bus maps have occasionally fallen victim to producing similar diagrammatic maps that failed miserably to support anyone attempting to navigate London’s complex streets.

Where bus maps have worked best for the pedestrian is, fairly obviously, when a geographical style has been retained. All the better both for a passenger to themselves in relation to the streets being passed through, but also for onward journey by foot. One of the best features of these maps, both bus and tube, is their pocket sized dimensions. The folded 1928 Omnibus map shown below measures just 75mm x 144mm when folded. These are almost the same dimensions as a 2019 tube map I have on my desk in front of me- 75mm x 150mm.

Drawn by the accomplished artist, illustrator and cartographer Alfred Edward Taylor, the Map of the General Omnibus Routes is both attractive and practical, if a little small scale for those hoping to use it for navigation by foot, as it covers all of Greater London.

Map of the General Omnibus Routes, issued free by the London General Omnibus Co. Ltd. Drawn by Alfred E. Taylor, the map is an ideal size for use in the hand. Printed by Waterlow & Sons, 1928

Map of the General Omnibus Routes, issued free by the London General Omnibus Co. Ltd. Drawn by Alfred E. Taylor, the map is an ideal size for use in the hand. Printed by Waterlow & Sons, 1928, however map design is dated 1927

Bus map to the central London area. Published by London Transport and issued free. 1946

Bus map to the central London area. Published by London Transport and issued free. 1946

The bus and tube companies seem to have hit on the optimum size for their free maps almost from the outset. The map above, held by Three Points of the Compass, measures 445mm x 577mm when open.

The rear of the map, in common with almost all others likewise produced, is stuffed with information for the traveller. On these earlier maps almost all information relates to routes, destinations, days of operation etc. It was only later, when attempting to attract the tourist and non-commuter that more general information of places of interest was included.

In contrast to the attractive and intuitive map design above, the bus map below follows a diagrammatic style, even altering the gentle flowing curves of the River Thames to something more akin to that found in an electrician’s manual. I don’t like it and many who used it didn’t either and a return to more practical freely issued maps for bus routes was not long following.

Bus map drawn by J.H. Elston and printed by Waterlow & Sons. More like a wiring diagram than a street map, it would take the most determined of map reading bus goers to navigate London successfully with it. 1946

Bus map drawn by J.H. Elston and printed by Waterlow & Sons. More like a wiring diagram than a street map, it would take the most determined of map reading bus goers to navigate London successfully with it. 1946

Compare the above diagrammatic style with the 1959 example below. Though simple and omitting streets, it is nonetheless easy to follow on the ground and more than sufficient for the pedestrian to find their way across the part of London shown.

Small free street map showing fifteen bus routes taking passengers to places of interest in central London, with sufficient information to walk between them. Published by London Transport, 1959

Small free street map showing fifteen bus routes taking passengers to places of interest in central London, with sufficient information to walk between them. Map measures 228mm x 152mm. Published by London Transport, 1959

Small pocket map with Hop on a Bus character that first appeared on posters in 1958. Published by London Transport in 1959

Small pocket map with Hop on a Bus character that first appeared on posters in 1958. Published by London Transport in 1959

London Transport 'Welcome' map produced by London Transport detailing fifteen bus routes taking in 'places of interest'. 1960s

London Transport ‘Welcome’ map produced by London Transport detailing fifteen bus routes taking in ‘places of interest’. 1964

Following the Second World War there was a push to reinvigorate the tourist and general visitor presence in London. Some beautiful and detailed maps were produced but all, perhaps unsurprisingly, appear to usually have a purchase price associated with them. For someone looking to simply walk the streets of London with the minimum of outlay, the maps produced by the bus companies were probably their best option.

London Transport began to produce bus maps specifically targeting both the generally inquisitive and the tourist. In the 1960’s, a range of maps was produced that included a potted history of London buses on one side and and selected routes, by bus, across the capital on the other. These are well produced but omitted considerable surface detail. For anyone sticking to major routes and streets however, they were, and are, clear and simple to read.

My usual benchmark to how useful a free map is to pedestrians is how Hyde Park is shown, or even if it is shown. Most maps will show West Carriage Drive crossing the park, but how do they depict the many paths crossing the extensive grounds, if at all.

Though attractive in design, this 1964 bus map of London has simplified it to only show major streets, bus routes and places of interest

Though attractive in design, this 1964 bus map has simplified London to only show major streets, bus routes and places of interest

Free map of London showing maps and routes across both Greater and Central London. April 1976

Free map of London showing maps and routes across both Greater and Central London. April 1976

Bus maps did not improve much in the 1970s. Only essential detail was added, enough for the bus traveller for whom the maps were intended of course, but little use for anyone hoping to pick up a free map that would assist them in exploring London by foot.

The map shown immediately below was included on the back of a 1976 bus route map issued free by London Transport. Another map, also drawn in 1976 and shown below, was included on a free bus map issued in 1979. Slightly larger in format, a tad more detail is included. Using my yardstick of Hyde Park, the footpaths crossing that are included together with just some extra streets beyond the major routes.

The designer of both maps was David Penrose. In common with almost every other street map of the capital almost no detail of terrain is shown. It has close similarities to the A to Z maps produced by the Geographers’ Map Company founded in 1936.

Free bus map by London Transport. Detail from rear showing central London routes and minimal street detail. Cartographer was D. Penrose, April 1976

Free bus map by London Transport. Detail from rear showing central London routes and minimal street detail. Designer was David Penrose, April 1976

The 1979 bus map provided by London Transport includes a map drawn in 1976 by the Cartographic Department of Cook, Hammond and Kell Ltd. D. Penrose was again responsible for its design

The bus map provided by London Transport in 1979 includes a map drawn in 1976 by the Cartographic Department of Cook, Hammond and Kell Ltd. David Penrose was again responsible for its design

Bus maps have a difficult job. They need to not only give an indication of destination and routes, but also bus numbers and provide a modicum of additional information for the casual visitor and tourist.  Sadly, this efficiency is frequently at the cost of attractive design and moving through the 1980s and 1990s, there is little to commend them to either map reader or walker.

Selection of 1990s bus maps. Ruthlessly efficient and effective for the bus traveller, less so for those walking

Selection of free 1990s bus maps. Ruthlessly efficient and effective for the bus traveller, less so for those walking

Green Line coaches

Free Green Line coach map issued the London Passenger Transport Board, 1947

Free Green Line coach map issued the London Passenger Transport Board, 1947

Coach maps are seldom much use when walking in London. Coaches tend to have longer journeys than buses and subsequently have smaller scale maps. Perhaps, at most, including a larger scale representation of streets immediately surrounding a termini.

The London General Omnibus Company registered the Green Line Coach service in 1930. The coaches linked central London with country towns within a 30 miles radius. It was this network that was shown on their maps.

Green Line became part of the London Passenger Transport Board in 1933 and it is a map from this era shown below. Anyone using this map to walk around London would struggle, however it could just about be managed if sticking to coach routes!

Green Line coach map. Small scale map on the other side can be folded to join up with upper section of map shown here. Central London is shown to a larger scale. Crown Copyright, the map was prepared by J. Weiner Ltd. 1947

Green Line coach map. Small scale map on the other side can be folded to join up with upper section of map shown here. Central London is shown to a larger scale. Crown Copyright, the map was prepared by J. Weiner Ltd. 1947

Free London map from Green Line Coaches, 1974

Free London map from Green Line Coaches, 1974

Free London map from Green Line Coaches produced for French visitors, 1972

French language map from Green Line Coaches, 1972

The London Transport Board transferred their country coach and bus division to the National Bus Company in 1970. The coach map below was produced by the newly created subsidiary- the London Country Bus Services Ltd. The coach service was by now a pale imitation of its 1950s excellence. Battling to modernise an aged fleet and modernise their image and improve profits, maps were also produced to encourage and assist overseas visitors.

I say maps. They are amongst the worst maps illustrated here and show almost zero artistic flair and very little information beyond the actual roads utilised by one coach or another.

Small map on 1974 Green Line leaflet shows little more than a minimum of streets in central London

Small map on 1974 Green Line leaflet shows little more than a minimum of streets in central London

Free leaflet detailing a walk through just a part of 'Royal London'. Printed June 1965

Free leaflet detailing a walk through just a part of ‘Royal London’. Printed June 1965

Free leaflet detailing a walk in London and advertising a guide book 'Visitor's London', price five shillings. Printed March 1965

Free leaflet detailing a walk in London and advertising a guide book ‘Visitor’s London’, price five shillings. Printed March 1965

In common with other transport companies, Green Line were also behind the production of leaflets aimed at the general tourist. With the specific aim of increasing use of their services outside general commuter traffic, a range of cheaply produced free leaflets were prepared detailing short walks through London. Accompanied by a modicum of accurate historical detail the maps include just enough information to follow by foot, but are insufficient to wander ‘off-piste’.

A further aim of the leaflets was to encourage people to buy London Transport’s official guide book for tourists- ‘Visitor’s London‘. Costing five shillings and written by Harold F. Hutchison, the guide was printed annually and was:

an alphabetic reference book for the visitor to London who wishes to also see something of London’s countryside’.

Part of the detail within the free walk leaflet 'Opera and Oranges'. Produced by London Transport, these leaflets were aimed at people living within a thirty mile radius of London and was intended to increase use of transport during quieter times of the day. Printed March 1965

Part of the detail within the free walk leaflet ‘Opera and Oranges’. Produced by London Transport, these leaflets were aimed at people living within a thirty mile radius of London and was intended to increase use of transport during quieter times of the day. Printed March 1965

Motoring Associations

Motoring associations also produced maps for their members. Some of these could be purchased while others were issued free with membership. Founded in 1897, the Automobile Club of Great Britain (and Ireland)- the second oldest motoring club in the World, had prepared a London map for its members prior to it receiving Royal Charter and being renamed the Royal Automobile Club (RAC) in 1907.

Map to central London produced by the Automobile Association, circa 1935

Map to central London produced by the Automobile Association, circa 1935

The road maps produced by the Automobile Association (AA) are not only of use to drivers, they contain good information for those on foot too. The AA produced ‘through routes’ for its motoring members but demand for these fell when wartime petrol rationing was introduced.

When petrol rationing ceased in 1950, demand for maps again rose and with a membership in excess of 700,000 clamouring for good maps, many excellent town maps were produced. Those for London were particularly useful, not only for the motorist but the pedestrian too.

“members are reminded that, in addition to this map, the Association issues a number of publications of service to the motoring visitor to the Metropolis. These booklets may be obtained free of charge at any A.A. Office”

In addition to the 1935 map shown below, members could be provided, free, with London Route Maps, a London Guide, a map showing garages adjacent to London Railway Stations and a map showing garage and parking places in the vicinity of the Olympia exhibition halls.

Map of Central London issued free to members of the Automobile Association, 1935

Map of Central London issued free to members of the Automobile Association, 1935

Map showing the London West End & routes into London. Printed by John Bartholomew & Son, Edinburgh, circa 1954

Map showing the London West End & routes into London. Printed by John Bartholomew & Son, Edinburgh, circa 1954

The small section of map shown below, and taken from a larger sheet, was produced by the Automobile Association (AA) in the years immediately following the Second World War and was not only intended to illustrate the best motoring routes into London and the West End, but also show garages, official parking places, parking places on bombed sites, ‘no waiting’ streets, theatres, cinemas and hotels.

Drawn and published by the AA, it is printed in three colours. Part of the map was based on aerial photography by Hunting Aerosurveys Ltd. Copyright by the Automobile Association and C. J. Cousland & Sons. The remainder of the map is based on Ordnance Survey Maps. Scale is 1/3 mile to the inch on one side and 1 mile to 13 inches on the other. A detail from the map above is highlighted below.

One of the bombsites in London shown on the AA map had been acquired by Ronald Hobson and Sir David Gosling in 1948 for private parking and this facility enabled them to form Central Car Parks. In 1959, they took over National Car Parks (NCP), who were the UK’s oldest private car park operator (founded 1931). NCP went on to produce free city maps, including London, showing the location of their car parks. Frequently these were produced in collaboration with a partner.

AA map, detail, circa 1954

Detail from centre of  AA map, circa 1954. Despite the large scale, Hyde Park is simply shown as a wooded area, ignoring any paths. Note the inclusion of bombed areas temporarily re purposed as parking spaces

And what of Hyde Park. The target audience- motorists, for this map is all too obvious. Compare this with the extra detail on the maps supplied by Hermetite and the London Co-op shown below.

Banks

Barclays map, Decimal coinage. designed by E.W. Fenton

Free map produced by Barclays Bank for visitors to London. Designed by E.W. Fenton, 1970

Many banks would encourage new savers and customers with free giveaways. For a period, these included useful street maps, which obviously included detail on where bank branches were situated.

While Hyde Park is shown on the Barclays Bank complimentary map produced in 1970, little is included beyond an un-named West Carriage Drive and the Serpentine. The map does show the locations of the bank’s branches in central London and also sought to explain the intricacies of the forthcoming ‘D Day’ on 15th February 1971, when Britain made the change to decimal currency. Written and prepared by the bank’s advertising department and designed by E.W. Fenton, A.R.C.A., it was printed by Davenport, Askew & Co. Ltd.

Quite simple in design, streets are over exaggerated and simplified. Major destinations and Underground Stations are shown, along with a Tube Map designed by Paul E. Garbutt. Another map with an enlargement of the central area was included.

Detail from map released by Barclays Bank in 1970. Scale is 5cm to the mile

Detail from map released by Barclays Bank in 1970. Scale is 5cm to the mile

Complimentary map booklet produced by Hermetite for it's customers in 1961

Complimentary map booklet produced by Hermetite for it’s customers in 1961

The booklet shown here was produced by Hermetite in 1961 and distributed free of charge to its favoured customers, mostly trade. No-doubt those ‘in the know’ would be able to obtain one of these expensivly produced booklets that contain twenty-three good street maps derived from Ordnance Survey maps, together with another four maps providing further detail for visitors.

Hermetite made automotive products and was acquired by Hammerite in 1985. In a day where tote bags, pencils, T-shirts and over-sized mugs are given away in their thousands to favoured customers and visitors to company trade stands and outlets, the earlier production of such a useful and accurate map is extraordinary.

This booklet has been further overprinted in 1962 with detail on where the Hermetite trade stand was located at the Motor Show taking place that year at the Earls Court exhibition buildings.

Maps 8 and 9 in the free London street atlas provided by Hermetite in 1961

Maps 8 and 9 in the free London street atlas provided by Hermetite in 1961

1962 overprint in Hermetite booklet provided for it's customers

1962 overprint in Hermetite booklet provided for it’s customers

Map given free of charge of shareholders in the London Co-operative Society

Map given free of charge to shareholders in the London Co-operative Society

Co-operative shareholders

Beside banks there were some unexpected  places where good street maps to London could be picked up. Anyone who was a shareholder in the London Co-operative Society, entrance fee one shilling in the 1950s plus another shilling for the first share, could expect a map showing the location of every Co-op service outlet. The map shown probably dates to the early 1960s and shows the society’s main department stores and centres.

Printed almost exclusively in black, the map was prepared by G.I. Barnett and is based upon Ordnance Survey maps. A great deal of information is provided for shareholders and anyone else to whom the map was distributed “with the compliments of the committee…”. Beside good street detail and an index to places of interest, also shown is the location of Co-op stores, cinemas, theatres, close up of the Oxford Street shopping area and the London Transport system.

Trading map of the London Co-operative Society. c1960

Trading map of the London Co-operative Society. c1960

While the main map provided by the co-op is of most help to motorists, the map on the reverse shows in far greater detail the street and parks on central London and would be ideal for the pedestrian. Click on the image and you will see how this map shows detail in Hyde Park that is barely covered on any alternative.

there is a lot of fine detail map provided on the map supplied by the London Co-operative Society, look at how much is included for those visiting Hyde Park- paths, statues, refreshments and bandstand are amongst the places shown

there is a lot of fine detail map provided on the map supplied by the London Co-operative Society, look at how much is included for those visiting Hyde Park- paths, statues, refreshments and bandstand are amongst the places shown

Travel agents and airlines

Small map produced by travel agent Thomas Cook for its customers. Production costs were largely met by carrying advertisements on its reverse. As an indication of the customer base, these included advertising for the Ivy Restaurant

Small map produced by travel agent Thomas Cook for its customers. Production costs were largely met from advertisements on its reverse which included advertising for the Ivy Restaurant. 1954

The travel company Thomas Cook was first formed in 1841 to carry temperance supporters between towns and cities by railway. Cook also arranged transport to the 1851 Great Exhibition, mentioned earlier. Travel tours to Europe followed in 1855 and to the US in 1866.

The map shown here was produced in 1954 and supplied to its customers exploring London. Though small (342mm x 221mm) the three colour map shows central London and its tourist highlights, together with addresses of the Thomas Cook London offices. Though sadly, paths across parks get short shrift.

Despite including little detail for walkers across green spaces, it is a simple and accurate map, as befits the cartographer- Geographia Ltd. This map publishing company was founded in the UK in the early 1900s by Hungarian Alexander Gross.

The Thomas Cook Group ceased trading in September 2019. Such was its suddenness, that some 150 000 UK customers were left stranded abroad resulting in the UK’s largest peacetime repatriation.

Small map of central London produced by Geographia Ltd and supplied free of charge to customers of travel agent Thomas Cook. 1954

Small map of central London produced by Geographia Ltd and supplied free of charge to customers of travel agent Thomas Cook. 1954

1971 Pan Am map and guide

1971 PanAm map and guide

Drawn to a scale of 1:11 000, the 1970 map supplied to its passengers shows west, central and eastern London on one side

Drawn to a scale of 1:11 000, the 1970 map supplied to its passengers shows west, central and eastern London on one side

In these days of budget airlines where almost any ‘extra’ has to be paid for, it can be hard to comprehend that travellers with some airlines were offered ‘free’ maps, though the cost of producing these would have been swallowed up as part of their ticket or excursion price.

I show a 1970 map supplied by Pan American Airways here. An international affair, it is copyright Falk-Verlag of Hamburg Germany, based upon UK Ordnance Survey maps and printed in the U.S.A.

Detail from 1971 PanAm map shows not only NW, W and SW London, but also the London Transport Underground network and road approaches to London

Detail- from 1971 PanAm map supplied to its passengers, shows NW, W and SW London on one side.

The map is a garish affair with bright pink blocks, interspersed with green areas depicting parks and gardens, criss-crossed by bright yellow roads. It is folded into the front cover of a small booklet. This supplies information to travellers on currency, taxi fares to be expected, tipping, weather, what to wear, where to visit, stay and eat, night life, theatre and music. However for the urban pedestrian, the map is the most helpful inclusion. Far more useful than the tiny maps included in most modern city guides.

Heathrow Express

Central London map and guide produced by Heathrow Express and available to the public free of charge

Central London map and guide produced by Heathrow Express and available to the public free of charge

Not to be outdone by the airlines, Heathrow Express, an airport rail link that operates between London Heathrow Airport and Paddington railway station has also offered London street maps to travellers in recent years.

The service has operated since 1998 however the map shown here dates from 2017. While it shows most streets to the south east of Paddington, few streets are actually named. One of its most useful features has not been included on any map so far shown, concentric rings give indications on walk distance for 12, 30 and 60 minutes. Heathrow Express ticket prices and a map of the TfL tube network, along with a minimum of information on tourist destinations is included on the reverse.

This map, for all its apparent detail, is almost impossible to use ‘on the ground’. Anonymous streets with no further detail result in a frustrating confusion if attempting to use it to navigate by foot through London. All gloss and no substance one might say.

Map of Central London produced by Heathrow Express, 2017

Map of Central London produced by Heathrow Express, 2017

Tourist maps

Experience London Tourist map, 2018

Experience London Tourist map, 2018

Every year, millions of tourists descend on London. The wide range of visitor attractions vie with each other to attract them. Other than actually having an attraction worth visiting, one of the simplest ways to achieve this is to become part of the ‘tourist trail’. Various bus companies provide hop-on-hop-off services around the capital, enabling the solo or family visitor to explore various destinations. For a price, a business could get their attraction added to the maps provided, free of charge, to tourists. These are also given out by street vendors, tourist information centres and other leaflet hubs.

Woe betide the place that is not included on the map, especially if they are located down one of the many un-named side streets depicted. The tourist dollar counts most with the production of these maps and competition and production subscribers are the over-riding factors in the map’s design.

Experience London Tourist map. Freely distributed, the majority of the sheet is taken up with advertising various attractions with just about sufficient information on the map itself to enable tourists to travel between them. 2018

Experience London Tourist map. Freely distributed, the majority of the sheet is taken up with advertising various attractions with just about sufficient information on the map itself to enable tourists to travel between them. 2018

'South of the River' free map, 2019

‘South of the River’ free map, 2019

Recognising this difficulty in attracting the tourist, some local councils in traditionally less visited parts of the Capital have backed production of free maps showing ‘their’ neck of the woods. Some designs of map have pushed at traditional design, again with the inherent problem of ending up with a product that looks pretty but is difficult to actually navigate with on the ground. Competing for the prize of worst map for walkers shown here, the South of the River map is a strong contender.

'South of the River' free map, 2019

‘South of the River’ free map, 2019

East London Visitors Guide, compiled 1998

East London Visitors Guide, compiled 1998

The free East of London Visitors Guide compiled in 1998 is not much better than the South of the River map produced a decade later. On the surface it appears to be quite informative, containing information on transport, including boat services, accommodation and a plethora of tourist locations. However the map is woeful. An indication of longer cross-London paths is indicated with dotted green lines however it would be impossible to follow any of these or find your way through the myriad  of streets that have been left off the map. The map includes the Millennium Dome, not scheduled to open for another two years after the production of this map.

“here’s where the traditional East End meets the new city of London Docklands, where the World Heritage Site of Greenwich meets the wonder of the Millennium Dome”

Detail from East of London Visitors Guide. Try finding your way around Greenwich with this map and you would find it impossible

Detail from East of London Visitors Guide. Try finding your way around Greenwich with this map and you would find it impossible without additional aid

Sculpture trails

London has possibly the greatest variety of history, architecture, culture, and social diversity to be found anywhere. Various maps have been produced that explore aspects of London though most have had a cover price. Today, online maps have made such a thing largely superfluous.

Cover to the 1968 Sculpture Trail in the City of London

Cover to the 1968 Sculpture Trail in the City of London

As part of the City of London Festival, in 1968 a wide ranging selection of sculptures were exhibited. A map was produced to enable those interested to walk the streets and visit over a hundred works of art, though some were located in private residences, only open at specific times. One might view London as a huge sale room at the time as most of the sculptures were for sale.

Featuring Henry Moore’s ‘Warrior With Shield’ sculpture on it’s cover, the leaflet and map was published by the City of London Festival Committee and printed by The Ranelagh Press. It initially had a cover price of one shilling though this was eventually waived and it was made available for free.

Map produced showing the sculpture exhibition to be seen in the City of London 8-20 July 1968

Map showing the City of London sculpture exhibition, 1968

Mrs Three Points of the Compass sits beside the bronze statue of Paddington Bear at Paddington Station, London. En route to the Two Moors Way, 2012

Mrs Three Points of the Compass sits beside the bronze statue of Paddington Bear at Paddington Station, London. This is the start point for the Pawprint Trail. Photographed en route to the Two Moors Way, 2012

Small leaflet with map produced by the Paddington Partnership for the Paddington Pawprint Trail in 2018. Just the right size for a child's hands

Small leaflet with map produced by the Paddington Partnership for the Paddington Pawprint Trail in 2018. Just the right size for a child’s hands

If the above could be regarded as high-brow, then other sculpture trails in London have been much more fun. There have been Cow and Elephant parades and a giant Easter Egg hunt in 2011. A family favourite was the NSPCC and Visit London created Paddington Bear trail in 2014. Beginning at the bronze statue of the bear (erected in 2000) in Paddington Station, this trail sought out fifty Paddington Bear statues. The three foot six inch high “life-size” bears on the trail proved a firm favourite with children especially.

The trail was revamped in 2018 and an online and paper Pawprint Trail was published. A Tusk Rhino Trail was also created in 2018 but maps for this trail were available online only.

The simple map provided for the 2018 Pawprint Trail is barely adequate, but it is a simple walk with few opportunities to get lost so just about suffices. With a family audience in mind, the designer has included toilets, parks, play areas and picnic spots

The simple map provided for the 2018 Pawprint Trail is barely adequate, but it is an undemanding walk with few opportunities to get lost so just about suffices. With a family audience in mind, the designer has included toilets, parks, play areas and picnic spots

Shaun in the City sculpture trail map, produced and issued free in 2015

Shaun in the City sculpture trail map, produced and issued free in 2015

Another popular walking trail was the 2015 route created for fifty fibreglass (a trade name for glass fibre) Shaun the Sheep statues erected across the City of London for ‘Shaun in the City‘. Based on the character from a stop-motion animated TV series, each large sculpture had been decorated by artists and celebrities. An accompanying book and paper trail map were produced. Proceeds went to support children in hospitals. The map was created from contributors to OpenStreetMap data. However actual street detail is woeful.

In common with many of the similar sculpture trails, they were subsequently repeated in other UK cities, together with maps, online assistance and participants were urged to contribute to the charities supported. No doubt we will continue to see many more of these fun sculpture trails. They are very popular. However it is the online provision of maps for these that appears to be the way forward.

2015 map produced for families to track down the fifty Shaun the Sheep sculptures placed across London. Four different trails are shown, measuring 3km, 3km, 3km and 5km. Very little in the way of street names is included and Three Points of the Compass wonders how many people got lost without the assistance of the accompanying App

2015 map produced for families to track down the fifty Shaun the Sheep sculptures placed across London. Four different trails are shown, measuring 3km, 3km, 3km and 5km. Very little in the way of street names is included and Three Points of the Compass wonders how many people got lost without the assistance of the accompanying App

Brewers and pub owners

As mentioned previously, there are few reasons to give a reasonably accurate and expensive map to the general public free of charge. One straight forward commercial reason would be to encourage visitors to your establishments, be they theatres, restaurants, clubs or as shown here, public houses. But how do you get the public to visit more than one of your establishments? Perhaps in areas of London unknown to them or infrequently visited. By leaning heavily both on the unique features of your various venues and on the very history of London itself.

In March 2019 Kent brewers released a free map depicting a trail through London that visited eight of their pubs en route. Drawn by Peter Gander, it is an attractive product but not that suited to following on the ground. Three Points of the Compass walked the route in November 2019

In March 2019 Kent brewers Shepherd Neame released a free map depicting a trail through London that visited eight of their pubs en route. Drawn by Peter Gander, it is an attractive product but not suited to actually following on the ground. Three Points of the Compass walked the route in November 2019

Three Points of the Compass walked one such route in November and covered the Shepherd Neame City of London Walk in a previous blog. While Shepherd Neame, who supplied the free map for that wander through London, relied most heavily on the history of their pubs, other brewers and pub owning companies have also incorporated history and mythology into their ‘pub trails’. The small Maidenhead brewer Nicholson’s was bought out in the 1950s and their brand is now used by Mitchells and Butlers for an enviable selection of historic pubs in London and other cities. A free map taking in many of the London pubs was developed and distributed free of charge to thirsty drinkers.

Dick Whittington Ale Trail, released 2006. Copyright Harper Collins

Dick Whittington Ale Trail, released 2006. Copyright Harper Collins

Nicholson's London Ale Trail, 2012

Nicholson’s London Ale Trail, 2012. Unknown map maker

The Dick Whittington Ale Trail produced in 2006 was aimed firmly at the tourist and expounded on the folklore story of his becoming Lord Mayor of London three times. The story could have been adopted by just about anyone however the excellent maps do provide six pretty goods trails taking in: Soho, Westminster to Piccadilly, Covent Garden, Blackfriars, London Bridge to Tower Bridge, and the Financial heartland.

So successful was this map and the extra turn-over created that it was rebranded as the Nicholson’s London Ale Trail and repeated, with a different map and tweaked trails, in 2012. Presumably it was felt that the original map had pushed the brand insufficiently as the 2012 version carries more detail on the company’s pubs, their food and beers and which Nicholson’s pubs could be found in close vicinity to London.

One side of the Nicholson's pub trail released in 2006. This shows three trails taking in both sides of the River Thames

One side of the Nicholson’s pub trail released in 2006. This shows three trails taking in seventeen pubs on both sides of the River Thames

Second side of the Dick Whittington Ale Trail. While this does take in 29 pubs across the three trails shown, the attractive map also provides lots of accurate street detail for those simply exploring

Second side of the Dick Whittington Ale Trail. While this does take in 29 pubs across the three trails shown, the attractive map also provides lots of accurate street detail for those simply exploring and is amongst the best of free maps ever produced for London walkers

The Nicholson's Ale Trail map produced in 2012 demonstrates a total refocu from their earlier offering. This map concentrates on the pubs and provides far less detail of Lodnon's streets and parks. Compare how Green Park is depicted against that in the map above

The Nicholson’s Ale Trail map produced in 2012 demonstrates a total refocus from their earlier offering. This map concentrates on the pubs and provides far less detail of London’s streets and parks. Compare how little detail in Green Park is depicted against that on the earlier Dick Whittington Ale Trail map.

I have shown just one side of the 2012 offering from Mitchells and Butlers here as it is a much poorer map. The pedestrian is completely abandoned in some parts of the City. To the east of the Thames, the area around Waterloo station has been largely ignored in favour of advertising of venue hire.

City of London Visitor Trail

City of London Visitor Trail is adequate for visiting many of London's tourist spots by foot. Each square represents approximately 400m, taking roughly five minutes to walk. Printed September 2016

Map of the City of London Visitor Trail. A joint initiative between The City of London Corporation and the Diocese of London. Printed September 2016

Demonstrating that there is still a demand for paper maps for walkers, alongside suggested routes and things to see in London, a City of London Visitor Trail was quietly launched in April 2013. Having ironed out the kinks a marketing campaign kicked in August 2014. Over 130 thousand maps were distributed showing tourist routes that walkers could follow through the City of London.

Six themed routes: The trails, Law and Literature, London Stories, London People, Culture vultures, Skyscrapers ad sculpture, and Market mile enable people to experience much of the best on offer. The trail received funding from Tower Bridge, The Monument and Guildhall Art Gallery, it was sponsored initially by The Diocese of London. Needless to say an app, map and supporting information was made available online.

It is refreshing that it was still thought practical to include a physical map. Not only that, but a well planned, clear and informative one at that. It may have lacked some distinctive flair but was efficient if impersonal. More recently the trail branding has become more ‘child friendly’ but the opportunity remains for those merely curious to indulge in independent wandering of the streets of London.

Map of the City of London Visitor Trail. A joint initiative between The City of London Corporation and the Diocese of London. Printed September 2016

City of London Visitor Trail is adequate for visiting many of London’s tourist spots by foot. Each square represents approximately 400m, taking roughly five minutes to walk. Printed September 2016

A huge number of free maps to aid a visitor in walking around London were produced as part of the 2012 Olympics

A huge number of free maps to aid a visitor in walking around London were produced as part of the 2012 Olympics

This brief glance at some of the free paper maps available to London pedestrians has omitted a large group of material and a couple of themes in particular. Three Points of the Compass will take a closer look at these in the final three parts of this short series- the plethora of material released by Transport for London, also those produced in association with the 2012 London Olympics.

To end with, later in the year, we shall take a glance at the commemorative maps produced free for the public in connection with some of the Royal events in London.

Signposting of The Wealdway is good throughout its eighty plus miles

Trail talk: The Wealdway

The Wealdway is an 80+ mile/134+ km path across the south east of England, from Eastbourne on the South Coast, to the River Thames at Gravesend. Traversing the Weald, walking northwards from East Sussex into Kent, the route crosses both the South Downs and North Downs.

Mr and Mrs Three Points of the Compass set off on a cold winters morning from Eastbourne Pier for our first day on the Wealdway

Mr and Mrs Three Points of the Compass set off on a cold winters morning from Eastbourne Pier for our first day on the Wealdway

Each year, Three Points of the Compass works through one of the long distance paths in ‘my’ south-eastern corner of England where I live. These are usually completed as a series of occasional day hikes. For the Wealdway, Mrs Three Points of the Compass joined me. We actually commenced this in 2017, intending to complete it by 2018. But with one thing and another, various commitments, not least my completing a five month 2000 mile hike last year, it was not until early 2019 that we managed to find time to knock off our final day on this trail.

Looking south from atop the South Downs, the English Channel can just be seen on a misty cold morning

Looking south from atop the South Downs, the English Channel can just be seen on a misty cold morning

This is not a difficult walk. Climbs may be moderate, but it it is a very enjoyable traipse though a changing countryside. The wide open chalk escarpments of the South Downs and North Downs stand above low lying farmlands. Pasture mingles with woodlands, tiny streams and almost forgotten villages are encountered every day.

Mrs Three Points of the Compass makes a short descent through a small mixed woodland to cross one of the many streams encountered on the Wealdway

Mrs Three Points of the Compass makes a short descent through a small mixed woodland to cross one of the many streams encountered on the Wealdway. The proliferation of both water and wood meant that it was this region that supported the first iron workings in the country

In the middle section of the path, the way climbs, crosses and drops from the High Weald at Ashdown Forest. This bulging geological anomaly is beautiful walking, the term ‘forest’ is slightly misleading, it being more sandy heathlands and gorse, with stands of pines.

Ashdown Forest

The High Weald at Ashdown Forest makes for an easy and pleasant days walking

Some 99% of the Wealdway has excellent signposting

Some 99% of the Wealdway has excellent signposting

Sussex and Kent County Councils differ in their preferred signs but they are equally as effective

Sussex and Kent County Councils differ in their preferred signs but they are equally as effective

There is not much written about the Wealdway. I am not sure why as it certainly rates amongst other longer trails in Kent and Sussex though just a couple of other bloggers have written about it. There are GPX files but as it is marked on O.S. maps and I prefer hard copy maps, I carried the relevant O.S. Explorer map for each days hiking. The whole route is covered by O.S. Explorer 123, 135, 147, 136, 148 and 163. I preferred the larger scale 1:25 000 Explorer maps to the 1:50 000 Landranger maps as it is helpful at times to see which side of a hedge, ditch or stream that the path was following.

I carried a compass but probably used it on no more than two or three occasions. I carried the most recently written guide with me on occasion, but more for lunchtime or train reading en route than anything else. A guide to the Wealdway by John H N Mason was published in 1984 and there are a handful of changes to the route shown in his guide. Despite this, the researched notes make for interesting reading and if you can find a second hand copy, it is useful if you intend to enjoy this route. The most recent printed guide is Along and Around the Wealdway. This guide was researched and authored by Helen Livingstone and was published jointly by the East Sussex County Council and Kent County Council in 1999. It is attractively produced with lovely photographs and paintings. However its design is hopeless, the size and shape are not conducive to stuffing into a pack and it has a ‘pull-out’ centre Walk Guide.

There are only two guides of any note that cover the Wealdway, both are now pretty old and out of date in aprts. However they both provide a wealth of background information on the sites to be seen, the geography and history of the diverse route are well covered

There are only two guides of any note that cover the Wealdway, both are now pretty old and out of date in parts. However they both provide a wealth of background information on the sites to be seen, the geography and history of the diverse route are well covered

I never camped on this trail, or stayed overnight. When hiking, we travelled each day to and from railway stations that were never more than a mile or so off route. That said, while various guides give the total distance of the Wealdway as between 80 and 83 miles, these station link miles do add up and we covered 97 miles in total over the six day hikes it took to complete the trail..

Eastbourne (pier) to Berwick railway station 14.5 miles
Berwick railway station to Uckfield railway station 20.5 miles
Uckfield railway station to Ashurst railway station 16.0 miles
Ashurst railway station to Tonbridge railway station 12.5 miles
Tonbridge Railway station to Borough Green railway station 16.0 miles
Borough Green railway station to Gravesend Pier (end) then station 17.5 miles
Total distance covered on Wealdway including station links 97 miles
Only a couple of diversions were encountered, here, a blocked tunnel below a main road meant that 1.5 miles were added to the days total when hiking between Ashurst and Tonbridge

Only a couple of diversions were encountered. Here, a blocked tunnel below a main road meant that 1.5 miles were added to the days total when hiking between Ashurst and Tonbridge. Though I don’t reckon the tunnel was collapsing, the reason given

Three Points of the Compass does like to explore a church or two en route, or at least take advantage of a seat in the churchyard for a lunchtime halt. Beside pottering around fonts and pews, admiring stained glass and tombs, a peek inside the interior would frequently encounter the makings of a cup of tea with biscuits provided, laid on by parishioners in exchange for a modest donation. Very welcome on hot and colds days alike.

Part of the harvest festival display at St. Pancras Church, Arlington

Part of the harvest festival display in St. Pancras Church, Arlington

The Wealdway crosses differing rock strata, each of which has leant itself to different building materials and architecture. Thatch, wood, brick and hung tiles proliferate. Black & white timber framed houses and barns abound. Farms vary from the tatty and unloved to the grand and expensive. Wealden wooden braced halls alternate with flint walled churches. It really is a joy and if walking alone, I would probably have taken more time to halt and sketch en route.

Lovely wealden houses passed while on trail

The 13th century gatehouse and curtain walls are almost all that remain of Tonbridge Castle. Built by the Normans, it stands on the site of a Saxon fort

The 13th century gatehouse and curtain walls are almost all that remain of Tonbridge Castle. Built by the Normans, it stands on the site of a Saxon fort

Horses graveyard near East Hoathly. The nearest headstone carries the musings of a proud owner- '13 races, 13 wins'

Horses graveyard near East Hoathly. The nearest headstone carries the musings of a proud owner- ’13 races, 13 wins’

Honesty stall selling local produce

Honesty stall selling local produce

I walked through miles of orchards where the trees were literally dripping with apples, leaving these it was only to pass hectares of soft fruit. There are often surprises encountered on a long trail, I would never have expected to see a horses cemetery. The trail passes a statue to a kidnapped native American, the sites of crashed bomber aircraft, the haunts of smugglers, dead country railway lines, priories, the only surviving iron pier in the world, and the bridge where Pooh Sticks was invented…

“And that was the beginning of the game called Poohsticks, which Pooh invented, and which he and his friends used to play on the edge of the Forest.  But they played with sticks instead of fir-cones, because they were easier to mark.”

The House at Pooh Corner, A.A. Milne

Coldrum Stones Long Barrow was excavated in 1910. It contained the remains of 22 people, men, women and children

Coldrum Stones neolithic Long Barrow was excavated in 1910. It contained the remains of 22 people- men, women and children

An avenue through a young coppice woodland

An avenue through a young coppice woodland

We will never really appreciate just how much the countryside has changed around the Wealdway. While the hills remain largely the same, other than the ravages of quarries and road cuttings, the wooded slopes have largely gone, torn down to fuel the iron furnaces or build the warships, cleared to make fertile land for farming, or make travel easier across a former dangerous place for a hunter gatherer or traveller to be.

More modern coppice woodlands- chestnut especially, or beech, oak or coniferous, depending on soil type, remain if much reduced in acreage. However the remains of the prehistoric races that lived here are in evidence. The remains of Bronze and Iron Age forts are passed, the ‘Tumuli’ shown on the O.S. maps are often worth a bit of an explore, especially sites like Coldrum Stones just below the North Downs. This long barrow differs from others found in England, being more akin to those tombs found in Denmark, which belong to the earliest Northern European neolithic culture.

The statue of native American Pocahontas and her memorial are seen on the final day on trail at St. George's Church, Gravesend

The statue of native American Pocahontas and her memorial are seen on the final day on trail at St. George’s Church, Gravesend

Mrs Three Points of the Compass and I thoroughly enjoyed our time on the Wealdway. Travel to and from each days section was easy by public transport and each day bought something new. Even when the clay soils were wet, the going was never particularly tough and our six days were spread across all the seasons so we got to experience it in all weathers, we even did one section twice, if unintentionally!

I thoroughly recommend it to anyone that wants a gentle and fairly short introduction to the diversity of Kent and Sussex. I loved walking in out of the fields and woods to briefly pass through a tiny almost forgotten village, briefly ponder whether to pop in to one of the pubs or not, reluctantly decide against it (miles to cover) and walk on back into the Weald.

As to my next day walk trail in the South East, more on that in the future.

Taking time out for the crack of leather on willow- A cricket match at Bidborough

Taking time out for the crack of leather on willow- A cricket match at Bidborough

Baseball at Tonbridge

Baseball at Tonbridge

I’m off!

After a very late night packing maps in to bundles for Mrs Three Points of the Compass to send on to me (yes, I know I have only had a couple of years to prepare) I had a couple of hours sleep prior to rising early for my train into London.

Very excited, a little nervous, concerned about twinges in the back. Really looking forward to the first few miles from Poole railway station.

My dining room table is given over to final decisions in my route planning

Thirty five days to my ‘Big Walk’

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail!”

Benjamin Franklin

Thirty-five days until I set off and I am still umming and ahhing over a small number of route choices. Occasional evenings are spent in firming up these choices, while also including a handful of more direct or low level alternatives in case I am running slow or the weather is absolutely foul. It is my walk, my route and I am attempting to include many places of interest to me, either for their historical aspect or natural beauty.

Demands of work

The daylight hours are spent at work. There are a number of things I need to finish off, pass to someone else, or put on hold until my return. I finally received official sanction to include some unpaid leave alongside an extended holiday and include days I have been able to bank over the past decade.

Part of my letter from HR. I am now 'officially' allowed to depart

Part of my letter from HR. I am now ‘officially’ allowed to depart

This is an important aspect of planning. I may be away ‘enjoying’ myself, traipsing up and down the country, while also spending money on food, fuel and some overnight halts. But back home there are still bills to be paid. Budgeting is something not to be forgotten when planning an extended hike of significance. I am fortunate that not only do I have an understanding and supportive manager, but also still have a job I enjoy to return to afterward.

Dirty Girl Gaiters have proved indispensable with my choice of footwear

Dirty Girl Gaiters have proved indispensable with my choice of footwear

New gear

I ordered a couple of new and replacement items. One was a new pair of Dirty Girl Gaiters. I have used these for years and wouldn’t go hiking in trail runners without them now. I find them an easy fix to the previous issue of bits of grit, twigs, and any other trail debris finding its way into my shoe. They stop a lot of dust too, though the finer particles can still make their way through the fine breathable mesh of my Altras. My previous pair have covered thousands of miles and have rather too many holes in them now and are a tad frayed around the edges. Most runners seem to like one of the lurid colour schemes these come in, I am more sober in my tastes. However I couldn’t get replacement for my previous Urban Struggle design as my size were out of stock. Instead, I went all English Middle Class and ordered XL Blackout, flying in the face of Dirty Girls’ entreaty to-

“keep the debris out of your shoes with ultralight style and sass. And you’ll have something fun to look at while you hang your sorry head and shuffle your tired feet”

For some unknown reason the weight has crept up, now 36g rather than the 31g of my previous pair.

A new pair of Dirty Girl Gaiters. Made in the USA by Goddesses apparently

A new pair of Dirty Girl Gaiters. Made in the USA by Goddesses apparently

It was also time to replace my battered Montane Lite-Speed windshirt/jacket. My old one that I have used on just about every UK hike over the past six years was beginning to fray at the edges, a fair bit of hem stitching had come adrift and even though there are quite a few miles left in it. I still felt a new replacement would last a good deal longer.

The 2018 Lite-Speed from Montane comes with a more capacious stuff sack than the previous mesh offering

The 2018 Lite-Speed from Montane comes with a more capacious, yet lighter, stuff sack than the previous mesh offering

I ordered mine through the Cotswold Outdoor website for collection in store and descended on their Maidstone premises yesterday. I reckon this windshirt is a cracking piece of kit and find myself often wearing one, especially when setting off in the cooler temperatures early morning, or on breezy ridges where simply cutting the effects of windchill is all that is required. I find it also often works well as a mid-layer, trapping an insulating layer of air.

Three Points of the Compass and Daughter on the Dales Way. Montane Lite Sped windshirt was the perfect layer over a thin baselayer on this spring walk of 81 miles. April 2012

Three Points of the Compass and daughter on the Dales Way. Montane Lite Speed windshirt was the perfect layer over a thin baselayer on this spring walk of 81 miles. April 2012

The 2018 Montane Lite-Speed is a fairly simple garment, constructed from 20 denier Pertex Quantum Mini Rip-stop, this dense weave nylon is both light and 100% windproof. It has an adjustable roll away hood with some stiffening in the brim. The hood doesn’t now roll away as well as it previously did. My 2012 garment had it folding away into the collar while the newer model simply rolls up to make a fairly loose collar in itself. There is a full length front zip with internal wind strip and zipped hand pockets. These are an improvement over my earlier model that only had a single chest pocket. The earlier shirt was made from Pertex Microlight and the previous 9g mesh stuff sack (always a squeeze to get the jacket into this) has been changed to a slightly larger 6g Pertex Quantum stuff sack. This is so light and handy that, at least for now, I shall be keeping it stowed in this if not in use. The weight has dropped a little too- from 196g to 167g for my size XL.

My new Lite-Speed windshirt,, on the left, shows off the added hand pockets that have replaced the single napoleon pocket on the earlier version

My new Lite-Speed windshirt,, on the left, shows off the added hand pockets that have replaced the single napoleon pocket on the earlier version. The fold down hood is a poorer replacement to the neater and more comfortable previous version on the right

Part of the Basingstoke Canal was followed by Three Points of the Compass when he completed the London Countryway in 2016

A library for hikers- Canals

Three Points of the Compass on a winter walk on a canal towpath

Three Points of the Compass on a winter walk on a canal towpath

Canals cross the United Kingdom. Historically, these inland waterways had a relatively short working life before being usurped by the railway but are today resurrected within the leisure market. Not only are they home to modern water borne travellers, but their banks provide access for anglers, cyclists, dog walkers, hikers and the modern day magnet fishers.

Signs of failure, decay and lack of use can still be found in and alongside many canals today. The rotting carcass of a wooden boat was passed by Three Points of the Compass when walking the London Loop in 2016

Signs of failure, decay and lack of use can still be found in and alongside many canals today. The rotting carcass of a wooden boat was passed by Three Points of the Compass when walking the London Loop in 2016

Three Points of the Compass has walked hundreds of miles along canals enjoying their banks and wildlife, a good few miles of canal are included on the route of my Long Walk. There are a small number of books within my modest library that provide more than a modicum of information on their history and add a smattering of interest to any walk along a canal.

Narrow Boat by Tom Rolt

‘Narrow Boat’ by Tom Rolt. A classic volume

Narrow Boat by L.T.C. Rolt is credited with kick-starting the interest in English canals. The author recorded his work converting a dilapidated wooden narrow boat Cressy in to a liveable abode on which he and his new bride set forth on a four month trip, taking in a variety of canals, pubs and encountering a mixed bag of characters. It was a strange and changing world, at the outbreak of World War II, when the future of the canal system seemed rooted in decrepitude. Yet publication of this book in 1944 led directly to the formation of the Inland Waterways Association when it was founded by Tom Rolt and Robert Aickman in 1946. From this the restoration and use of canals for leisure eventually became assured. My faded volume was published in 1946 and later editions are easy to find. It is an older style of book and I enjoyed it immensely. If published today as a new product it would probably excite little interest and it can be difficult to appreciate today just what sort of impact it had at the time.

The Grand Union Canal is a popular for leisure use and some of it was followed by Three Points of the Compass on the London Loop in 2016

The Grand Union Canal is popular for leisure use and some of it was followed by Three Points of the Compass on the London Loop in 2016

A later account of a similar length of journey by narrow boat across the English Canal system, taken in 2001, was written by travel writer and TV Presenter Paul Gogarty. As befitting his background, The Water Road is a well written and informative volume that understands, with the hindsight that the intervening decades have provided, what the reader wants. Part history, part ‘narrowboat odyssey’, part observational anecdote.

The Water Road is Paul Gogarty's account of a 900 mile, four month journey across the canals of inland England aboard his 50 foot narrowboat Caroline

‘The Water Road’ is Paul Gogarty’s account of a 900 mile, four month journey across the canals of inland England aboard his 50 foot narrowboat Caroline

It seems to have been no less a strange and awful time when Paul Gogarty’s journey was undertaken- the UK was undergoing a B.S.E. epidemic from which many communities never recovered, Salmonella was in the news and as the trip drew to a close- “I would return home just in time to watch the Twin Towers crumble. The apocalypse was alive and kicking”.

Having completed the West Highland Way in 2013. Three Points of the Compass stayed in Fort William and explored Neptune's Staircase on the Caledonian Canal the following day. This is the longest staircase lock in Great Britain, comprising of a flight of eight locks. The canal was built by Thomas Telford between 1803 and 1822

Having completed the West Highland Way in 2013, Three Points of the Compass stayed in Fort William and explored Neptune’s Staircase on the Caledonian Canal the following day. This is the longest staircase lock in Great Britain, comprising of a flight of eight locks. The canal was built by Thomas Telford between 1803 and 1822

Three Points of the Compass has included a good few miles of canal walking on the Long Walk commencing 1st April 2018. Tow paths can be useful for crossing the country quickly on often good paths. Though these can also be overgrown, muddy and, frankly, boring at times. Also it can be difficult to find wild camping spots along their length in places. But still, I am quite looking forward to some parts of my forthcoming walk that incorporate canals. Most canals have a book or two (or more!) dedicated to their history. There is one in particular that I was keen to add to my book shelf in order to learn a little more.

The amazing Falkirk Wheel aqueduct is featured amongst the images on the cover of Hamish Brown's book- Exploring the Edinburgh to Glasgow Canals

The amazing Falkirk Wheel aqueduct is featured amongst the images on the cover of Hamish Brown’s book- ‘Exploring the Edinburgh to Glasgow Canals’

Following the Lee Navigation in 2016

Following the Lee Navigation in 2016

Exploring the Edinburgh to Glasgow Canals is somewhat different to the aforementioned two books, it is not only a history of the canals (though missing out of more recent developments) but also tells of the towns and industry that were served by the canals in their working life. I am also encouraged by the fact that the author, Hamish Brown, is an accomplished walker and outdoors writer. This then, is not just for the boat dweller, but for those who amble the lengths of canals but want to know more on what they pass.

For a few years, I was fortunate enough to work with/for the author of another little volume that sits on my bookshelf that provides a fascinating and accessible concise introduction to one of the most noticeable facets of the canals; namely, the boats and craft used for trade, industry and upkeep. Tony Conder has illustrated the modestly priced Shire volume Canal Narrowboats and Barges with dozens of photographs from his personal collection. These and his text provide a wealth of information on boat construction, propulsion, their cargo but little of the people that lived and worked their lives on the canals. For that type of information it is best to visit one of the waterway museums listed in the book. The author was curator of the British Waterways Collection for twenty five years and opened the National Waterways Museum at Gloucester in 1988.

Canal Narrowboats and Barges by Tony Conder is an excellent and affordable introduction to the craft that plied the inland waterways

‘Canal Narrowboats and Barges’ by Tony Conder is an excellent and affordable introduction to the craft that plied the inland waterways

Narrow Boat, L.T.C. Rolt. Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1946

The Water Road, Paul Gogarty, Robson Books, 2002. ISBN 1 86105 515 3

Exploring the Edinburgh to Glasgow Canals, Hamish Brown. Mercat Press, first published 1997, revised edition 2006. ISBN 978 1 84183 096 4

Canal Narrowboats and Barges, Tony Conder. Shire Publications Ltd. 2004. ISBN 0 7478 0587 3

Three Points of the Compass has not only walked the tow path of many a canal, but has also enjoyed many a mile by boat. Here he navigates a lock, with hat aloft, on the Cheshire Ring in 2015

Three Points of the Compass has not only walked the tow path of many a canal, but has also, with his family, enjoyed travelling hundreds of canal miles by boat. Here he navigates a lock, briefly with hat held aloft, on the Cheshire Ring in 2015

Preparing

Fifty days to my ‘Big Walk’

“Before anything else, preparation is the key to success”

Alexander Graham Bell

The off grows ever nearer, half a hundred days away. So what am I up to?

I am still planning, my route underwent a bit of a change as I have now decided that it is best to complete the Offa’s Dyke Path and from there cross over to the Peak District, rather than my original intention of only completing half of the Path and leaving at Knighton. This meant that not only did a handful of new maps have to purchased, but a bit of reading around my new route was required. I am now following part of The Great English Walk from Tarporley to Youlgreave. This looks an interesting section in a ‘difficult’ part of the country to cross.

So along with maps and books arriving in the post, I was delighted to finally receive my footwear of choice. Cutting it finer than I would want, but I can now begin adapting the insoles to take my orthotics. The latter became necessary when I found myself suffering from Plantar fasciitis in 2015, a problem that still lingers with the occasional twinge. I am going to have to ensure I keep up with my stretching exercises when on trail. I have also been receiving small items ordered, some paint for my art kit, a new compass to replace the one that I have been using for years, but has an air bubble that appears at certain temperatures.

New Silva Expedition 4 compass. Some of the terrain being crossed on my Three Points of the Compass walk will require good navigation, this is an excellent tool for the job

New Silva Expedition 4 compass. Some of the terrain being crossed on my Three Points of the Compass walk will require precise navigation, a good map and compass are essential tools for the job

I would like to have booked my train to the start, but am unable to. While I have ‘agreement in principle’ from my work place that I can take my extended break, this has yet to manifest itself in an official ‘yes’ from HR. As soon as it does, then the train gets booked.

Beside adding weight to my pack as small items of gear are purchased, I am also working on the easiest way to take less on the trail, i.e. losing a little weight. So my diet has also been addressed. Three Points of the Compass is, ahem, a big lad, so I am making a point of addressing this before the miles on trail take yet more pounds off.

I’ve also being checking that my cook system is as I want it and renewing some older items in the First Aid Kit. Beyond that, a visit to the dentist and booking my car in for its annual service and MOT before I leave. There are still quite a few preparations to be made, I’ll keep you informed.

An Autumn morning on the Icknield Way Trail

Trail talk: An autumn wander on the Icknield Way Trail

Three Points of the Compass pauses for lunch on Day One on the Icknield Way Trail. Lady Chapel, Whipsnade Tree Cathedral

Three Points of the Compass pauses for lunch on Day One on the Icknield Way Trail. Lady Chapel, Whipsnade Tree Cathedral

As the time approaches for Three Points of the Compass to set off on the Long Walk, I thought it wise to fit in another week or so walking with, more or less, the gear that I am planning to set off with on April 1st 2018. Some contents of the pack have altered since last I hit the trail for any distance, not least, my tent. I’ll chat about a few of those items in a follow up post in a week or two.

Deer were seen on every day, usually Muntjac, or Barking Deer which were seen in the hundreds, occasionally Fallow Deer

Deer were seen on every day, usually Muntjac, or Barking Deer, which were seen in the hundreds, also, the occasional Fallow Deer

The damage caused to crops from raiding deer was only too apparent. It would make me weep as a farmer

The damage caused to crops from raiding deer was only too apparent. If I were a farmer, it would make me weep

I walked The Ridgeway in May 2016, and the Peddars Way in April this year. These form part of The Greater Ridgeway which stretches for some 363 miles from Lyme Regis in Dorset, to Hunstanton, on the North Norfolk Coast. The Icknield Way Trail formed another link. Being around a weeks walking, it was perfect for an autumn excursion.

Mind you, this did not go down particularly well with Mrs Three Points of the Compass as we had just returned from a fortnights holiday in Cyprus (more on that in another blog). While she had to return to work, I fortunately found myself still with a weeks annual leave to take. So a weeks walking it was.

Only published in 2003, and already not the easiest of books to find these days. The Greater Ridgeway by Ray Quinlan is to the usual high Cicerone standard. It is the ideal companion to anyone attempting the whole distance rather than just one of the constituent paths. There are dedicated Cicerone guides to both The Ridgeway and the Pedars Way and Norfolk Coast Path

Only published in 2003, and already not the easiest of books to find these days. The Greater Ridgeway by Ray Quinlan is to the usual high Cicerone standard. It is the ideal companion for anyone attempting the whole 363 mile distance rather than just one of the constituent paths. There are also dedicated Cicerone guides to both The Ridgeway and the Peddars Way and Norfolk Coast Path

There are differing lengths to be found for the Icknield Way Trail in publications and online, varying from 98.5 to 110 miles. For this walk, I set off from Tring Railway station, Hertfordshire, where my Ridgeway walk had ended, the morning after completing that trail at Ivinghoe Beacon in 2016. This autumn, I finished walking six days later at the lonely carpark on Knettishall Heath, Suffolk. My total, with a bit of wandering, just a little exploring and not getting lost (sorry, momentarily unlocated) too much, was 120 miles.

Start point Finish point Mileage
Day one Tring station Upper Sundon 19
Day two Upper Sundon Clothall 21
Day three Clothall Elmdon 19.5
Day four Elmdon Willingham Green 19
Day five Willingham Green Cavenham Heath 24
Day six Cavenham Heath Knettishall Heath 17.5
120
The old trail is reflected in many place and street names

The old trail is reflected in many place and street names

I deliberately carried out little planning, as I wanted to get a better idea on how days might pan out on my longer walk next year where planning will frequently be day-by-day. I allowed myself eight days for the Icknield Way Trail, not really caring how long the walk took. In the end, it was six, finishing a little before 13.00 on the final day. In truth, I probably pushed myself too much, I am still recovering from Plantar fasciitis after all. I did get the occasional twinge from that on my walk. I would certainly aim at much lower mileages next year.

A basic lunch on trail

A basic lunch on trail

I carried plenty of food, enough for six days. This was shop bought, mostly low bulk, low weight. I never took any sort of specialised, dehydrated ‘backpacking’ food. Again, to see how both myself and my pack handled the extra weight and bulk. Needless to say, some uneaten food returned home with me afterward, mostly due to my eating a couple of meals in pubs en route.

Wildcamp on Day Two on the Icknield Way Trail. Long wet grass and little breeze meant that this was the worst night for condensation in my Z Packs Duplex

Wildcamp on Day Two on the Icknield Way Trail. Long wet grass and little breeze meant that this was the worst night for condensation in my Z Packs Duplex

On Rivey Hill, Cambridgeshire, the Icknield Way skirts a substantial brick built, 12-sided, water tower. Constructed in 1935-6, this is now a Grade II listed structure. This Art Deco tower used to provide water for 5000 people in nearby Linton and neighbouring villages

On Rivey Hill, Cambridgeshire, the Icknield Way skirts a substantial brick built, 12-sided, water tower. This Art Deco tower used to provide water for 5000 people in nearby Linton and neighbouring villages. Constructed in 1935-6, this is now a Grade II listed structure.

Despite being a marked route on O.S. maps, this is a little followed route. I only met two others walking the trail, and the two ladies were doing it together, in sections, over many months. There are few places to officially stay, be it camp sites or B&B. Purposely, I wild camped on each of the five nights on trail. None of my sites were planned. I would walk each day, look ahead on the map between midday and 14.00 and from around 16.30 begin to look for a place to hide myself away. At this time of the year, day light hours are few, light was failing at 17.30 and was dark an hour later.  I was invariably up prior to dawn, packed and walking by seven. I stopped for a hot breakfast of porridge some two to four hours later.

I was disturbed on a couple of the nights. My halt on the first night coincided with a bunch of young lads from the nearest village turning up to let off fireworks for 45 minutes, what great fun… My second night had a pair of gleeful herberts hurtling up and down a nearby track (on the other side of the hedge in the image above) on a quad bike, lamping. Fortunately I remained undiscovered.

A halt for breakfast a couple of hours in to my days walking. I would try and stop where there was a view, a seat, or ideally, both

A halt for breakfast a couple of hours in to my days walking. I would try and stop where there was a view, a seat, or ideally, both

First days on the trail took occasional beautiful woodland. Easy walking with little gradient

First days on the trail took in occasional beautiful woodland. Easy walking with little gradient

Village Green at Balsham

Village Green at Balsham

The Icknield Way Trail may be a little confusing to some. Most authorities would describe it as a collection of parallel track ways connecting Avebury in Wiltshire, with the north Norfolk Coast, around the Hunstanton area. The way follows the geology- a band, or spine, of chalk stretching across the country. Where the going became tough for our ancestors, usually due to thicker vegetation emanating from the clay covering of the chalk, they switched to a lower level. Much of the route is Ancient with some having been ‘improved’ by the Romans. For my section, much of the old route has now been consumed by the A505. Where it remains extant, some of the older track way is indicated on O.S. maps by Gothic lettering.

Entering the King's Forest. The Icknield Way is shown on many Ordnance Survey maps. Usually showing the presumed prehistoric route in 'Gothic' lettering, and the modern route for walkers in sans serif Roman. However there is little to indicate what is the Icknield Way Trail and what is the Icknield Way Path. Therefore, referring to one of the written guides is a necessity, or at least advisable

My pink highlighted route shows where I entered the King’s Forest. The Icknield Way is shown on many Ordnance Survey maps. Usually showing the presumed prehistoric route in ‘Gothic’ lettering, and the modern route for walkers in sans serif Roman. However there is little to indicate what is the Icknield Way Trail and what is the Icknield Way Path. Therefore, referring to one of the written guides is a necessity, or at least advisable

Today, we have a choice of routes to follow. There is the walkers route- the Icknield Way Path, as described by the Icknield Way Association, there are also occasional variants from the walkers route for cyclists or horseriders (the Icknield Way Riders Route).

An alternative route passes through Toddington

An alternative route passes through Toddington

To further confuse the user, there is even the occasional choice of routes for the walker. There is an alternative route that takes the walker through the village of Toddington, I never followed that alternative. Also, there is a link whereby the walker can stride directly to Thetford with its transport links. Instead, I followed the path to Knettishall Heath so as to finish where I had commenced my Peddars Way walk.

 

The Icknield Way Trail is quite well signposted for most of its length. Sins seeming to only abandon the traveller when it matters most, or in towns

Finger Post on the Icknield Way Trail. The route is quite well signposted for most of its length. Signs seeming to only abandon the traveller when it matters most, or in towns. A map is advisable

In 1992, the Countryside Commission designated the Icknield Way as a Regional Route, connecting The Ridgeway with the Peddars Way, it is this route that is shown on O.S. maps and is mostly signposted. My trail ran through six counties and some lovely gentle country, including the Chilterns and Brecklands.

View from Sundon Hills Country Park, one of the highest points in Bedfordshire

Icknield Way Trail passing through Sundon Hills Country Park, one of the highest points in Bedfordshire

Half a mile of sticky, glutinous foot adhering walking ahead

Finger Post indicates that I have half a mile of walking through sticky, glutinous mud to contend with

The weather was mostly kind to me. Day temperatures varied from 6°C to 20°C (43°F – 115°F), but dropped much colder at night after a warmer first night. However there was often a stiff breeze which dropped the temperature considerably. If it was blowing, my  Montane windshirt over my Rohan polo shirt was always suffice to keep me warm.

I experienced little rain during the day and it rained briefly on just two nights. I found the trail underfoot almost always good with a few notable exceptions as a result of the farmers putting their fields to bed. It paid to keep an eye on the map where the occasional short detour meant that crossing a freshly ploughed field could be avoided, though that wasn’t always the case by any means.

The middle section of the walk saw my trail crossing a mainly agricultural landscape. Farm vehicles were much in evidence and the fields were often being worked on

The middle section of the walk saw my trail passing through a mainly agricultural landscape. Farm vehicles were much in evidence and the fields were often being worked on

This part of the UK is pretty low lying. Here on Warden Hills, three miles from Luton, I was 195 metres above sea level. Further East, there is nothing higher until you reach the Ural Mountains

This part of the UK is pretty low lying. Here on Warden Hills, a Site of Special Scientific Interest and Open Access Land, three miles from Luton, I was 195 metres above sea level. Further east, there is nothing higher until you reach the Ural Mountains

As mentioned previously, this closely shadows a route followed by man for thousands of years. While I encountered far fewer tumuli and ancient sites than those seen on The Ridgeway, nonetheless, there were a few sites of interest passed. Burial Mounds were most prolific- there are over a hundred surrounding Royston. Near Stechworth, the Icknield Way Path briefly followed the Devil’s Ditch, a striking Ancient feature, up to 6m wide with a rampart some 9m above it.

Remains of 12th century Motte and Bailey castle at Pirton

Remains of 12th century Motte and Bailey castle at Pirton. The trail passes right by it and a pause to wander its circumference should be obligatory

Village sign

Village sign

Wild camping the whole way, needless to say, ablutions were at the most basic. Keeping up a decent pace and working hard, it is fair to say that I stank to high heaven when I finished my walk six days later. This was mostly due to the fact that, perhaps surprisingly, water can be a struggle to find. I never took a filter with me as agricultural run-off is rife and there was no way I was drinking anything that came from the many small streams. Instead I relied on finding somewhere, or someone, and filling up with water from midday onward and each nights camp meant there was enough to drink and cook with, leaving just the merest of amounts allotted for a cursory clean up of body with a cloth. The many villages passed offered no taps for travellers and little chance to fill up. I never had to resort to simply knocking on someones door, though in one town I did pop in to a motor mechanics garage and ask them for water. They were, of course, more than happy to oblige.

Three Points of the Compass paused for lunch twice on the walk. The Jolly Postie in Royston provided excellent fish, chips and a couple of pints of beer. Handily, I could also top up my two litre Evernew bladder here

Three Points of the Compass paused for a pub lunch twice on the walk. The Jolly Postie in Royston provided excellent fish and chips and a couple of pints of beer. I could also top up my two litre Evernew bladder here, this was, of course, my true reason for popping in…

The Icknield Way Trail follows grassy, leafy, stony or muddy paths, lanes, roads, bridleways and byways, and was never hard going. I found this particular route of less interest than both The Ridgeway and Peddars Way. But still, it was an excellent trail for a decent leg stretch over a few days and provided opportunity to try out a few pieces of my kit.

I suffered one particular piece of kit failure that resulted in some back pain. Painkillers (Vitamin I) were taken on one day but I never had to resort to them again. I’ll cover that particular problem and subsequent fix in my follow up gear report later.

At Burrough Green the trail passes the 17th century schoolhouse. now given an appropriate new lease of life as a home for the village playgroup

At Burrough Green the trail passes the 17th century schoolhouse. Now given an appropriate new lease of life as a home for the village playgroup

Avenues of Pine welcomed me into the Brecklands

Avenues of Pine welcomed me into the Brecklands

I always derive pleasure from walking in the Brecklands and the trail passed into these on day five. Deciduous mostly gave way to Coniferous, the paths became sandier and the air perhaps just a little more fragrant as I began to pass numerous pig farms.

Sadly, my time here also coincided with a large number of off-road motorcyclists and quad-bikers on the By-ways. The great majority showed great courtesy to a pedestrian, the minority seemed to want to kill me.

Pig Farm in Suffolk

Pig Farm in Suffolk

Horse in the paddocks, cameras bristling on poles, helicopters taking nearby owners to and from their business, another world

Horses in the paddocks, nearby cameras bristling on poles, helicopters taking nearby owners to and from their business, another world

The economic disparity of the countryside was only too apparent on this walk. I passed horse paddocks where a few million quids worth of stud pranced. I was only a few miles from the famous horse racing town of Newmarket where James I was pivotal in starting the ‘sport of kings’.

Only a couple of miles distant, lonely hamlets vividly indicated a lack of employment and hardship. There was often a helicopter in the air on the final two days and I wondered how much of the overseas money filtered into the local economy.

Three Points of the Compass on his final day on the Icknield Way Trail. The track extends 6.5km into the King's Forest. This was afforested in 1935 to celebrate the Silver Jubilee of King George V. As I walked through in the early morning, I was accompanied by the constant sounds of rutting deer

Three Points of the Compass on his final day on the Icknield Way Trail. The track extends 6.5km into the King’s Forest. This woodland was afforested in 1935 to commemorate the Silver Jubilee of King George V. As I walked through it in the early morning, I was accompanied by the constant sound of rutting deer

Would I do the walk again? No. Would I recommend it to others? Again, no. Unless you are completing the entire Greater Ridgeway. In that case I think you would find sufficient of interest to make it worthwhile.

My final day on trail

Final day on trail for Three Points of the Compass