Walk, signal, manoeuvre.

A new etiquette for the trail.

Blog time : it’s late March 2020 and we have just had the announcement from the PM that essentially shuts the country down almost completely.  The silver lining of the PM’s bitter pill is that even the government have had to accept that exercise is crucial to health in these coming months and that a once a day walk, run or cycle is now accepted as a good thing.  For my part i see my daily walk as not just desirable but essential activity and it never did make much sense to try and restrict an activity that is so often done solo and completely out of contact with other people as is the case where i live.

This then is part of my ’12 Rules for Hikers’ series although it’s more of a temporary addendum that will go alongside other parts that are secondary to the main rules : first though i’m going to digress and talk about my test for a full motorcycle licence that i first took in about 1976 !.

If you’re wondering what on earth that’s got to do with anything then please just stay with it for a paragraph or two as it does start to make sense later on.

So….1976 and iv’e just failed my first attempt at taking my full motorbike licence test and i failed because of really just one thing and that was ‘failed to use mirrors’ or however it was worded.  Now, i can definitely say that i did use my mirrors but the way a bike test was performed is that the examiner can only watch the rider from certain vantage points and if he can’t see something being done then it didn’t happen.

The trick, when i talked to my mate ‘Dave’ about it was to take the mirrors off completely so that i had to look around and that’s much more obvious as the examiner can see the riders head move.  So i did that and i also practiced a couple of things ; riding along very slowly with my feet up for example…that was part of the test at that time. Anyway i passed my test with flying colours that time and only then put the mirrors back on the bike.

This morning, day one of the new ‘rules’, i went for my usual circuit which is about a 2 mile circuit mainly through the local woods.  On the ‘out’ part of my circular route i saw nobody at all but on the way back i passed 3 women individually out on the same trail ; 2 of them dog walkers and one lady just out for a walk as i was.  This morning as we came towards each other we each seemed to make the same move and made that move very clearly , that being to move positively to one side of the trail and let the other pass by with good distance.  This morning it’s as though we have learned to ‘signal’ our good behaviour by staying well apart.  It was easily done today because at the meeting point we were on a wide farm track but i then wondered how to manage a ‘pass’ on the much narrower section of the trail where it really is a single track so that got me thinking about a new etiquette for the trail.   Iv’e never been one for ‘virtue signalling’ but i’m very ok with making it easy for us to get along on the trail in what i now see as an essential daily activity.

I think what we need then is a new etiquette for the trail in which we can maintain politeness, can keep our distance when needed and critically maybe, do the right things that help us maintain this crucial freedom.   For me this is now a bit of a line in the sand because i will not give up this freedom willingly and nor will i be shamed for doing so ; as i said earlier, i now view this one daily period of exercise as being absolutely essential.  That’s not just fighting talk either….i really believe that maintaining our physical and mental health will help us get through this time intact.

Today, my little story/analogy is that by ‘signalling’ our intention, for example moving to one side of the trail just shows that we are respecting the other walker’s ‘space’, it doesn’t mean that we can’t stop and say hello at a safe distance.

In times past there always was a trail etiquette, that hikers coming up a steep trail had right of way over those descending for example.  Now i think we just need something simple like moving off to one side or even stepping off path by a few feet to let the other walker go past.  Generally i find that people who tend to go into the outdoors are the nice ones anyway and are already much more likely to take up common-sense practices.  Best practice at the moment seems to be to just walk from home if we can, avoid people if we can and if not then to maintain a distance of 6 feet or so.  Interestingly today the head of Devon and Cornwall police was ok with the idea of a short drive to an exercise location when it makes better sense to do so that say having to move past or through a crowd first.

I wrote this post with the hiking community very much in mind, if you like then leave a comment here or come over and take part in the discussion in the hiking group that i’m a member of and the Keto diet page that i run.

Hiking page : https://www.facebook.com/groups/hikingbritain/

Keto diet page : https://www.facebook.com/groups/524455598277075/

Main blog : https://dirtywetdog.co.uk/

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