Hiking, a WALES of a tale
There is no trail system with trail markers, like we have in NJ. In the UK there are 120,000 miles of Footpaths and Rights of Way. They are marked by little wooden or yellow arrows and, in England and Wales, public rights of way are paths on which the public have a legally protected right to pass and re-pass. Footpaths are hundreds of years old and they were used by farmers to walk from their farm to church or town. Even today the landowners are required to maintain the public footpaths and there is a hoopla if they don’t.
The footpaths are marked on the maps and the trail descriptions read like this: “take footpath through gate and proceed to the third field, use the stile to the next field and walk between the farmhouse and the barn.” A stile is a step-like contraption used to climb over fences. This way, hikers can’t forget to close the gate…and the sheep won’t escape! By the way, we get our word ‘turnstile” from “stile”.
Since we were traversing through fields and public lands, there were sheep everywhere. They were quite sheepish and ran away, but I had to watch out for the bulls that hung out in some of the fields and give them wide berth.
I am used to hiking the rocky trails around home, that often suffer from erosion. In England and Wales, I was amazed at how SOFT the trails were. There were hardly any rocks, but were covered with heath and heather and it was like walking on a long distance carpet.
And, the best thing was ending the hikes in a pub.