England, October 2010.
Go to Lancashire. Various other parts of England will do just as well, I daresay, but this one I can vouch for from experience.
Select a small, godforsaken town or village that most people have never heard of. You can choose one with an impossible name to pronounce (plenty of those in Wales, of course, unless you’re born-and-bred Welsh), or any other seemingly plain, innocuous place. Do not use a GPS /SatNav – that would be cheating. Or not. I was actually told by my hostess, Jenny, how previous visitors, as well as the Royal Mail, got discombobulated because their sophisticated navigation device got it wrong. Let’s say you’ve chosen the unquaint town of Chorley. (Any Monty Python fan may choose Notlob instead.)
Ignore town center. Drive out of town to its outermost limits, to places like Heath Charnock, where the lanes are narrow, the green pastures and water reservoirs plentiful, there are more horses on said lanes than bicycles, and the actual residential houses are at least a kilometer apart. Back Lane would be a good point of departure. To ascertain that you are still in Civilization, make sure that there’s a pub in the vicinity. Say one called the Yew Tree.
Pick a direction. Any direction. So long as it’s away from the Yew Tree and the cottages along Back Lane, away from town, and preferably not leading straight into a water reservoir, as that would be counter-productive.
Walk briskly to counteract the chill and work up a moderate sweat. Cross a bridge or two. Follow a more-or-less beaten track. Keep an eye out for small gates or stiles with the innocent looking sign Public Footpath. Climb over stile, find yourself on soggy grass and convince yourself that this is what a Public Footpath indeed must look like.
Do not let the sheep, cows, flies, sheep dung and other natural aspects of the scenery put you off. Just because you happen to be wending your way among them does not mean that you have any less of a right to be in the midst of that soggy meadow. The sign did say Public footpath, did it not? Okay, so the path is a bit hidden among the green thingies and brownish mounds… and the public seems to be mostly composed of the bovine and ovine type. So what. Carry on in a true sporting spirit through another gate, fence or stile, to a similar pasture, until there is nothing around you but Nature and its creatures.
There, you have arrived!
You are thoroughly lost on the West Pennine Moors!
Wasn’t that fun? Didn’t that imbue you with a true, countryside sense of accomplishment? No? It did not? You want to go home? To the safety of the Yew Tree? Well, I hope you remembered to bring along your cellphone! Call your host and try to describe exactly where you are. Though that may prove to be a bit difficult, what with one meadow looking pretty much like the next…
Ah, wait, there’s a tall white wind-turbine to your, er, north-west… or is it to your east? No matter – it’s the only wind turbine within miles. You’re in luck.
We got back safely to Rose Cottage on Back Lane.
The only casualties were my no-longer-black boots.
I don’t think I shall ever wear them again.
But look at the bright side – there’s a sale at Clarks!