Saturday, October 23, 2010

How to get lost on the West Pennine Moors

England, October 2010.

Step One
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.)

Step Two
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.

Step Three
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.

Step Four
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!


  1. So you had an adventure! I always knew that was what people in England did, they had adventures, like in the Famous Five and the Secret Seven. I'd always longed to have an adventure, especially one that had words in it like 'meadow' and 'footpath' but for some reason, I was denied the experience for the first twenty years of my life, so came to Israel instead. I'm not sure you can say you had a real adventure unless you lost your cans of potted meat, even though I'm still not sure what that is.

  2. Oh Yes!!! This is not an unfamilar situation in which to find yourself. Even the most intrepid adventurer has fallen victim to loss of bearings in this foreign environment!


  3. Did you at least remember to take your camera along to record your adventure for posterity? I should probably like to have seen the ruined boots. And how are the new ones from Clarks?
    Marion C.

  4. Did indeed take pictures... to be uploaded soon.

  5. It's definitely a lovely area to get lost in!

    This post reminds me of being lost in Lornano, a tiny village in Tuscany that my brother and I stumbled upon in our search for Sienna. It was the only unplanned part of our trip and turned out to be one of our favourite parts. We ended up eating at a great out-of-the-way restaurant and renting a room in a nearby village from a lovely Italian nonna who spoke no English to our no Italian, and yet managed to entertain us, feed us and get us back on track.