Saturday, 23 March 2013

Mystery Walking

I'm a keen walker, I walk on my own, with one or several friends and with the Ramblers' Association (RA), particularly with Stone Ramblers. I haven't ventured out in the snow today but I'll tell you what I did last Saturday. I volunteered as a mystery walker for the RA. The idea is you are assigned an Ordnance Survey (OS) 1km x 1km grid square or can choose one. There are so many areas I like to walk in locally that I decided to let them choose. To retain a little bit of 'mystery' I'll not let on which square I got. Guess if you wish. Then you walk all the public footpaths in the square and note any problems, with grid references. This will allow the RA to create a map of where the best and worst places to walk are and identify what the most common problems are that walkers face. Any problems are fed back to the local RA group and can also be reported to the relevant council.

I have certainly found out walking that land owners vary greatly, some keep the footpaths pleasant and unobstructed while others seem to want to deter walkers. A particular problem, which I did not encounter on this occasion, is those who let their fierce dogs out. This seems to happen less when walking in a large group. I think mutual respect is the best course of action, respect for the public's rights and respect for owners property and the environment.

I walked 2.3km in the assigned grid square, but to make it more fun I did it as part of an 11.3km walk. That's 7 miles in old money. Speaking of old money, I found an interesting sign on a gate while I was out. 
Now I'm old enough to know that this is up to a £2 fine. It's a fair point, any gates we open we should also shut behind us, it's the same principle as leafleting houses.

I only counted problems in the assigned square, not on the whole walk. I reported 7 counts of litter actually on the path, though more litter was visible from the path, 2 counts of fallen trees across the path, 4 waymark issues, lack of a signpost from the road and what looked like it might be an exposed section of underground cable. I rated the walk 4 out of 5 for enjoyment, the litter being the main reason for not assigning a 5.

What was particularly unusual about the square I had been given is the OS map has the footpaths incorrectly marked. I think OS are great and normally highly accurate, but there is an issue here which I also reported to them. I had walked the particular path many times before and was always aware it didn't seem to match the map. This time I had a careful look for where the path was shown on the map and it was definitely different on the ground. Someone I met there told me the path had been diverted, following all the correct procedures, about 15 years ago.

I'd recommend volunteering as a mystery walker to anyone who likes getting out and about locally. It's both fun and useful. I've volunteered to do some more.

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