Author Topic: The Less Joyous Aspects of Walking  (Read 915 times)

WhitstableDave

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The Less Joyous Aspects of Walking
« on: 16:18:59, 05/09/19 »
I’ve been blogging for a few years about my walks under the title: The Joys of Walking, because for me, walking really is a joy. But even though I absolutely love it, walking occasionally has its irritations and annoyances – those little things that I like to get off my chest. I also like to hear about the things that bother other walkers…

It seems the 'done thing' in these circumstances is to come up with a list of 10 items, so that's what I've done. And here they are - in no particular order, except that Number 1 on the list is far and away my biggest irritation - more irritating in fact than all of the others put together. It's...

1. Dogs.
 
Okay, it's not so much dogs as dog owners. To blame dogs for the things that annoy me would be like blaming bicycles when cyclists ignore red lights at traffic lights. And, of course, if you happen to be a dog owner then please understand that I'm not talking about you - because your dogs are delightful and always under perfect control. No... it's other people’s dogs that I'm talking about.
 

 
I spot dog walkers in the distance. Probably 99% of the time I'll pass them and we'll exchange a greeting and a smile and the dogs will ignore me and all is right with the world. I've even known dogs to sit at a command and stay sitting until I've passed. But for the remaining 1% of the time, something less satisfactory will happen. The dog(s) might growl or bark or even jump at me; real scary aggression is very rare, but I've experienced it and I’ve felt teeth twice. On my walk this morning I had two separate instances of dogs snarling at me as I passed. The first owners scolded their dog - without a word of apology to me, which is absolutely normal in these situations - while the second owner apologised ("Sorry, he doesn't normally do that."), which is very rare. Okay, I had told the dog to "P... off!" so perhaps that helped to demonstrate I wasn't happy.
 
Woodland is where 'dog issues' are most likely because most people I come across in the woods have dogs - and often in great numbers. The worst occurrences are when I meet the dog(s) well before I see the owner(s). People have a tendency to let their dogs run loose in the woods so that their little darlings can enjoy themselves menacing the wildlife - and walkers like me. Probably the scariest encounter I've had of this kind was when three very nasty-looking bull terrier-type dogs came running towards me from a side-track and clearly gave some thought as to whether I was worth mauling before running back the way they came. I never saw or heard the 'responsible' adult.
 
Recently, I was walking solo along the Weald Way in Kent when I saw a dog about 100 yards away. It looked big and was standing motionless on the path as I approached. Hedges either side meant that I had no choice but to continue towards it. I passed it without incident, but for me it was a tense 100 yards. Just after I’d passed the dog I heard a voice first calling for it then praising it – presumably for leaving me alone!
 

 
 
Bags of dog poo.
 
This could be irritation Number 2, but I've got nine more and so, being doggy-related, can come under Number 1... Bags of dog poo! Go anywhere where dogs are walked and you'll see things like this adorning our flora...
 

 
Plastic bags filled with dog poo have become a blight on our otherwise beautiful countryside. They're everywhere. I've never yet seen a dog owner throw a bag of poo into the undergrowth or (even worse) hang one from a convenient branch, but they must do. I've seen countless people picking up the poo (yuck!) and carrying it with them (also yuck!) so I can only assume that some of them at least wait until there's no one around before surreptitiously chucking the poo-bag - or placing it in the most offensive place they can find - such as on a gate post.
 
A rhetorical question perhaps, but surely (in the woods at least) what's wrong with using a stick to flick the poo into the undergrowth? Then it can share the same fate as fox poo and the poo of other woodland animals. It will disappear in a few days, unlike the poo in my photo which hung in the bag on the tree for months!
 
 
2. Fly-tipping and other rubbish.
 
The example of fly-tipping in this photo is nowhere near the worst I've seen, but I chose to use it because it's on my beloved North Downs Way. This bit of the NDW is a byway and it crosses a country lane just around the bend. So someone must have backed their truck or car into the byway, thrown their rubbish out, and driven away again.
 
Why? I don't get it. The rubbish could easily have fitted into a wheelie bin, but no, they chose to desecrate the countryside instead.
 

 
I think that some people see the world totally differently to how the rest of us see it. I love the countryside, I love nature, and just being out there and a part of it is always an uplifting experience. But I have to assume that people who dump rubbish don't see the beauty in our world. What a sad existence they must have.
 
And of course it's not just fly-tipping that spoils the countryside. Walk along any country lane that's not too far from human habitation and you'll see drinks bottles and cans, fast food packaging and other rubbish that's obviously been thrown out of car windows. Probably the worst I've seen recently were three dirty disposable nappies presumably just dropped out of a car window.
 
3. Shotguns
 
Many walks in the countryside are disturbed by people with shotguns. It's rare to actually see the big, brave hunters pitting their wits against rabbits and other small wildlife but perhaps that's because they often wear camouflage. What I'm surer about, is that they do seem to enjoy killing things.
 
A few months ago, my wife and I were about to take a path through a wood. We could hear a lot of shooting ahead so we were a bit apprehensive, but I figured we'd be okay on a public footpath that was clearly marked on my map. Just as we were entering the wood, a man came out of a nearby house and warned us not to go any further. He told us that there were people in the woods shooting illegally and that he'd told the police but that nothing had been done about the problem. Not surprisingly, we decided to go around the outside of the wood - adding a good few miles to our walk. We were, however, very grateful for the warning.
 
Not long after that incident, we were walking through another wood and the sound of many shotguns was getting louder. We kept going, and the noise got louder still. Eventually, we came out of the wood and realised there was a clay pigeon shooting range in a field by the wood. We were never in any danger, but it was a nerve-racking experience all the same.
 
I do not like it that we have people firing guns in the countryside!
 
 
4. Cyclists
 
I'm not sure if I should include cyclists here since, on the whole, those I've encountered on walks have been considerate and usually quite friendly. It might well be that I've added cyclists to the list because many that I encounter on other occasions have irritated me, so there's a kind of subconscious prejudice at work!
 
I ought to make it clear that I'm a hypocrite - perhaps the world's greatest, or so I've been told. I cycled for many years, both to work whatever the weather, and for pleasure. In all that time I considered myself a cyclist rather than a motorcyclist, driver or walker.
 
But now that I've pretty much hung up my cycle clips I complain about cyclists as much (if not more) than most. It annoys me intensely to see cyclists riding on pavements, ignoring red traffic lights, using the road when there's a perfectly good cycle path alongside, holding up traffic by riding two or more abreast, peddling along while using a phone, and so on.
 
I think my main criticism of some cyclists is their self-righteousness and lack of consideration for other road (and path) users. Note that I generalise outrageously as well as being a hypocrite! A lesser criticism is that I think day-glow Lycra and polystyrene hats look silly - I'm also a fashion snob!! Of course there are different categories of cyclist and my complaints tend to be about the would-be road racers rather than the more intrepid off-road variety. (Road racers appear to exude a sense of being seriously sporty when in truth they spend almost half their time coasting downhill!)
 
I was walking along a section of the Pilgrim's Way in Kent recently. It was a single-track road with occasional passing places. I watched about half-a-dozen cyclists on road bikes heading towards me. A car was stuck behind them, and with the convoy travelling at no more than 20mph it looked very much as if the driver wanted to overtake the cyclists. As the cyclists approached a passing place, I was expecting them to pull in to allow the car to pass. But no, the selfish cyclists continued on their way without even slowing - cycling in the middle of the road with the car crawling along behind them. In my experience, this kind of behaviour is not unusual. When I'm cycling, I dislike cars - but when I'm driving I really dislike cyclists!
 
But what about cyclists I meet off-road? Most are very pleasant and we frequently exchange brief pleasantries ("...morning" - "...hi."). Of course cyclists are not allowed to use public footpaths (as opposed to bridleways and byways) so I like to tut-tut and shake my head self-righteously when I meet them on these (despite having done a lot of footpath cycling myself in the past). However, I can't be as much of a hypocrite as I like to think because I find it difficult to get genuinely annoyed at people doing what I used to do. (I remember a farmer once shouting at me to get off my bike as I rode across his field!)
 
I do get a bit irritated by cyclists who come up quietly behind me and 'ding' their silly little bells though. I hate the ding! Sometimes I'm miles away and the ding makes me jump - and what's it supposed to mean anyway? "I'm behind you"? Okay, so you are, and so what? I'm in front of you - just like those cyclists who make me crawl along in second gear when I'm stuck behind them in my car. No, if you'd like to overtake me then how about calling out as you approach... "Excuse me please!"? That would make more sense and be more polite. I read somewhere that cycle bells should be compulsory - personally I'd ban them!


5. No footpath by busy roads.
 
This one is a real pain! I use OS maps to plan my walks and I try to stick to public footpaths, byways, bridleways and cycle routes, but sometimes I need to use roads as well. Obviously I try to find what appear on the map to be quiet country lanes and when I can't be sure how busy the roads will be I usually use Google Street View to get an idea. But that's not foolproof; Google might have taken the photos on a Sunday morning and the reality when I get there is very different.
 
The road in the photo below looked okay on Google and it was only when I got there that I discovered how dangerous it was to walk along it. The banks were very high and there were no footpaths to offer an alternative route. So I walked a few miles hoping the whole time that I wouldn't be run over. Actually, it was worse than it looks because there were a lot of lorries using the road too. Why oh why can't responsible bodies (councils? highways agencies?) put paths alongside all busy roads? I wouldn't even mind sharing the paths with bikes, since I'm sure roads like these are as dangerous for cyclists as they are for pedestrians.
 

 
6. Ploughed up footpaths.
 
This is a very common problem for walkers. The map shows a public footpath crossing the field, but when I get to the field I can see no sign of a path. The field in my photo has recently been ploughed, but just as common are fields with young crops - and no sign of a footpath.
 
The answer is simple. The farmer has a duty to restore the path they've made disappear, and the walker has the right to walk where the path ought to be. So I use my GPS to make sure that I cross the field following the 'path' as closely as possible. But having said that, if a crop is growing and I can find an alternative route which isn't too inconvenient, then I'll go another way. Fortunately, many farmers are very considerate and restore paths and/or make the route clear. And surely that makes perfect sense because leaving walkers to pick their own paths must damage crops far more than giving them a clearly defined - and much narrower - path to follow.
 

 
7. Misleading signs.
 
I get really annoyed by these! There are landowners who don't want walkers crossing their land - even though a walker has as much right to use a public footpath as a motorist has to use a public road. Signs and notices like the one in my photo are not uncommon - although this one is more blatant than most. There was absolutely no reason for the warning and 'Keep Out' sign so I reported it to the The Ramblers, who have an excellent online facility for dealing with these issues, and soon afterwards the sign was removed. Success!
 

 
8. Blocked paths.
 
I have to say that most footpaths are well signposted and kept clear - (in my case) well done the Kent County Council. But there are still occasions when I meet an impenetrable obstruction - such as these huge nettles blocking the way. Here, I hacked away at the nettles with my walking pole for about 20 minutes before giving up and finding an alternative route to continue the walk. I do accept though that some paths are rarely walked and therefore become overgrown, and it can actually be quite fun to play the jungle explorer for a while!
 

 
 
9. Animals in fields.
 
I've got absolutely nothing against sheep. I've walked across countless fields with sheep in them and they've never given me any trouble yet. Having said that though, I did once enter a small field containing a largish flock and instead of them getting out of my way, they stood their ground and baa-ed at me in a surprisingly aggressive manner. It was a bit surreal!
 
I don't mind horses too much, just as long as they ignore me - and most do - but they tend to be very big and can be a little too friendly for my liking, so I try to give them a wide berth.
 
I suppose it's cattle that I'm more wary of. Most are no problem at all - they usually ignore me, if they even notice me at all - and I try to go around them or (if that's not possible) pick the most promising path between them and hope for the best. Only once have I had a worrying experience - when a large herd of black cattle kept charging around and making it difficult to get to the other side of the field safely. Okay, perhaps twice… a cow thundered past just seconds after I’d escaped over the stile. Phew!
 
And of course there have been a few occasions when discretion was the better part of valour and I/we decided against entering the field at all - as in the photo below. Sometimes there's a warning about a bull in the field and there's no sign of a bull at all (or anything else for that matter). Here though, the bull was just a few yards away and looked at us as though daring us to enter his domain.
 

 
Most of the time though, animals are a very good thing. And they're an even better thing when there's a fence between them and us!
 
 
I said at the beginning of this topic that I had ten irritations to talk about. Actually, I really only had nine, but ten is a nice round number so I’ve come up with a somewhat trivial irritation.
 
Anyway, here it is: 10. Unnecessarily pessimistic weather forecasts.
 
Despite having done a great many walks over the years, I still tend to wear clothing that's too warm and/or wear too many layers. It's a difficult thing to get right! I usually think I've got it right but after a mile or two I start opening vents, and removing gloves, hat, and jacket.
 
The problem is this: I try to be realistically pessimistic about the weather. If there's any chance of rain then I'll be prepared - it's better to be safe than sorry!
 
But I've come to the conclusion that the weather forecast (that is, the BBC forecast) tends to be pessimistic as well. When the forecast is for persistent heavy rain, there might be some light rain for a while; and when the forecast is for light rain, the sun usually shines between fluffy white clouds!
 
I think a lot about this while I'm walking, and I've decided that weather forecasts are deliberately pessimistic. I think forecasters err on the side of caution because if they forecast rain they know people won’t mind if it doesn't rain, but if they forecast dry weather and it rains then people will be unhappy. So weather forecasts compound my problem by also taking the view that it's better to be safe than sorry – if you see what I mean!
 
....................

I think I was prompted to write all this as a reaction to the content of the walking magazines I read, where everything is rosy – never thorny. But anyway, that’s my list. Have I left anything out?

pauldawes

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Re: The Less Joyous Aspects of Walking
« Reply #1 on: 17:38:30, 05/09/19 »
That’s a pretty comprehensive list.


I think the two others I mention below are really subdivisions of ones you’ve included already...


To “misleading signs” I’d add signs that disappear with amazing rapidity. You know those farms where one day there’s a good clear direction sign showing way over the field...but these are quickly removed, damaged, or pointed in wrong direction within days of being put up...


To “blocked paths” I’d add stile hazards such as strategically placed heaps of manure, barbed wire, special stile designs that render getting over it a feat of athleticism, etc, etc

Owen

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Re: The Less Joyous Aspects of Walking
« Reply #2 on: 18:43:16, 05/09/19 »
How about people who write moaning threads on the internet, telling us how jolly they are before writing huge long list of petty everyday things that they don't seem capible of living with.

BuzyG

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Re: The Less Joyous Aspects of Walking
« Reply #3 on: 19:19:16, 05/09/19 »
How about people who write moaning threads on the internet, telling us how jolly they are before writing huge long list of petty everyday things that they don't seem capible of living with.
;D O0

Percy

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Re: The Less Joyous Aspects of Walking
« Reply #4 on: 19:30:35, 05/09/19 »
Animals in fields? :o


File alongside “trees in woods”. An absolute menace.

Owen

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Re: The Less Joyous Aspects of Walking
« Reply #5 on: 21:15:04, 05/09/19 »
Animals in fields? :o


File alongside “trees in woods”. An absolute menace.


 ;D ;D ;D O0

scottk

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Re: The Less Joyous Aspects of Walking
« Reply #6 on: 21:28:53, 05/09/19 »
Couple of points, if a dog has come back to its owners, it should be praised. If it was punished it would think it was being punished for returning. No excuse for badly trained dogs and plastic bags of poo is a real pet hate of mine.
Guns in the countryside! Sorry but that is surely better than guns in towns and cities.
Your whole attitude is a bit naive of country living. Pretty typical of an urbanite.
Just get out and enjoy it.

ninthace

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Re: The Less Joyous Aspects of Walking
« Reply #7 on: 21:38:39, 05/09/19 »
I have not really had a problem with people with guns either, at least not while out walking.  Grouse shooters tend to be managed by the keepers and "range safety" is important.  If you present yourself to the end of the line, they will usually accommodate your passage.  Pheasant shoots can be a bit more interesting as they can occur in or near woodland but bear in mind the guns need a line of sight and they are shooting upward.  You can either steer clear or make your presence known to the people managing the shoot. 
The moral aspects of shooting are an irrelevance to the safety of walkers.  While I have no sympathy with people who kill for fun, I also accept that the countryside in many areas is managed for shooting and that is why we have so many patches of woodland.
Solvitur Ambulando

Skip

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Re: The Less Joyous Aspects of Walking
« Reply #8 on: 07:08:58, 06/09/19 »
Written like a true townie (moreover a townie who doesn't like dogs).
Skip

sunnydale

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Re: The Less Joyous Aspects of Walking
« Reply #9 on: 07:11:19, 06/09/19 »
Personally, I think that dog Pooh bags hanging all over the countryside is an absolute disgrace....& any dog owner who is simply too lazy & acts in such a selfish way should be thoroughly ashamed of their care-less attitude.


The countryside has long since become a giant dog pooh bin & unfortunately, with the huge numbers of dogs there are, I can’t see it changing any time soon :(
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pauldawes

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Re: The Less Joyous Aspects of Walking
« Reply #10 on: 08:33:57, 06/09/19 »
Personally, I think that dog Pooh bags hanging all over the countryside is an absolute disgrace....& any dog owner who is simply too lazy & acts in such a selfish way should be thoroughly ashamed of their care-less attitude.


The countryside has long since become a giant dog pooh bin & unfortunately, with the huge numbers of dogs there are, I can’t see it changing any time soon :(


I agree.


And I have to admit I'm baffled at several of the comments on this thread..which patently the OP started as a bit of fun.


Is it just "townies" that dislike poo bags "carefully" used to "decorate" trees, fly tipping, inadequate signage, badly behaved dogs (shock, horror..they exist...and I like dogs!) etc, etc???

WhitstableDave

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Re: The Less Joyous Aspects of Walking
« Reply #11 on: 08:53:27, 06/09/19 »

I agree.


And I have to admit I'm baffled at several of the comments on this thread..which patently the OP started as a bit of fun.


Is it just "townies" that dislike poo bags "carefully" used to "decorate" trees, fly tipping, inadequate signage, badly behaved dogs (shock, horror..they exist...and I like dogs!) etc, etc???

Thanks Paul.  O0

Yes, I did post this tongue-in-cheek but also to highlight some of my own dislikes. I'm just heading out for a walk so I'll say a bit more later...  8)

richardh1905

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Re: The Less Joyous Aspects of Walking
« Reply #12 on: 09:04:52, 06/09/19 »
Quite a detailed list there, Dave!

There can be few things more scary than being surrounded by a pack of snarling out of control dogs; happened to my wife and I whilst walking in the Gwydir Forest once - the owner was completely ineffective in controlling them, and not even very apologetic.

And, as a dog owner, I'm with you on"'Stick it and Flick it", as "Bag it and Bin it" clearly doesn't work if there are no bins! I know that people should carry the poo bags back with them, but most people clearly can't be bothered, and no amount of lecturing is going to change that. Having said that, I will certainly 'bag' my dog's poo if I think that there is an even remote chance that someone could stand in it, and will carry the bag miles if necessary to a bin - I would NEVER discard a poo bag. But if there is a stick handy, and some thick undergrowth.....

As for cyclists - the vast majority that I meet whilst out walking are courteous and friendly. Several groups passed me on the Lairig Ghru earlier this year, and they ALL thanked me for standing aside to let them pass. I have no problem at all with them.
« Last Edit: 19:22:29, 06/09/19 by richardh1905 »

pleb

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Re: The Less Joyous Aspects of Walking
« Reply #13 on: 10:35:34, 06/09/19 »
Excellent rant! O0
We're all doomed! DOOOMED I SAY!

jimbob

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Re: The Less Joyous Aspects of Walking
« Reply #14 on: 11:03:14, 06/09/19 »
Dogs are for life not just for using their bagged poop as Christmas decorations out of season.

Cycles like dogs are only as good as their owners. Not having the best of hearing I do wish more cyclists would make better use of either bells or vocal chords.




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