Saturday, June 27, 2015

Road signs, footpaths and barley

click photo to enlarge
We were heading for the south of Northamptonshire to do a little walking and the signs were not good. In fact, the signs themselves were fine, but the trees had grown so that half of each one by the side of most major roads could not be read. Northamptonshire County Council or the Highways Agency or whoever is responsible for making sure road signs can be clearly seen hadn't been cutting the trees back and so, a couple of times, we went astray.

Had I thought more deeply about this I'd have realised that this was a taste of things to come, and in fact, the signs were definitely bad. The realisation that Northampton isn't "walking country" hit us after we'd ventured only a couple of hundred yards into some fields on a footpath. The council's waymarks were old, inaccurately placed to indicate the direction of the route, frequently missing, and invariably so faded that any information they once held was no longer legible. Those faults dogged us for several hours as we tried to follow paths marked on the Ordnance Survey map. The fact that many routes showed no sign of anyone having walked them before us didn't help. Occasionally we could see that a solitary walker had passed the way we were going, but such signs were rare.

I can't account for what we discovered in this part of the country. Yes, it is farmland, but it is varied, hilly, wooded, and visually and historically interesting: a more attractive area in which to walk than some that we know that are better waymarked and more frequented. Today's photograph shows my wife, map in hand walking up a hill one evening through ripening barley. This path was unusual in that other people had walked it, but all too common in that the farmer didn't appear to have cut the way of the path - walkers had trampled down the line of the route. Reflecting as we walked, I could only surmise that the absence of walkers is due to the fact that in many people's minds walking can only be undertaken in recognised "walking areas" - the Lake District, the Yorkshire Dales, Dartmoor, the Peak District etc when in fact it is a pleasurable, informative and photographically rewarding undertaking almost anywhere in Britain.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Olympus E-M10
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 14mm (28mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f5.6
Shutter Speed: 1/1000 sec
Exposure Compensation: -0.33 EV
Image Stabilisation: On