As a geographer, I have always had a fascination for maps, and I sometimes like to think that I can sit and read them like a story, letting my imagination run wild as I traverse plains, climb hills, and follow rivers from source to mouth. My first ‘real’ job was based opposite Stanfords map shop on Long Acre in central London, and, whenever I return there to plan my next adventure, I recall many youthful lunchtimes spent perusing their maps and books.
Of course technology has added another dimension to this routine. I can now plan walking route options to the nearest yard (or metre!), comparing alternatives by length, by amount of ascent, and by duration, and assessing the terrain from aerial photos (although I sometimes avoid the likes of google earth, so as not to lose the element of novelty in my walks – a bit like I sometimes avoid the football scores before MoTD). And all this in the knowledge that my phone will keep me on track, and that it will ‘ping’ if I take a wrong turn – as long, that is, as the device is charged and that I have a signal!
Accordingly, my LETJOG walking days have all been planned on the OS App in minutest detail, and, as I set off, phone in hand, my navigation will be tightly framed by the technology. At least that’s the theory: happily, I confess to the relief of being old enough to know that I will also be armed with an actual compass, and, in the more remote areas, with a physical map.
My LETJOG route cuts through some wondrous parts of the UK countryside, many familiar to me and others less so. I favour, where possible, off-road trails, and these include several of the foremost UK long-distance paths, all linked together by sections that I have already contemplated along river valleys, canal towpaths and country lanes. Occasionally short stretches on busier roads are necessary, mostly to reach accommodation and to access the breweries and distilleries I am visiting. These practical requirements drive my itinerary towards lower ground in some places, and into many towns and some city outskirts, all adding (in my opinion) to the interest and diversity of my scheduled walk.
All told, in addition to my day-dreaming, I would estimate that I have indulged around 30 to 40 minutes of detailed planning into each walking day, so along the entire LETJOG route not far short of a working week equivalent. This has been an enjoyable task, and will no doubt be supplemented daily during my journey as I review the details for the upcoming day’s walk. The trail beckons . . .