Saturday, 12 October 2013

Freedom to roam

Go and get a map of the Lake District.  Go on, I'll wait. Right, now take a look at all of the HUGE areas of open access land and take the time to truly appreciate them.  There are so many that it's easy to take them for granted but don't.  Each time you forge your own route up a fell, or around a bog, appreciate the fact that you can because the reality is, in a lot of places you can't.

We recently completed a 5 mile walk elsewhere which wound along pretty streams and in-between picturesque lakes, but you could only admire them from afar as access was restricted along the entire route.  There were signs at every junction telling us what we couldn't do and to be honest, after a while it got pretty tiresome.

Don't do this, don't do that...

I'm not arguing for us to have the right to roam over every piece of available greenery, but along some routes you can get the distinct impression that you're simply not welcome.  The walk was nice enough, but there wasn't even anywhere we could legitimately sit to eat our sarnies so we're unlikely to be heading back anytime soon or recommending it as a place to visit.

But do we only have ourselves to blame?  Do these signs only exist because folks in the past have damaged property, left behind rubbish or failed to control their dogs?  In some ways it's rather sad that we have to be told the blindingly obvious because some people, who will most likely ignore the signs anyway, don't know how to behave.

It's a shame that people need to be told this...
I don't dislike signs per se; signs telling me where the footpath is across a field can be incredibly useful where the path is indistinct and positively worded signs in general are rather more helpful and likely to be obeyed than those telling us what we can't do.  For example "Footpath this way" with a helpful arrow is a far more pleasant sign than "Private Keep Out" when the only reason most people would wander onto the private land in the fist place is because the footpath wasn't clearly signed posted, and those intent on trespassing are unlikely to be deterred anyway.  If that makes sense.

Useful signs don't need to be fancy.
So, now you've got your map of the Lake District in front of you, you may as well start planning your next walk and, when you're out there, remember to appreciate the freedom on the fells.  Don't forget, if you get lost, you should keep an eye open for useful signs like this to help you find your way...

Some signs are definitely more useful than