It wasn’t where I had intended to go

It wasn’t where I had intended to go.

My map reading skills are weak. I timed myself from the station to the crossroads – 12 minutes. That gave me an hour to get up the hill and down with enough time to get back to the station before dark. 

The hill I wanted to walk up was huge in front of me. I walked up a steep path, a sign saying ‘3/4’ to the top but the path seemed to stop in someones yard – a Range Rover, a newish Astra and me feeling embarrassed and conspicuous. I walked back down the path and examined the map again. On the opposite side of the valley, an orange contour line marked ‘275’, a trail of green dots marked a path. And that’s where I went.

A sign marked ‘Public Footpath’, a sign saying ‘DANGER MINESHAFTS’. I follow 4×4 tracks in the grass, that lead me out into the middle and suddenly worked out that I’m totally off track on a very steep hillside. I scan the map and read the tightly packed contour lines. If I go as high as I can, I should see the track.

A narrow path as wide as the length of my foot juts this way and that roughly along the top of the ridge. I follow it’s course. The grazing land gives way to brambles and bushes. Jays fly out of the trees below me. Voices travel up from the trail path 200 metres or so below. A discarded sunhat stuck to a branch. I pee against a tree trunk. The pencil thin track zigzags down further still into a denser patch of trees and my path darkens under the canopy and the fading light. I must be halfway down, surely? Then I spy the path which lead me here, just as the map had told me.

I make it back to the station before dark.

I did it.

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