Expanse and danger

While walking off trail has its advantages, the photographing of the trek tends to be the same. No track, all ground cover and thick foliage. Thinking about this, I thought it would be nice to go off the beaten path where there was some expanse to the landscape.
Spending some time on satellite views, I found an area not too far from me where large parts looked like fields. The weather forecast said rain in the afternoon, so I stuck my waterproofs into my pack and headed toward it. Finding a gate that would take me off road wasn't too hard and I entered a largish field full of hope.
Ah, thought I, just go through one field and the next, then a short stint in those woods and I should be in some more large empty areas.
While the field was not well trodden, this is. I wondered why?

The next field was quite closely cropped. It looked very well taken care of. Questions arose in my mind as to why this field was so immaculate with short grass and the previous ones were the opposite. Some more trees were seen across the way. Going through them was off trail. That being the typical dodging branches, stepping over tree trunks and fighting a few thorns. Why is this place so tidy?
Aaargh! It's another golf course. Like I really want to traverse one of these things again, dodging flying white missiles and spending a lot of time circling around? So I just walked straight across the fairways, gently, so as to not cause depressions in the fairway with my boots and mess things up. The course was in very good condition, much better than one I had to contend with before. It was not closed for the winter either. A number of times I had to wait until the guys had teed off or made their next stroke toward the green. This is not what I wanted—it's the wrong kind of expanse.
Leaving one of the fairways, I saw a small fence and pathway. The term, 'jumping out of the frying pan into the fire' has relevance here. From smooth, well kept fairways to a bridle path just made things worse. Mud and horse dung all mixed together, not much room to maneuver (this was quite a narrow path) and me getting covered in the mixture of what passed beneath my feet. Thoughts like, they'll kick me off the train for looking and smelling like this, kept popping into mind. Along the way I found a decent puddle and swished my boots in it for a few minutes, to remove the offending matter, then wiped the soles and heels on some grass to the side of it. Finally, crossing a road, a sign was seen banning horses and bikes, which is good, so without hesitation changed course.
For some distance the trail had a road next to it on the right. The wind increased, signaling the coming rain. Since the original idea had kind of collapsed, I decided to call it a day and head for the nearest village. Then a gateway was seen which led into a field with some kind of small, leafed, plant in. A sign pointed to the next town about half a mile on. A woman was entering the gateway at the same time and started walking with me—I found that really odd. However, I felt it right for her to accompany me for some reason. To just latch onto some guy you don't know and have never seen before is normally asking for trouble (the UK has a very serious rape problem, like India).

As we walked, chatting, I was still a bit perplexed by this, because I never walk with anyone. I always hike or travel alone (except once). Across the field we stopped and continued our conversation for about 10 or 15 minutes. She looked at her watch, realized she was now behind time, said she had to return the same way she had come in order to meet someone. She was recovering from a heart condition or something along those lines and normally continues through the wood, walking 3 miles a day to keep in shape. I entered into the trees alone.
The last stretch.

I hadn't walked very far and decided to take a final foto, as I do. I was still testing out a new camera (each hike in a different mode) to see if it was worth keeping. Normally I take 2-4 shots in the same place and choose the best one. Here I took 2, then put the camera back into my pocket as I walked—then froze.

Standing about 10 feet back in the trees was a man, big and mean looking. I had not noticed him when I took the foto (you can't see much detail in a viewfinder). That would explain why I actually let the lady walk with me and the delay. He glared at me in no uncertain terms. I just looked him in the eye, turned away and continued to the town—but on the alert in case he attacked.
The man in the trees.

I'm part of a special police panel, so turned the photo over to one of the constables I know. It turns out, after a few days of investigation, that there is a psychiatric hospital in the area which allows some patients out on a day pass. The man may or may not have been harmless: but it was the position he was in, slightly hidden and not noticeable. That would have really scared the lady or she could have been attacked.

The police agreed with me: standing there, in that position, is the same as a rapist would do.
Apr 10, 2019

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About Footfalls

When I'm not on the road, I reside in London. I normally get out and often hike unusual or obscure routes, sometimes going off trail.
Occasionally places I write up will not be identified. That way some idiot walking clubs and the stupid Ramblers Association won't mess it all up.

"I don't know, I don't care, and it doesn't make any difference."
- Jack Kerouac



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