Go Exploring!

One of the things I love most about moving to a new area is the promise of miles and miles of new footpaths and bridleways to investigate. Top of my to do list on arrival is always to invest in an OS map. Many people out there, I believe, are missing out on the opportunity to discover so many fantastic trails, views and hidden beauty spots by sticking to following the same old routes they know or have found in their chosen guide book. Today I would like to help open your eyes to how easy it is to have your own micro adventure in the nearest available wild place – by going exploring.

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I should probably explain a little better what I mean by exploring. Of course how easy or hard you make this is entirely dependant on your own comfort zone and likely the limits of your fitness levels and time restraints. For me there are two options. Generally, I will set myself a target route plan, always travelling in a circle, I can’t bare backtracking and usually trying to incorporate a mixture of terrains. For example open moorland and river tracks, or coastal paths and forest depending where I am. ( Dartmoor or Exmoor)

This was a real gem of a find and its not even on the map!

This was a real gem of a find and the path is not even on the map!

Recently I’ve been trying to teach myself not to get so fixated on having an exact plan as this can often lead me to getting stupidly worked up if it goes wrong. I keep half killing myself to complete routes when they turn out to be way further than I had guestimated. So I have been trying out just picking a start point and one or two points that I would like to include (such as a tor and a reservoir)  then just heading off in that general direction picking the route as I see what’s ahead of me. Then when I think I’ve gone far enough start heading right, then right again and so on with the aid of the map until I get back somewhere I know hopefully near where I started. This has been a really fun and enjoyable way to do things and is a great method for getting some variety into your training if you’re a runner. It works particularly well somewhere like Dartmoor where it’s so open you can see for miles and are less restricted to designated footpaths.

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Heading for Meldon reservoir

Now you know what ‘Go Exploring’ means to me here is a little list for your benefit….

5 GOOD REASONS TO GO EXPLORE

  1. For the sense of freedom you will feel at not being tied to a set route constantly consulting a map or guide book. It also eliminates all chance of it becoming a silly Strava race!
  2. For the excitement when you discover a great new trail when there was no prior hype or expectation. Equally nature will always do its thing and provide plenty of pleasant surprises with hidden beauty spots. 20160811_113503[1]
  3. For the challenge of it. When you head off the beaten track there will nearly always be a time when you are faced with some form of obstacle in your path. Be it a bog, river, boulder field or simply finding yourself rather lost. For me this is what gives a day the feeling of adventure. Overcoming these and getting back to the car is a huge part of what I consider to be FUN!
    Best way to liven up a grassy descent - head through the surprise boulder field!

    Challenge 1 – Find the line through this boulder field

    Challenge 2 - How to get the bike through the river?

    Challenge 2 – How to get the bike through the river?

  4. For what it teaches us. I was going to say here ‘to learn to trust your instinct’ but perhaps that is not wise for us all. There is much this kind of experience will teach you from practical skills like map reading, to understanding your own abilities and limitations, to a healthy respect for mother nature.
  5. For the chance to do whatever you feel like. How often do you get the chance to just follow your nose? When a trail looks good take it. When you’re feeling energetic, climb. When you’re tired, head down. When you’ve had enough, head home. It’s a novel thing I find to just make it up as you go along depending on how you feel as you go along.

A lot of my selling point for this great idea of mine is based on the freedom and fun of wandering off into the wilderness with no real plan. There are of course risks involved in such an idea so here are a few safety points to remember.

Does it show that I use my maps a lot???

Does it show that I use my maps a lot??? Dartmoor doesn’t even have a cover anymore!

  • Obviously, Always take a map!
  • Always pack more than enough food and water for how long you plan to be out.
  • Always take a waterproof and spare layers, I’m sure no-one needs reminding how unpredictable the English weather is! Out on places like the moors when you’ve been damp from sweat and your tired it gets cold scarey quick. This is the voice of experience here, I have made this mistake many times!
  • Always carry a mobile, you might not have signal but emergency calls always work.
  • Always tell somebody roughly where you are going and when you plan to be back, even if there is a group of you.
  • Finally if you do get stuck or lost I entirely disown all responsibility 🙂

Though I feel it is necessary to point out not all days of exploring will go to plan there have been very, very few I have come home from saying “Oh God that was rubbish never again.” If I have it is usually mostly down to the delightful English climate at times. Generally, though I may get lost, wet feet, cut legs and very muddy the beautiful places I see and the chance to escape into nature off the beaten track having my own micro adventure makes it well worthwhile. Happy Exploring!