Footpath navigation example.

Navigating footpaths in the countryside is not always straightforward so let's take an example of a path through a mainly agricultural area.


On the map above look for the words 'Tolleshunt Knights' near the centre of the map. Visible just above that are the words 'Paternoster Heath'. Next to the last 'r' of 'Paternoster' you will see the start of two footpaths, marked as red broken lines, one going approximately North West and the other going a little East of North. It is the second path that we will take as an example.

Photograph of a footpath 1

The first section of the path is fairly obvious as a track worn by other walkers through the grass at the edge of the field, seen on the right of the picture, and navigation is simply a matter of following the worn track.

Photograph of a footpath 2

When we arrive at the boundary of the first field the second section of the path is not so obvious as the next field has recently been ploughed. So what do we do now?

Have another look at the map above and you will see that the footpath is shown as passing through a small area of woodland called 'Long Wood'. This is visible as a band of trees on the horizon in the picture. The footpath displayed on the map shows the path as being fairly straight so we follow the same directional line as the previous section and head towards the wood in a direct line across the ploughed field.

Photograph of a footpath 3

Although it is not easily visible in the previous photograph we can see, with the naked eye, that there appears to be another field boundary on the other side of this ploughed section delineated by a row of trees. Just to the right of an obvious pair of trees near the centre of the previous picture (the two trees on the left of this picture) there is an isolated post which is roughly on our proposed navigation line so we head for that.

Photograph of a footpath 4

Having arrived at the next field boundary by the previously mentioned post we are now confronted by a field of crops. On the previous page it

"The landowner has a duty to prevent crops, excluding grass, from making the path difficult to find or follow and you have every right to walk stated that:

through crops growing on or over a path as long as you follow the correct line as closely as you can."

In a situation like this you have every right to walk through the crops doing, of course, as little damage as possible. This would mean, for a number of people, walking in single file whilst keeping as far as possible, to the track of the path.

Photograph of a footpath 5

How do we determine the correct track? In this particular case we are lucky in that someone has walked this path before and we just follow the trail through the crops.

However, had there been no visible trail, we would need to determine the approximate direction in which to travel. Looking across the field, in the centre of the picture, we can just see the tops of some posts. There are no other posts visible along the edge of the wood so we could assume that, as this is in the same general direction to that which we have been travelling, it is a gateway of some sort providing access to the wood and we would, therefore, head in that general direction.

A simple stile

When we finally reach the far side of the field we can see a low wire fence with a stile. Stiles, which come in all shapes and sizes, are a very good indication that we are, indeed, on a public footpath. Fences and walls in the countryside are there, generally, to keep animals in and not to keep people out. However as there is a right of way through the boundary the stile must be provided to make it easy for walkers to get over the fence or wall.

The path continues through the wood.

In these circumstances the Ordnance Survey 1:50,000 (section shown above) or 1:25,000 scale maps are invaluable. The 1:25,000 scale maps show all field boundaries whereas the 1:50,000 do not. A pair of binoculars are also useful for spotting landmarks in the distance. Many footpaths, however, are very well marked with little likelihood of getting lost.