As many of you know, for so many great reasons I choose to spend some of my free time helping run a Scout Troop. Right now I’m organising the Scouts’ annual night hike competition – so it’s essential that I walk all three routes prior to the event, ensuring they are still walkable for kids.

Last night with a belly full of Herdwick Hotpot and enough outdoor gear to stock a new Blacks, I headed off to the hills well after darkness had fallen. Despite torrential rain, wintery blasts of sleet and a stiff wind, my walking partner for the night Dan and I are experienced enough not to worry. Both of us went through Scouts, both of us list hill walking way up our list of things we enjoy, and both of us are pretty capable with a map, compass and being able to walk off the bearings we’ve set.

The fun ended when, traversing a 10 foot drainage ditch ankle deep in mud, we hit upon an lake with our only means of getting around being through a swamp.

The fun ended when, traversing a 10 foot drainage ditch ankle deep in mud, we hit upon an lake with our only means of getting around being through a swamp. The water was nearing our boot limit, our feet began to sink and it quickly became clear we would need to rely on our experience to get us out of this one having gone well over a mile or so beyond a worn pathway.

Navigating from an outdated map we set a new bearing only to find ourselves in a freshly ploughed deep clay field with no path in sight. We now had two choices: Stick to a bearing our map said was correct, or head towards a distant road, which from training we knew meant a likely escape route. We did the latter with boots weighing over 5kg with clay. Our legs now aching under the weight we climbed a fence to safety with little time left to plan and walk a new route. We wanted to give up, tired, nearing midnight, and miles from our destination.

But after finding much needed respite in a pub we decided that as leaders of Scouts, upholding their standards, we couldn’t give up. We plotted, we planned, and headed back out to finish the job in hand: To find a route which could get our Scouts safely back on the challenge night.

At 01:00 this morning as we finished at the Hut a few good things struck me:
• Don’t give in, even when adversity faces you.
• Solutions can always be found if you work hard enough at problems.
• If all else fails in our lives the simple pleasures are the ones which will make us truly happy.

So here’s to the simple things. Here’s to real life and nature beating anything else in our magnificent world. I’d do it all over again.

Postscript: Extra lessons learned:
• Farmers move or remove footpaths without warning; so know your bearings!
• Always begin and end a walk at a pub, and preferably include one half way through
• Pubs make the best places to hold up and plan stuff (unless there’s a Zombie attack)
• ALWAYS walk a route before letting 15 children loose on a night hike
Lamb Hotpot is superior to Bean casserole for farting competitions.

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