Last year my wife and I took advantage of some airfare specials to go to England to hike their National Trails. Because the trails cross private lands, you usually won’t walk more than a few hundred yards before coming to a fence. Rather than build gates that hikers might not close properly, for centuries the Brits have built clever constructions called “stiles” that are essentially crude steps for getting over the fence.

In stark difference to US property legislation,  English laws state that as long as a national trail is hiked by a British citizen once a year, then the trail will remain in the public domain. For that purpose,  there is a national Ramblers club whose volunteers make it their duty to ensure that all trails are hiked annually.

In our limited hiking experience, we walked through fields with cows, sheep, and crops. Once a field had been recently plowed and the trail through the field had completely disappeared with the churned earth. This caused us to get lost for a while, but the trails are usually well marked with arrows and the trail guides provide instructions such as” hike just past the stand of poplars, then turn left till you come to a fork in the creek”. No GPS coordinates for these naturalists!

The scenery along the hikes was beautiful and the hills were more rolling than steep. We plan to go back someday, but we’ll be better prepared and wear some Wellingtons because crossing creeks and cow fields can be tricky.