I bought a book called "The Walker's Guide to Outdoor Clues and Signs" by a fellow called Tristan Godley. At times it was quite an irritating book to read. It contained far too much information and it seemed as if the author's whole interest in walking was connected with the spotting of various signs.
He explained a whole array of methods we might use to determine compass directions from the shape of trees to stars in the sky and from lichens to church architecture. All very interesting but to be truthful - when I am out walking I always know where north and south and east and west are simply by looking at my map. It's not as if I am walking in a featureless wilderness.
In two of the chapters, Godley describes a journey he made to the heart of Borneo, seeking to pick up the travelling techniques of Dayak tribespeople. Deep in the jungle, he heads for a village called Long Layu with two Dayak trekkers. They follow signs such as the direction of streams and birdsong. They are at one with Nature. Finally they make it to Long Layu but Godley has nothing to say about his destination. Nothing to say about the people who live there and the homes they have crafted. It's almost as if the destination is insignificant. It's the getting there that matters.
Godley often refers to courses he leads in reading natural signs when walking in the great outdoors and at one point he refers to a "shepherd's hut" in his garden where he does all of his writing and his studying.
There's much of interest in the book. Maybe too much. As I say, it sometimes felt like a case of "information overload". For me, walking is often a meditative process of exploration and observation. I don't wish to spend my walking journeys collecting information like a scientist on a field study weekend. I want to think as I walk along, to dream, to remember and to see. It is an holistic experience and knowing where North is is never high on my agenda. In contrast, for Tristan Godley it's probably his top priority.
I made it through 400 pages, reading every word and there are certainly a few nuggets I will take from this book but in the final analysis I am glad that the thirteen hours hours of reading are over.