If you go down to the woods today…

…you’d better be well prepared.

One of the many marvellous things about London is that fact that you can take a short tube journey (20 minutes in fact) and travel from the urban East End to the edge of Epping Forest – a proper forest in which it is very possible to get well and truly lost.

I fully accept that I’m an out and out urbanite. However, I love a good ramble (in the truest Chalet School sense of the word) and quite honestly, is there any better way of spending a damp, chilly May Bank Holiday than tramping through mud with friends and an assortment of children?

As far as I was concerned, I was fairly well prepared – there was water, fruit, biscuits, sweets, an extra jumper & an umbrella in my backpack. I was wearing decent footwear – it was a toss up between wellies or new boots, boots won as the Hunters aren’t great for long treks up hill – but I had forgotten my waterproof. Though it seems my sister was still concerned. I quote her tweet at the end of the day:
“Why in god’s name did you wear your brand new, expensive boots? Didn’t want to get the Hunters dirty? *Bangs head on desk*”

Left, clean shoes on the tube (mine are the mahogany beauties on the top.)
Right, when the day ended.

However, I was thoroughly ill-prepared in comparison with our walking companions – the Jordan clan and friends. In total, we had 10 adults and 8 children (aged 2-14), that’s quite a pack. All the children were clad head to toe in waterproof material; they had rope with which to make a rope swing while having lunch; heck, they even had lunch with them (we invested in sausage/bacon rolls at a bikers’ cafe – I think we won on that score). They also had technology.

Our friend Rachel isn’t known for being terribly proficient with her Android telephonic device. She’s had it since Christmas and it still regularly foxes her, so it was with surprise that I discovered that she was using Google Latitude to track her father. Her Dad possesses a trait in common with my own father – the ability to disappear without a trace on family outings. Arriving at our lunch venue minus one adult and one small child, Rachel took out her phone and tracked him down, giving directions in repeated phone calls. It was really quite genius. I’d suggest my parents invest in the same technology, but it wouldn’t work as:
(i) My Dad doesn’t own a smart phone.
(ii) He has yet to fully embrace the concept of a mobile phone being ‘mobile’.

We had technology too. The rather rubbish official Epping Forest map was supplemented with Google maps and a remarkable number of phone compass uses. Yet still we managed to get lost repeatedly – our main map reader would claim that this was because no one listened to him. He may have been right…

The joys of map reading.
(If you look closely, you’ll spot Andy behind the others. The reason? He’s checking Google maps again.)

Ultimately, you know what you need when walking in Epping Forest? A good old Ordnance Survey map and an unlimited supply of plain chocolate digestives.

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