By: Blonde Two
Most of us walking types know that a well placed and sturdy stile can mean the difference between a very long walk round and a long round in the end-of-walk pub. I am not the most elegant of stile climbers myself – mainly because I can never quite cock my leg high enough (no comments thank you).
We are lucky to have the quality of stiles that we do on Dartmoor. Most of them are in good condition and where they should be. During a recent walk in Shropshire, Mr Blonde Two and I encountered some slightly less organised ones.
First there was “Water Stile” – this stile was in perfectly good working condition, the problem though was getting anywhere near to it. The footpath was also a byway (open to motor vehicles) and clearly used as such as this particular section had sunk way beyond wellington boot or Land Rover wheel depth. We chose a detour rather than a swim.
The next stile was “Wrong Place Stile” – typically, this one was in an area of coniferous forest. Coniferous forests, in my experience, are a mixture of paths marked on the map but buried under trees on the ground, and clear tracks on the ground which could be the ones on your map but never go in quite the right direction. This particular forest did not disappoint and we ended up finding the stile in the wrong place, just when we had given up looking for it.
After that we encountered two stiles that could have both earned the name “Buried in Bracken Stile”. Both of these were at the bottom of an impossible slope and neither was easily visible. They were also a bit on the wobbly side although that might just have the effect of the impossible slope on my legs.
My favourite stile of the walk was “A Stile to Nowhere” – this had clearly once held a very important place in the navigation of local field systems but now stood, in a somewhat dejected manner, all alone about ten feet away from any boundaries. This stile clearly needed encouragement and a bit of love so I climbed (stepped through) it anyway.
I am running out of words now so I will scout around “Sloping Stile” (see below) and take you straight to “Poo Stile”. I nearly came a cropper at “Poo Stile” as the only route to it was a slope whose surface was made entirely of very slippery sheep’s doings (the doings were slippery not the sheep).
I have a favourite Dartmoor stile (of course) – it is quite an unusual one and you are welcome to guess where it is. I will take you there one day …