As far as you can go -Joining the walking club

As was my way anywhere I go, on my first visit,  I made sure I bought a map from Legal and Lands of the island, and began to explore the roads of the green heartland, visit all the sites I could on my own and, where I thought it was safe, would walk off on tracks and footpaths on my own.  But walking off the main trails was a hazardous business.  The ground was covered in loose stones, the slopes were steep.  The paths are not marked well.  Added to this I saw from my maps that the roads only cover a little over a third of the island, many of the crown wastelands have no vehicle access at all.  So where there were trails there you were quite literally heading off into the wilderness – and until you walked back by the same route, you were unlikely to come across another person, let alone a vehicle, on your travels.  Weighing all the factors up, and I am not usually concerned about heading off for long treks on my own, I decided it was not a good idea to walk solo in St Helena.

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My trusty St Helena Map

Fortunately there was a solution.   On my first trip I was invited on a walk organised by Rebecca just down the road from where she lived.  It was a marvellous walk which I shall describe later.  On that walk I got to talk one on one with almost the whole group and enjoyed in particular the company of two people, Val and Pat Joshua.  I mentioned that I enjoyed walking and wanted to explore further.  They invited me to join their walking group.  They were both key people in the St Helena Nature Conservation Group which amongst other things, maintain a series of post-box walks.  Similar to the letterbox walks in Ascension Island, the trails are plotted and at the end you can find a book to record your arrival, and a unique rubber stamp and ink to record your achievement in your own booklet.  As part of this service, the group organised regular weekend walks so they can inspect the post boxes and refresh the materials in each one.  Over the three visits I did several of these and managed to get to some hard to reach corners.

Some were easy treks; I went up High Hill once with the group.  Let’s not get confused here with High Peak.  You might expect that on a small island people would be able to name things uniquely.   But no, the early naming of features on islands is left to sailors and often they use simple descriptive terms like High, Long, White, Red.   I got tired when GIS officer in BVI explaining about the six Long Bays and several White Bays.  However, BVI did have a couple of really nice placenames like Dead Chest and Throw Way Wife Bay.  While some features on St Helena, predominantly the houses and estates, had names which harked back to other locations, primarily English, or to families long established on the island,  simple features, those that were probably named first, were given simple names.  I’ve already described my visit to High Peak to watch the flax being cut, but High Hill was several miles to the west.

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