August 21, 2008


Filed under: England — sensel @ 5:18 am

Much has been written on the nature of English tea, English bobbies, and English WWII pilots. My research has explored the more little-known field of English mud. You have your fellside sheep-dropping mud, which has its own unique fragance and more cling than average, with little pellets that like to stick along the sides of your soles. You have your devious cottongrass meadow mud, which only looks like grass until you step through the cleverly-disguised water surface into mud that flows over your bootlaces. You have your riverside mud, of course, most particularly in the parts of the trail that are completely flooded because it has rained so much more than usual this month and the river is in spate. This riverside mud, although slippery, is more honest than cottongrass meadow mud and is in fact only two or three inches thick, just as it appears. On the other hand, you have your cow pasture mud, best formed when the cows can do a lot of post-holing with their big heavy hoofs. Cow pasture mud looks remarkably dry, and it is, but once you step in you are fortunate indeed if you foot comes out with your boot still attached, because you will sink in at least eight inches. Although boot-sucking, at least your feet stay mostly dry. Last but certainly not least, you have your Sly Mud, which can occur anywhere but most often frequents both sides of gates and stiles. Although Sly Mud looks deceptively like dirt, rocks, or sand with an inch of clear water resting (or even channeling) overtop, don’t be deceived. When you step in, thinking that nice clear water will rinse some of the fellside sheep-dropping mud off of the edge of your boots, you will sink in right up to your boot top, or past. If you find yourself encountering Sly Mud, the best defense is to make lots of “ooh” and “aah!” noises and move along right as quick as you can, because sometimes the mud actually hesitates at your boot top before flowing in. Rest assured, however, that even if you DO move fast enough, Sly Mud has already found its way through the seams, tongue, and lace holes of your boots. Gore-Tex can only do so much.

I’m actually at the end of the Dales way now, so I’ve been through 84 miles of mud — well, some of it wasn’t mud, some of it was grass and paved road. My toes are kind of pruny, but I’m having fun!

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