Photo of Bluebell Woods in Sussex Photo of Bluebell Woods in Sussex

To the Ends of the Earth…

In fourteen days, on the 8th May, the most comprehensive (and hopefully entertaining) guide to natural navigation on land ever written will be published: The Walker’s Guide to Outdoor Clues & Signs.

The book is a treasury of the best outdoor clues, tips and techniques that I have gathered over the past 20 years. There is a lot of natural navigation in it, but it also holds clues for weather forecasting, tracking, city walks, coast walks, night walks and dozens of other areas too. Lots more information on the book, including the contents and a full index can be found here.

Writing this book has been a labour of love and the single most exhausting thing I have ever done. Many authors can honestly claim to have sweated over their latest work; not quite so many can truly claim to have shed blood for theirs.

The book is meant to add a layer of richness and fascination to the time we spend outdoors. It is written for people who walk close to home and those who travel further afield. There is a whole chapter on towns and cities. But, as this extract from one of the chapters will explain, there are some clues that can be used close to home, but that doesn’t mean I could find them by staying at home.

From the start of Chapter 13, A Walk with the Dayak Part I:

For most of this book, I have focused on the clues and signs that are both easy to find and use on our walks close to home and a little further afield. However, my years of collecting these techniques has taught me that there are some pockets of fascinating knowledge that sit well away from our usual walking routes. These signs and clues are not easy to uncover, for the simple reason that they are used by indigenous people who don’t write them down or find the need to pass them on to anyone, outside family or tribe.

I always wanted to write the book that would offer the reader the fullest possible picture of walking clues. To complete the job and collect these extraordinary insights, I felt it would be essential for me to go on a very unusual walk. I would need to hunt for clues with those rare individuals whose lives still depend upon them. The plan was to seek out the Dayak tribes- people, deep in the heart of Borneo.

I had a little trepidation, but high hopes for the things I might discover in the interior of the great island of Borneo. But I had no idea when I departed, that I would learn a few simple lessons that would change the way I looked at the landscapes I walked through nearer to home, forever. These are lessons we can all use on long or short walks.

The picture at the top shows blood seeping into my shirt after my chest was covered in tiger leeches. By the end of the expedition the whole shirt was crimson and torn to ribbons. But I had got the clues I wanted for the book, so a happy ending .

(To get you in the mood, here is a recording of the sounds of the jungle. I just switched on my recorder for a couple of minutes as we made camp one evening, deep in Kalimantan, in the heart of Borneo. Nothing special was going on, we were just pottering around making camp.