Post by Charles Bishop Post by Richard Heathfield
Please avoid marshy areas, though - I had a narrow escape from
a marsh once, and I have no desire to repeat the experience.
Are you more mellow now?
It was the afternoon of Sunday the 24th of October 2014. Two days later,
in response to a request from someone-or-other elsegroup to post "the
dumbest thing you did", I wrote an account of my experience which you
might find educational if you're planning to go out walking this weekend:
I think this Sunday afternoon has to come pretty high up my own personal
I made several mistakes:
1) I followed a public footpath, clearly marked as such on an Ordnance
2) I knew that land-owners are required by law to keep public footpaths
on their land well-maintained;
3) I walked too quickly.
I was here: 53.276692,-2.631448
I was walking roughly WSW.
The ground was squishy. I ignored this warning, stepping confidently
from tussock to tussock. (In theory, this means that I left the "path"
from time to time, but the path wasn't actually marked, and in practice
it wouldn't have made any difference to what followed.)
Suddenly (and this is perhaps the most appropriate moment in my whole
life to which to apply that word), I was slightly more than knee-deep in
filthy, stinking, watery mud. I am either blessed or cursed with an
over-active imagination, and of course there ran through my mind every
quicksand scene from all those Tarzan movies I saw as a child. I
realised I might be about to die horribly.
Fortunately, I was carrying a stout walking stick. Up until now, I have
always felt a little ambivalent about using a walking stick when walking
in the tame English countryside, but I think it may have saved my life
I quickly discovered that I could not move my legs upward. The stick had
sunk some way into the mud, but I found that I could use it to keep my
balance as I tried to manoeuvre. This meant that I could force my right
leg leftward, until it was at a significant angle to the vertical.
Whether because this changed the interplay of the forces acting on my
leg or simply because I had created a bit of an air gap in all the
gunge, I was now able to pull my leg up a significant distance. I
repeated that with the left leg, with the stick taking some of the
strain and stopping the right leg from sinking to quite the same depth
as before. Doing this over and over, I was eventually able to move one
After what seemed like a month but was probably a few minutes, I reached
the relative safety of the fence that runs roughly NNW-SSE. Along the
line of the fence, there was a ridge of stable ground a few inches wide.
Unfortunately, there was a wide gap in the fence where the public
"footpath" crossed it, and the ground looked impassable there, so I had
no choice but to head maybe 20 yards north-ish along the line of the
fence, until I reached what to my untutored eye appeared to be some kind
of sweetcorn-like plantation. The ground was still fairly ghastly even
here, but I was able (sorry, farmer, but you should have kept that
footpath maintained properly) to tread down the plants to give me some
kind of footing until I got back to Cliff Brook.
I think this may be the closest I have ever come to killing myself! Of
course, it may be that I would not have sunk any further, and if I'd
waited a few weeks for some passing stranger to notice my fate, I may
well have been rescued. I don't know enough about the physics of
quagmires to tell which it would have been.
I now know exactly what a quagmire is (I did the research on my eventual
return to civilisation), and I also found that the first syllable can be
pronounced to rhyme either with "bog" or with "bag", which I hadn't
hitherto realised. So I learned something from the experience, which is
(On re-reading the above account I note that I forgot to mention that
the fence was of barbed wire, which DID NOT HELP!)
Email: rjh at cpax dot org dot uk
"Usenet is a strange place" - dmr 29 July 1999
Sig line 4 vacant - apply within