'You are not a locust': 12 rambling hacks from the 1930s

Buck up old bean and take heed! Here’s a sage word or two for the novice hiker of yesteryear... 

In his 1931 guidebook Southern Rambles for Londoners, the author S.P.B. Mais has some interesting advice for those venturing into the countryside of the Home Counties. Much of it still rings true, but times have changed, and navigating by the crossbars of a telegraph pole is generally frowned upon these days.

We’ve plucked 12 genuine nuggets of wisdom from Mr Mais’ ‘Helpful Notes’ – some of them brilliantly forthright, some unashamedly glib and others downright useless.

#1 Behaviour

“You are not a locust. Leave the countryside at least as beautiful as you found it.”

#2 Cattle

“Cattle are seldom dangerous, but often curious. So are dogs.”

#3 Clothing

“Women have solved the business of how to dress admirably. Men have not. A cricket shirt open at the neck, loose-fitting shorts, no stockings, but woollen socks and possibly a sweater, make the most satisfactory combination.”

#4 Dogs

“Dogs are seldom dangerous, but often curious. So are cattle.”

#5 Drink

“For the midday halt, half a pint of ‘old’ mingled with a stone ginger beer is the most satisfying drink I know. When the walk is over there is nothing comparable with tea.”

#6 Inns

“Do not abuse the village inn. Use it. Use the public bar – it is at once more friendly, more cheerful and cheaper than the saloon bar.”

#7 Getting Lost

“If you have lost your way it is sometimes useful to remember that the crossbars of telegraph poles are always placed on the London side of the poles.”

#8 First Aid

“Always carry iodine or iodex ointment”

#9 Walking Sticks

“I have never carried a stick in my life, and indeed its sphere of usefulness seems limited to one action – that of scotching snakes, and I prefer to let sleeping snakes lie.”

#10 Trespass

“It is as well to be courteous to farmers, if only for the somewhat obvious reason that they are masters of the situation. For the most part you will find that a soft answer turneth away any wrath.”

#11 Rights of Way

“When an obvious footpath has been obstructed with barbed wire it is both your duty and pleasure to climb over it and proceed on your rightful way.”

#12 Weather

“The official weather forecast is seldom correct. The unofficial weather forecast of the postman or farmer is equally unreliable. The English weather defies all prophecy.”

• Read the full feature ‘Paths into the Past’, where we attempt to follow Mais' guidebook 80 years on, in October’s Country Walking magazine – out now!