Mud: It’s Alive and Sticking

mud 1MUD. Don’t go there except with your feet. Let it fill your boots and stick like it’s supposed to. But don’t delve any deeper unless you want a shovelful of acronyms . . .

Back in November I set out on a survey, which I’ve just completed. Dismayed by the discovery of a couple of local footpaths and bridleways that have been surfaced with compacted chippings in what might be described as the urbanisation of the countryside, I am pleased to report that the overwhelming majority remain in their natural state and are ankle deep in mud. Some are pleasingly deeper.

This is a relief. There’s nothing wrong with mud. It’s an extremely relaxing and therapeutic substance to slosh through when you’re stressed out – and these past few weeks I’ve purposely sloshed through quite a few miles of it. The trouble with mud is when you look on the internet to find out exactly what it is.

mud 3 mud 5 mud 6 mud 7 mud 8 mud 9Texas MUDs, you might assume, are dry and have cacti sticking out of them – unless you are aware of Municipal Utility Districts. Do you use more than one identity on the internet? Then beware of MUD – that’s multiple-username disorder. After all, you don’t want to end up in a MUD – a multi-user dungeon, which is an “inventively structured social experience”. Then there’s Matched Unrelated Donors for bone marrow transplants and a 1970s glamrock band with some strange-looking people. Didn’t care for them at the time, actually.

Common mud, our mud, the stuff Prometheus moulded into man and Athena breathed life into, the healing balm that Jesus mixed from dirt and spittle to rub in the blind man’s eyes, is more than just wet stuff that children trail across the kitchen floor. Every civilisation has made bricks, homes, plaster and pots from mud. It’s even seeped into our language.

Don’t be a stick in the mud. Here’s mud in your eye. My name is mud. Mud sticks. As clear as mud. Don’t muddy the waters. Mud, mud, glorious mud. Mud on your face, a big disgrace, kickin’ your can all over the place.

mud 2 mud 15 mud 14 mud 13 mud 12 mud 10 mud 4Mud is a mixture of water and various combinations of soil, silt and clay – basically, when you think about it, the building blocks of the environment from which life sprang. So it is something special. The ancients realised its significance. Mud should be celebrated.

Don’t be tempted to cover it with chippings. Get your boots on and slosh through it. Or scoop a handful to make some generals, like Napoleon did.

mud 17

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About McEff

Alen McFadzean. Journalist (recently made redundant from The Northern Echo when my job and the jobs of my colleagues were transferred to Wales to be done by people on lower wages), former shipyard electrician, former quarryman and tunneller. Climbs mountains and runs long distances to make life harder. Gravitates to the left in politics just to make life harder still.
This entry was posted in Environment, Footpaths, Geology, Hiking, History, Life, Ranting, Walking and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

27 Responses to Mud: It’s Alive and Sticking

    • McEff says:

      Hi Howellsey. I am obviously not alone. Your stile picture looks remarkably similar to mine – despite the fact they are on different sides of the Pennines. I’ve always toyed with visiting the Alderley Edge area – now I think I’ll go on toying for a bit longer. But at least you saw plenty of wildlife.
      Cheers, Alen

  1. alan.sloman says:

    Whatever you’ve been drinking, I want some too. :-)

    • McEff says:

      Alan, I have just this minute returned from my local surgery where a nice lady health professional told me – not advised me, told me – to cut down on the alcohol. So in the interests of your continued good health, and to ensure your fitness on this year’s TGO Challenge, I feel I should not pass on that information.
      Enjoy your annual wilderness cheese and wine party, Alen.

  2. David says:

    I don’t mind a bit of mud either (well within reason) and have been known to have a bit of a moan when I see the growing urbanisation of the countryside. Some organisations seem to like creating “proper” paths, with information signs, sculptures etc. On the other hand I don’t quite celebrate mud like you do and tend to try and outflank mud if it looks too clarty. Bet you were covered in the stuff as a kid as well ;-)

    • McEff says:

      It’s been a muddy few months, David. Four weeks ago I dug a ditch to drain my flooded allotment, and despite the dry spell recently it’s still running after all this time. On the hills, I’ve taken to wearing gaiters at all times, and quite enjoy squelching through boggy sections – though you have to beware of places that look like you might disappear up to neck level – like in the Cheviots.
      Urbanisation of the countryside: those “proper” paths really get my back up. Do the people who plan them use them themselves? I doubt it. That’s something else to moan about.
      Cheers, Alen

  3. scott says:

    I was reading that, rather expecting that you might manage to shoehorn a line or two from Tiger Feet into it. We Will Rock You works jolly well though. :)

    • McEff says:

      Ha ha. Tiger Feet. I just called up the lyrics to remind me of that masterpiece of 1970s songwriting and they don’t make any sense at all. But nothing much did in those days.
      Cheers, Alen

  4. I have to admit that, despite being a born-and-bred country person, I have a deep hatred of mud and will go well out of my way to avoid it. I also wish they would put stones down on my various paths to work (as does the cleaner I think when there’s acres of dried mud in clods all around my chair and desk!).

    But I’m nothing like as bad as my townie friend. I once took him along a footpath and he ended up getting in some deepish mud. He shouted out, “Oh no! my best town boots!” – I dissolved into hysterics and I still take the mickey out of him to this day and keep shouting that at him if I see mud anywhere near a path when we’re out hillwalking ;-)

    • McEff says:

      Hi Carol. I did a post a while back about the Cheviots, where stone slabs have been laid across the bogs. I’m happy happy with stuff like that, because otherwise people would stray into areas that were downright dangerous. It’s the paths and tracks around the countryside that were once pleasant lanes – then you suddenly find they’ve been semi-surfaced with compacted materials – that get my back up. There is no need for it.
      I’m off to work now. I’ll just polish my best town boots before I go. Just kidding.
      Cheers, Alen

  5. Jo Woolf says:

    That is a LOT of mud! I don’t mind it except that it tends to slow you down when you’re out on a walk! But when it gets deep, and tries to hang onto your boots, it’s really unpleasant. All this hard surfacing is probably an attempt to make the countryside more ‘accessible’ to more people – but that is not necessarily a good thing for nature and wildlife.

    • McEff says:

      Yes. I’m not talking about disabled access or improvements of that nature, it’s this gradual creep of surfaced bridleways, farm roads and paths. Perhaps I should explore this in more detail, because in my area this sort of thing appears to be associated with farm buildings being converted into apartments and the expansion or rural industries – notably shooting interests. It’s something that appears to on the increase, like a growth in huge mock-Georgian mansions (top picture) with their iron gates and concrete lions.
      And on your other point, Jo: yesterday, in Rosedale, I crossed the three muddiest fields in Christendom and was slowed down considerably.
      Cheers, Alen

  6. Greg. says:

    Can’t do with mud Alen, especially the lowland stuff mixed with cow shit. But I don’t like all those man made paths in the Lakes. I prefer to walk down the fellside it’s easier on the knees.

    • McEff says:

      Hi Greg. There are some of those paths in the Howgills too, on Calders and that area. I think they must come up from Sedbergh – but I’ve never been up that way so I can’t say for sure. They’re well above cow shit level, mind
      Cheers, Alen

  7. Hanna says:

    It’s really a serious mud hike, Alen. We cannot compete with all that mud in Denmark right now, but it’s never too late.
    I hope you have an outdoor garden hose to the boots and pants for that matter.
    Your photos are very lovely and evocative cannot.
    All the best,
    Hanna

    • McEff says:

      Hej Hanna. At last things are beginning to dry out over here. We’ve had one of the wettest years on record, with floods everywhere. I hope Denmark stays dry – drier than here, anyway.
      Cheers, Alen

  8. Hanna says:

    PS Sorry about the cannot. Don’t no where it came from!

  9. Angie K Walker says:

    I like the last picture very much. I’m glad you chose an unusual subject of mud tracks.

    • McEff says:

      Hi Angie. Thank you for that. The hill in the background of that picture is Hang Bank, and the Roman road called Dere Street (now the B6275) runs up the middle of it.
      Cheers, Alen.

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