You’re going the wrong way

Published 18 July 2017

A Grande Randonnée sign telling you to turn back

This is not the way you are looking for

As I mentioned, I spent a holiday in France recently with a Grande Randonnée walking trail, the GR34, passing right next to where we were staying.

The Grande Randonnée network is rather special. Thousands of miles of walking trails, across several European countries. What is not to love about that? And all waymarked using a logo of a white stripe on top of a red one. (Well except in some countries where they use yellow for some reason. But anyway…)

The red and white colour scheme was chosen to be distinctive in a natural environment, and the stripes are often painted on true trunks, or other similar things, in order to reduce the necessity of installing signs.

And whilst the two stripes are there to keep you on your right path, I discovered by accident that there is also a version that tells you you’re going the wrong way.

I discovered it rather by accident one day whilst pushing my one year old daughter around in a buggy in a desperate attempt to persuade her to have a much needed nap. I built up a bit of a routine that saw me follow the GR34 for a bit, before turning round. After all, I did need to get back to where I’d started from.

One morning I turned off the GR34, and ended up wandering round a nearby street. And there, on a lampost, it was. An X. An X made up of one red stripe and one white stripe.

It took me a few minutes to realise what it was, but eventually I twigged. It was a very clear marker to show the GR34 walker that they’d gone the wrong way.

The actual route could have been easily missed. The GR34 had been following the road for a bit, before diverting off to a coastal path near a popular beach. If you’d been busy paying attention to your surroundings, and had instead been enjoying the great Brittany scenery, you could easily missed it. But if you did just that, someone had you covered.

It’s such a gloriously simple idea that you can only wonder why no one does it in the UK. I have lost count of the number of times I have missed a vital turnoff on a walking trail, and got lost. Let’s just say it’s happened more than once. And how many times might I have been helped by a little Acorn sign with a line through it, placed strategically at a place where many people might also make a wrong turn.

But then, there have been several times I’ve got lost by missing a vital turn-off due to a complete absence of signs in the first place. So perhaps we need to take a lesson from the French first on getting the basics right, before we move onto to more complex scenarios.

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