A Guide to Laying a Trail
This document is based on the ‘Hare Ye Well’ guide originally written by Biggles and a later issue by Buzby and more recently updated by Nicko in 2003 and 2012.
The essence of hashing is to enjoy a social run in the company of others of mixed ability. A cleverly prepared run will ensure that the pack is kept together by tricking the faster front runners with false trails. A hash is not a race! The following notes are meant to act as guidance for virgin Hares. However, a refresher could benefit us all from time to time.
The history of hashing can be found elsewhere (lots of information on the internet). This publication is more about what happens weekly in your local pack.
Most Devon packs look to run trails of about 1 hour, but whatever the preferred run length for your pack, it must be remembered that it should apply to the whole pack – not just the ‘front running b*st*rds’ (FRBs) who could comfortably cover 10 miles in 75mins.
A guide distance for an hour would be about 4-5 miles in the summer and 3-4 miles in the winter when running in the dark with torches reduces the pace considerably. Distance will also depend upon the chosen terrain – for example, flat and even footpaths can be covered much quicker than rough and hilly moorland. Within most packs there is a wide cross-section of abilities so the Hares need to be especially devious in order to keep the pack together. This is fundamental to Hashing, as it is a social, group activity and not meant as a race.
Choosing a Location
You will need to be aware of where you can and can’t go. Being able to use masses of public footpaths and open spaces is ideal. Often farmers and landowners will permit you to cross or use the edges of their fields (failure to ask for permission may compromise future runs in that area). Also look for choices of direction – a coastal footpath or beach is all very well but can be limiting when it comes to placing checks. Ideally choose a pub to run from or alternatively a FREE car park that is easy to find, and within your agreed hashing area. Your Hare Raiser will advise you of your usual area. Consider the weather. Is it really wise to head for High Dartmoor in the winter? Once chosen stick to your venue – changes in venue cause confusion.
Choosing the Pub
Arguably the most important task that a hare undertakes is to choose a suitable pub forthe ‘On-Down’ or ‘On-Inn’. First on the list is the refreshments. Many hashers are ‘real ale’ enthusiasts, so a good selection of beers is essential if you are not to get lynched! As for food, roughly two thirds of the pack seem to buy meals if the price is right. Hashers are not a fussy bunch and will be easily pleased by a chilli, curry or something similar. The usual bar meal menu might be suitable, or perhaps they might like to put on a special hash menu to make things easier and perhaps cheaper.
Secondly, the pub must be willing to have us and be big enough to accommodate the expected numbers without upsetting the regulars. The near impossible has been achieved on the odd occasion (90+ in the tiny Rugglestone at Widecombe in the Moor), but usually a more roomy venue is expected, especially during the winter, when sitting outside is not an option. Give them at least a week’s notice of the intended visit and expected arrival times will also help. Don’t forget to mention the initial bar rush when we first arrive!
Thirdly, is there enough space in the car park or on roads close by for parking? Avoid upsetting the local residents by taking up all the street parking.
Kirton (KH3) don’t do Down-Downs or have a Hash Circle which is a feature of many Hashes. The loudest event is likely to be the naming of a new hasher.
What to use to Mark the Trail
Sawdust or wood shavings are most commonly used. These are environmentally friendly and easily sourced. Chalk and flour may be less bulky, but if you lay the trail the day before using flour, and it rains, the marks are likely to disappear. Sawmills will often give you sawdust free. But the sawdust should come from untreated wood – if from tanalised wood it could be harmful to animals. The best option is to buy compressed wood shavings as used for pet bedding – less than the price of a pint of beer to lay a trail.
Laying the Trail – The Marks
This is the usual trail marker. The second or third dot (up to the Hare) following a Check indicates the correct route, or “On-On”. (Some packs do not call “On-On” until they have found an arrow, but this is not KH3 practice).
Used as often as possible, but at least 3 per mile and usually more, to indicate where there is a choice of direction available. For example at road or footpath junctions. Trails will be marked from here in various directions, but usually only one will be the correct route.
Back-Check (back to check)
This is used to indicate a false trail from a Check and can follow any number of dots. When you find one you must return to the Check and try again. Also used to indicate a ‘no-go’ path, e.g. onto private land for which you do not have permission.
Check-Back (checking back)
This can appear anywhere along the trail. Simply it means that you left the last check in the correct direction, but you have missed a turning off this route. An optional dot or line on one side of the circle suggests which way you should look to find the correct trail.
‘R’, ‘RG’ or a dot in a circle is used to hold the pack at a point and bring them back together, allowing the back markers time to catch up. This may also be used to allow time to look at a view, or even to have a beer stop! An ‘SS’ is used to indicate a ‘Sweetie Stop’, a feature of Kirton hashes. The hare will indicate the ‘On-On’ from here.
You might find an arrow which indicates correct direction.
A recent introduction to KH3 which requires a stated number of runners at the front to go to the back of the pack. The Hare should give instructions at the start.
The fishhook is an invasive alien species of mark introduced from Welsh or (some say) Australian hashing. For many years KH3 managed perfectly well without it and, contrary to some current thinking, you do not need to use fishhooks to lay a good trail. Clever use of back-checks and especially check-backs are better options.
Each pack has it’s own variations on the above, but basically the principle remains the same.
Usually marked with an ‘L’ and ‘S’ and arrows to indicate direction.
An ‘OH’ is used, generally with an arrow, to indicate the way back to the car park and usually terminates the actual trail, i.e. there are no further checks etc. Those who are completely knackered at this point may be encouraged that the end is near. Or, as Hare, you may have been a real b*st*rd and left a mile’s road run back.
Remember to make your marks clear to avoid confusion and put them where they can be seen. Beyond, but not behind, a tree is a good idea if you don’t want the trail to be found until the last moment.
Example of where to place Dots
On open country and for night runs you will need to put down more markers. Ideally the next one should be visible from the current one, especially in dense woodland, except after a check.
If you decide to include long/short splits so that the FRBs can have a longer run, remember the trail must be laid in both directions, and marked with an ‘L’/’S’ as shown here.
Example of use of Long/Short splits
An alternative may be to short cut the back markers (see below).
Example of the use of a Short Cut to avoid a Check
Or you may send the front of the pack all around a field (assuming no crops). As the back of the pack arrives in the field it’s obvious where the exit is and so they carry on straight-ahead. This may attract shouts of “SCBs” (short cutting b*st*rds), but all part of the fun.
Example of Short Cutting the Back Markers
- Plan your trail well in advance, preferably with a suitable map!
- Always get permission from the landowners and farmers – they may even point you towards some very special terrain! [Note: although much of our terrain is public access land, the owners must be consulted before we visit – there may be some parts they do not want disturbed at various times! A fee may be raised, but this is usually waived if adequate notice is given. [See Appendix 1 for contact details].
- Footpaths and bridleways are always favourites – but try not to be too obvious.
- Take plenty of sawdust or shavings (preferred) or flour with you. A few sticks of chalk are also useful if tarmac is used.
- Lay at least 3 checks per mile – you may actually want to use many more than this.
- KH3 normally uses “2 dots and ON” (sometimes 3), with the first dots close to the check, then the 2nd dot or “On” at about 50 metres or 20 double paces, but you may want to vary these distances to suit the conditions. If you want to tempt the pack down a trail that ends in a back-check then you may want to place the second dot on the correct trail much further away from the first dot to try to ensure the trail is called ‘on’ on the back-check path first. This may not always work because hashers rarely do what you want them to. Then put down dots at least every 30 metres or so, and try to keep them to the same side of the route. This is particularly important on open country or during the dark winter evenings.
- Put in extra loops for the fast members of the pack, or be prepared to short cut the back markers to keep the pack together.
- Try to include features like river crossings, shiggy and tunnels.
- Avoid too much road and long uphill sections without a regroup or long backcheck.
- Avoid damage to hedges and crossing dry stone walls – a stile probably isn’t far away.
- Respect ALL crops – remember hay is a valuable feed crop to farmers, don’t trample it.
- During torch-lit runs, avoid river crossings more than knee deep, and don’t take the trail too close to the edge of cliffs, quarries etc. Summer is different!
- If you bring the outward trail close to the homeward trail remember to place back checks so they can be seen from both directions. It’s as bad to find you’re On-Home early as it is to find you’re running the outward route again!
Example of the use of a Check and a Check Back
Example of river crossings
Example of the use of Back Checks
Occasionally circumstances result in a live trail being laid, where the Hare departs perhaps half an hour or an hour before the pack starts chasing. In this case, a ‘one dot and on’ trail will normally be laid, with the distance of the 1 dot from a check gauged to give sufficient challenge, but not so far or so difficult that the pack mill around for ages.
Live trails have the disadvantages that there is no one to put the pack right when they fail miserably, and back markers are not catered for.
So that the following hashers know what’s happening there are a series of calls used. The first is “ON-ON” – called when you think you’re on the correct trail. “Checking” is called when a check is found, and this is followed by “On-one” at the first dot, “On-two” at the second dot and, hopefully, “ON-ON” at the third dot (assuming a ‘3 dots and On’ trail). “On-back” is shouted to recall hashers from the wrong direction. If a cross is found then the call is “Back-check” or “Back-to-check”. If the cross is in a circle the call is “Check-back ” or “Checking-back”, accompanied by “Left” or “Right” if the hare has marked it. The hashers following those doing the checking call “Are you?”, inviting a helpful reply – anything else can cause confusion for those checking.
Running the Trail
There should ideally be two Hares. One to keep an eye on the main pack and one to stay with the back markers – the sweeper. This way no one should get lost. An alternative to a second Hare is to appoint someone to ensure the checks are kicked out (to indicate the direction of the correct path) and any trails from check-backs are marked. At each check it is the responsibility of the Hare to see that the correct trail is marked. This can be done either by ‘kicking through’ (breaking the check in the direction of the trail), or laying further marks to enable any late arrivals to follow the trail without checking and hopefully catch the pack up.
A plastic bottle containing flour is an easy way of marking the correct direction at checks, or laying extra marks to indicate the trail after a check back.
If you are about to lay your first trail, maybe you can ask an experienced Hasher to help. Experience could avoid the trail being too long or too short. As a rough rule of thumb, expect to take about twice as long to lay a trail as it will take the pack to run it.
And when planning on a map, you can measure (eg. with a piece of thread) a route of around 2.5 to 3 miles as a guide. With all the detours for check-backs, loops etc, the length of the trail to run will be longer.
If you use any different markings don’t forget to advise the pack at the start of the hash. Also use this opportunity to advise the pack of any other hazards such as live- stock and busy roads. The Hare is also responsible for the electing of a scribe to write the hash trash. This is best done before the run, but is often left to the on-down.
Remember hashing is fun. Good luck!
Appendix I – Landowner Contacts
Contacts for major landowners in Devon. Please use these numbers – we do not want to be banned.
- Forestry Commission – Bullers Hill, Kennford – 01392 832262 – ideally 6 weeks notice to avoid a charge.
- National Trust areas of Dartmoor – Keith Robinson – 01626 834748
- National Trust (Elsewhere) Ed Nicholson, Killerton – 01392 881691, Mobile 07879412556
- For Woodbury there is an agreement to avoid certain areas – see www.swh3.info for detail.
Appendix II – Quick Check List
As way of a final word, here’s a list to help jog your memory:
- Have you chosen a good running area with lots of choice of terrain?
- Have you asked permission of the landowner if it’s not public access?
- If your route uses a footpath that crosses farmland, have you told the landowner?
- Is there a good pub close by?
- Does the pub serve a good choice of beer?
- Does the pub serve good affordable food?
- Does the pub have a good-sized car park, or is there one close by?
- Have you told the Publican we’re coming and approximately when?
- Have you got enough sawdust / shavings (preferred)/ flour /chalk to lay the trail?
If you can answer ‘Yes’ to all the above it will surely be a great trail! And remember, the more checks you use the better – never miss an opportunity to slow the FRBs down and make them work to find the trail you’ve so painstakingly planned and laid.