As we entered the 350-year-old Rose Cottage in Snowshill amid England's Cotswolds in late May, the smell of wood smoke wafting from a freshly laid fire completely dispelled the gloom of a cold, misty day. The Rose Cottage was more than what the catalogue had promised. The town was wonderful, the location perfect.
So, quite naturally, we read the article "400 Years Old and Counting" in the Aug. 30 Travel section with great interest.
Oh yes, we also had a low doorsill in the master bedroom, just 4-foot-8. But the catalogue had warned us of that. We also had a washing machine but decided not to try it out. The color television was a surprise and delight to our young adult daughters (and for us since the British elections had just got underway that week). And we had enough hot water on command to meet the prodigious needs of three adult females (no meter feeding, either).
Unlike the Old Waterwheel House visited by the writer, the Rose Cottage was in a very quiet setting. Oh, there were the sheep baa-ing on the hillside behind. And there were the birds. But no sanding ... jackhammers ... drilling or loud radios.
Of course, we went to the Cotswolds, not Sussex. And we rented through Heart of England Cottages, a firm that's been in the business for 10 years. The head of the firm, Peter Ansdell, told me he turns down six of every 10 cottages offered to Heart of England. Yet they still have more than 200 listings.
According to the 1987 catalogue, Old Waterwheel is not one of them. In fact, they don't have any cottages in East Sussex.
We thought the olde English cottage was the way to see England and since returning have heartily endorsed the idea to friends and neighbors.
The local agent is Heart of England Cottages, P.O. Box 32, Cabin John, Md. 20818. James W. Plumb Bethesda I believe the Canyon Country article in the Aug. 30 Travel section gives the reader an unrealistically casual impression of the seriousness of backpacking/hiking in desert country. I hiked and backpacked for four days in the Grand Canyon last summer. While my experience is limited to that, my preparatory reading was extensive; and everything I read cautioned the prospective hiker about the dangers of dehydration and getting lost.
Water is absolutely the top priority item in desert hiking. In your article, it was mentioned almost as a side issue, giving the impression that water is available upon demand. This is definitely not true in general, and if it's true in the canyon areas described, those places should have been specifically identified.
In addition, the writer must never have heard of "minimum impact" hiking/camping, the object of which is to "leave no trace," or he would never have taken a dog along. (Who carried her water, or did she drink from possibly polluted streams?). And he would not have gathered firewood for a fire. Both pets and gathering firewood are absolutely forbidden in the Grand Canyon because both leave "traces" that take long periods to erase in an arid climate. Nor should he have been "poking around the trash midden" of the Anasazi ruins. (Would he also let his dog do its business on the neighbor's lawn, leave his trash in the gutter or rearrange a museum exhibit?)
Aside from these basic contradictions to everything I've read on safe and considerate hiking, I found the writer's choices of pack items rather impractical. The standard recommended weight for a loaded pack is 20 to 25 percent of a person's body weight. It's very easy to get to that limit (remember, water weighs eight pounds per gallon) without adding "an armload of books" or grapefruit, which has a large percentage of waste that has to be carried out. And who wants to pack enough fuel to cook something that takes as long as wild rice?
My intent is not to discourage anyone from canyon hiking -- it was the thrill of a lifetime for me. Touching rocks that are 2 1/2 billion years old and have no fossils because they predate virtually any life forms was a world-class spiritual experience that ranks just below giving birth. But if the writer's account really inspired someone to follow in his footsteps, I heartily recommend extensive reading of more practical literature on the subject. Mary E. Milam Arlington The Travel section welcomes letters from readers. They must be signed and include the writer's home address and daytime telephone number. Space limitations may necessitate the editing of letters, which should be sent to: The Travel Section, The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071.