Choose a pub – preferably one with decent beer and a large car park.
Check with the landlord that he is willing to host the hash on the given date. If it’s a popular pub another event clashing may result in over-crowding and long waits for beer and food. Try another date. If they don’t want to host the hash, leave them to it. There are plenty of pubs where we really are welcome.
Obtain a 1:25,000 Ordnance Survey Pathfinder Series map of the area. These show most field boundaries as well as the footpaths, bridleways and definitive Public Rights of Way. The next series, 1:50,000 Landranger will do at a push, but is clearly less detailed. There are various apps now on mobile phones that may also help, but you will need to ensure you are aware of whether your route is public or not.
Plan a route approximately 4-5 miles long for the main pack. It’s helpful to also include short-cuts for more ‘senior’ hashers whose pace may not be what it was!
Unless you know the land well, walk your proposed trail first, noting suitable points for checks and making best use of features which may not be apparent from the map alone. Seek out the muddy bits, referred to as ‘shiggy’ – hashers love it!
Use the geography to confuse the pack’s sense of direction and always ensure the pack can’t see the pub from any point on the trail, otherwise they’ll just head straight for it and the greater part of your hard work will be lost.
Try to avoid a long straight run in – it encourages the FRBs to show off. Then mark the route on the map.
Approach the landowners to advise them of your intent to cross their land. This is not as difficult as it might seem at first sight. Select a farm on the route and pay it a visit. Show the farmer your intended route and they will advise you of are any problems on his land with animals or crops, etc. They will also be able to tell you who owns the other land on your route and who you should also approach.
Remember no landowner can object if you intend using Public Rights of Way across his land but it is only courteous to inform him that your pack of runners may be descending on his fields containing animals or crops. Most farmers are very helpful but a few like to be cajoled into the right frame of mind. Most will say you can go where you like but will warn you about not damaging gates, fences or hedges. Be prepared to offer your phone number in case of subsequent problems. Good relations with farmers should be preserved; after all we will probably wish to make use of their land again in the future.
You’ll need a supply of flour, chalk or sawdust with which to mark he trail. This can be readily sourced, but if you’re really hard up, try sobbing on the hash cash’s shoulder. It won’t do any good but you might feel better for it.
One carrier bagful, (3kg) is generally sufficient for a complete trail if you are using flour, but two bags if using fine sawdust. A reserve bag should also be filled and cached at a suitable point about halfway round the trail before you start out – just in case. For obvious reasons it is a good idea to use sawdust in snow or frosty conditions, or add a food colouring to the flour.
Lay the trail preferably on the same day as the hash, but the day before is okay where the trail won’t be disrupted by the natives! It’s also worth trying to bully someone into giving you some help as it’ll take a good 2 – 2 ½ hours to set a trail for an hour’s run and more if you are going to use lots of false trails and you have no help.
Regard the pack as fools who wear bifocals. Lay marks every 20m or so on easy clear ground but reduce this interval to 10m or less on rough or overgrown terrain. Lay copious amounts when making a turn on open land. Ask yourself whether you could follow it if you were as blind as Mr McGoo.
Checks should occur every 300 – 500 metres or so but at varied intervals and, if possible, at natural check points. The correct route should be found by the front runners within about 100m and be anywhere from the check.
A false trail should be no longer than about 100m, and marked with a ‘back-check’, usually a distinct cross, although some hashes use a ‘T’ or a ‘-‘, the latter being referred to as a ‘bar’. Any number of false trails can emanate from each check.
If your trail changes direction in open country, use an arrow. Use of cowpats to increase colour contrast is recommended as are fence posts or trees in long grass.
Include a few loops in your trail to help to keep the pack together. Failing this a ‘regroup’ sign at a check will ensure that everyone will wait until the back markers have caught up before recommencing.
Don’t be tempted to make your trail too long. A long run makes for a spaced out pack and you won’t be thanked for making everyone completely knackered. If you are still laying trail after 2–2½ hours, consider cutting it short.
Before you set the pack off, brief them on any unusual hazards and whether dogs should be kept on a leads etc. Remember to mark an arrow on the ground so that latecomers will know which direction you have headed off in and so not pick up the `in’ trail by mistake.
Make sure all gates are closed after the pack has passed and be prepared after the run to organise a search party for any lost harriettes – harriers can generally be relied upon to look after themselves!
If your hash publishes ‘words’ about the trail for the benefit of those who missed it, or to jog memories years later, find out who has been bullied into doing it for your trail. Bribes, threats of writs or even actual physical violence have been known to succeed in having a trail described in the most flattering terms in the Hash Trash.
Finally, if appropriate, thank the landlord for his hospitality – you never know, you might get a free pint out of him.