Visiting remote farms and houses tucked away down narrow lanes is one of the delights of meeting new clients and getting a first glimpse of their property. Satnavs are not all they are cracked up to be in some of the more out of the way spots where everyone has the same postcode, and explicit directions referring to such common features as crossroads, gates and even trees that occur in great profusion in rural areas do not always lead to the right front door. I have even been directed to ‘turn right where you see the sign selling honey’ and hoped I wasn’t visiting on their day off. Solo navigating in tiny lanes where there is nowhere to stop to consult a map can sometimes be a challenge, so arriving at a junction in lucky possession of a sign is always a welcome sight.
A similar thing occurs with research. You know what you are looking for and have a good idea where to find it, but occasionally the finding aids let you down. It might be due to variations in spelling, an error in transcription, or simply that the place or person you are searching for has not been indexed. This calls for some creative thinking and innovative tactics to track down, for example, Anna Dunstan resulting in the discovery that she was actually Hannah Denstone. Search aids, like signposts, are crucial to leading you in the right direction, but can also divert you off your intended path when you spot an intriguing candidate that is impossible to resist.
Sometimes, however, there is the delightful experience of coming across a fascinating place just by following your nose and seeing where you end up or, in the case of research, turning the pages of a document or newspaper and discovering a tantalising morsel of information that you might never have otherwise found by following the conventional signs. Whatever the destination, heading off the beaten track can sometimes be the most rewarding.