“It was just lying by the riverbank,” he said. “We’d already walked a good 40 miles by that point. But I picked it up with the intention of trying to find the chap who had been wearing it.”
The chance encounter occurred during last year’s Trailtrekker charity walk, the annual 100km endurance trek around the Yorkshire Dales. Walkers form teams of four and walk through the night to raise funds for Oxfam.
Mr Woolfson, a director with a London-based law firm, had seen the owner of the hat earlier along the 62-mile circuit.
“We kept on bumping into this chap from Norway,” he said. “After we finished I contacted Oxfam to see if they knew who he was, so I could return the hat.”
The mystery man turned out to be Marius Schrecker, an IT technician from Stavanger on the west coast of Norway. Mr Woolfson sent an email to inform him he had found his hat.
“That is absolutely wonderful news,” Mr Schrecker wrote back. “The hat was given to my grandad to keep his bald head warm in the winter! I inherited it when he died... I was very sad at the prospect of losing it!”
Now the pair have decided to join forces to take on the 62-mile challenge together this year.
“It felt like a (Haruki) Murakami novel,” Mr Woolfson smiled. “The hat was telling me to do it!”
He will be joined by his friend Helen Roberts, based in Leeds, while Mr Schrecker will bring an American friend Lisa Bingham.
The team’s name will, perhaps inevitably, be ‘Hat-Trek’.
Trailtrekker 2012 takes place on May 26-27. To sign up, visit www.oxfam.co.uk/trailtrekker.