Printer Friendly Version 3 July 2017

Learn a Skill, Climb a Hill


The phrase may be a little bit corny  but for many learning how to use a map and compass provides a gateway to the higher fells of Britain. If not the higher fells, having the confidence to read and interpret a map (and use a compass when the cloud comes down)  will give anyone the confidence to venture a little further and enjoy our wonderful landscape.

I run a number of Navigation courses through the year (for both beginners and those with some skills but want to develop them). Before the day starts it is good to find out why people have come on the course. 

There are 4 main reasons, summarised as follows.

“I have always followed someone else”

“I have never been able to understand a map”

“What happens if I get lost/the cloud comes down”

“I’ve always just used a guide book/written instructions”

People just need CONFIDENCE . I often wonder how many people are watching a delightful TV programme on some aspect of the outdoors and would like to visit the featured area but just do not have any confidence to do it…therefore they don’t. They are totally unaware that taking any of the walks described on this website is dead easy, all you need to do is understand a map and in, only some cases, a compass.

Attending a Navigation Course for 1 or 2 days opens up a new world, I would urge anyone to attend one, not only are they informative but they tend to be fun. I only ever operate in small groups (6 or less) so the learning really is tailored for the individual. There is a couple of hours indoors in our village pavilion before heading in to the beautiful Dales countryside.

One of the great advantages I have in running the courses out of Long Preston is that it is not popular so the paths are not so easy to follow and more challenging as a result! The countryside is simply rarely visited because it is so unknown.

 There is a lot of information on a Navigation Day but really only a few key issues:

  • Orientating the Map: Initially this is done with a compass, but soon orientating will become second nature by simply using using the lie of the land and features nearby. Apart from helping you travel in the right direction the main benefit of orientating the map is for the walker to relate the map to the land around so a picture of what to expect is formed.

  • Boundaries: There is so much detail on the Ordnance Survey Explorer maps it is sometimes not easy to pick out what is most important. Almost inevitably the continuous black lines are most important, these boundaries (walls, hedges, fences) offer easy landmarks to follow and can be relied upon in any weather.
  • Taking a Bearing: Simple to do (only 2 stages) and great to give you confidence that the direction you are travelling is correct . Mainly this will be in cloud but sometimes it may be to make sure you are on the correct path (those pesky sheep tracks/farm tracks can be confusing and have led many an unsuspecting walker astray)
  • Look around: Sounds obvious but (maybe because it is a course) there is a tendency to spend too long looking at the map rather than looking around at the features. The easiest way to avoid this is to break the walk in to legs, look at the map at the start of the leg and then  tick off the features as you pass them.  After all walks are meant to be fun!
  • Contours: Not only do contour lines represent the steepness of the slopes but also which direction they (and therefore you) are facing, the shapes they provide (whether representing a valley or a shoulder), any obvious feature that is a ring contour and many other distinct features. It is after all the features that makes the map 3D.

A final piece of advice is to buy your local map and go for a walk. It matters not whether you are in the suburbs, a city or out in the country just relate the map to where you are walking and gain the confidence to go further. 

For full details of our 1 and 2 day Navigation Courses please Click Here and have a look at some of the feedback at the foot of the page.

Enjoy your walking

Jonathan

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