Volunteering was part of my #teacher5aday pledge for 2018 and one way to fulfill this was to put a proposal to the Rushcliffe Ramblers to organise navigation training events for their members. This they accepted and I recently completed the first event in heat wave conditions using a 7.2 miles countryside walking route. Going back to 2015 I devised a land navigation model which I used when teaching students this topic. The model was developed using the following sequence that would be used in typical land navigation situations. From this sequence I devised a set of concepts that corresponded to each question within this framework:
- Where are you starting from? Concept – detection
- Where are you heading to? Concept – destination
- Which way are you going? Concept – direction
- How far are you going to travel? Concept – distance.
These concepts: detection; destination; direction and distance form part of a conceptual system and each concept was defined by a set of critical characteristics. This idea was developed into ‘The 4 D’s of Land Navigation Model’ and my findings were published in the Institute of Outdoor Learning’s ‘Horizons’ magazine issue 73 Spring 2016 under the title: “Land navigation, coaching concepts”. I used this model in the first navigation training event I organised with the Rushcliffe Ramblers.
Outline of techniques and activity relating to The 4 D’s of Land Navigation Model
Each bullet point listed below was mentioned during the activity and where applicable demonstrated. I have placed each discussion point under the most appropriate concept in ‘The 4 D’s of Land Navigation Model.’ The points listed provide evidence that even a walk in rural low level countryside knowledge of a wide range of navigation techniques are required.
- Locating position on map. This is aided by folding the map so that only the immediate area is being viewed and keeps focus avoiding distracting information.
- Setting a map by using the compass and setting a map by observation.
- Observation – take account of features directly in one’s immediate surroundings to assist in confirming location. These can include contour details. Don’t be taken in by features in the middle and far distance.
- Knowledge of map signs and symbols.
- Using senses such as sound to assist in ascertaining location.
- Explained that a grid reference covers an area not a specific point. A 4 figure GR covers an area of 1km2 and a 6 figure GR covers an area of 100m2.
- Discussed moving slightly from current point for intelligence gathering to ascertain location.
- Observation above the landscape e.g. power lines can be useful to ascertain location.
- Completed a location exercise relating to a point not represented on a map.
- Discussed types of Rights of Way and how these are represented on a map and in the field.
- Explained using a compass when entering a large field and taking a bearing will aid finding the exit when it cannot be seen.
- Anticipate what the next part of the route will look like.
- Explored using prominent visual features to assist in attaining our destination.
- Types of compass. Identified parts of a baseplate compass: index point; direction of travel arrow; orienting arrow and the magnetic needle.
- Demonstrated how to take a map bearing to establish direction.
- Used sign posts and signs to assist in direction finding. Also taking note of the line by usage.
- Discussed points of reference – these are main features that can be utilised to aid direction finding and to assist in relocation if required.
- Demonstrated using the ‘thumbing’ technique whereby the thumb is moved along the map as progress is being made. This ensures knowing where we are at any time.
- How field boundaries, represented only on 1:25,000 scale maps, can be utilised relating to the angle of the path and assist in route finding.
- Using field boundaries and water courses as hand rail features to aid direction.
- Described how fenced tracks and unfenced tracks are depicted on a map and in the field using an example on the route.
- Discussed using contour lines and features to aid direction finding.
- Explained that a mirror compass is ideal for taking bearings off distant hills as you will be able to sight on the object without lifting the baseplate as the mirror reflects the compass housing and the bearing required.
- Discussed how to connect with the compass and having it hanging around one’s neck with the supplied cord isn’t the best way. Demonstrated using the cord as a wrist loop and discussed having a much longer length of cord so the compass can be carried away from the neck and in a safer location under the arm so that in a wind it doesn’t fly up and hit them on the cheek. A greater length of cord will enable a more convenient way to use the compass on the map to gain a bearing.
- Map scales for walkers 1:25,000 1:40,000 1:50,000 and explained what these mean.
- Explained that romer scales provide an accurate six figure grid reference and can be used to measure distances. Some compasses have these on their baseplate.
- Demonstrated the use of a romer scale to establish distance and how to use the millimetre scale in the same way but this required calculation.
- Mentioned Naismith’s Rule for estimating walking time but in the area where we were walking in there was no need to apply the ascent formula. However, if the walk is in a mountain area and peaks are to be gained then this is essential to take into account.
- Also mentioned Tranter’s Variations which is a more complicated system as it takes account of fitness level; weight of load carried; underfoot and weather conditions.
- Discussed using a Smart phones fitness app to provide a guide to distance covered / completed. This app is akin to an analogue pedometer as it uses a motion sensor and therefore doesn’t drain the battery like when using a GPS function.
- Discussed using digital mapping such as supplied by the Ordnance Survey which traces the route taken and provides cumulative distances. However, need to be aware that this can drain the battery of the device used.
Compasses taken to show participants
The Silva Expedition, which I used throughout the walk and has romer scales on its base plate.
A Suunto mirror compass and demonstrated its use in taking a field bearing without raising the base plate as the mirror reflects the bezel and bearing.
A basic Silva version which I didn’t show as attendees had similar versions.
Notes on Leading a Walk
Where relevant discussed leading a walk and in particular the ability to switch off from navigating to chat with the group and when to switch on again to concentrate on the route finding. The latter required points of reference in order to identify when to do this. A walk recce may be done a few months from when they are actually leading a walk and there may be seasonal differences to take account of which can include farming techniques. For example, a path that was easy to follow may have been ploughed out with no trace.
Feedback from participants directly after activity was positive. Also the walks organiser received positive feedback from participants which they passed on to me. I will certainly be using ‘The 4 D’s of Land Navigation Model’ in future navigation training events for the Rushcliffe Ramblers.
Land navigation, coaching concepts – link to my article published in the Institute of Outdoor Learning’s ‘Horizons’ magazine issue number 73 Spring 2016:
Link to my Scoop-It curation site which has a range of information on land navigation techniques and includes videos: