Navigation training events for Ramblers

Navigation training events for Ramblers

Introduction

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.

4 D's Navigation jpeg

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.

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Essential items for navigation – Ordnance Survey 1:25,000 map and a compass

Detection

  • 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.

Destination

  • 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.

Direction

  • 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.
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Sometimes there is just a trace of a path

Distance

  • 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

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Silva Expedition compass with romer scales in 1:25,000; 1:40,000 & 1:50,000

The Silva Expedition, which I used throughout the walk and has romer scales on its base plate.

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Suunto MC-2 G 6400 mils mirror compass

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:

https://www.outdoor-learning-research.org/Portals/0/Research%20Documents/Horizons%20Archive/H73%20Land%20Navigation.pdf?ver=2017-06-26-160655-483

Link to my Scoop-It curation site which has a range of information on land navigation techniques and includes videos:

https://www.scoop.it/t/land-navigation

 

 

 

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Essential Endurance Walking Skills: What to Carry?

Essential Endurance Walking Skills: What to Carry?

Here are some of my personal views when deciding on what to carry on an endurance walk like the 75 mile National Forest Way. This is a trip which I am currently organising and planning to do the walk in three days. On each day I will be walking an average of 25 miles. In this type of activity it is necessary to keep weight down to a minimum to aid enjoyment. Selecting equipment needs thought as when conditions dictate it maybe that you are carrying and not wearing items of clothing. Here you need to be aware that the clothing you use is not only light in weight but is compact and can be easily compressed to reduce volume when packed. Please note that the following observations are based on an endurance walk undertaken in late spring in a low level environment close to human habitation over terrain that consists of public rights of way, paths and tracks.

Equipment for endurance walks

Rucksack

The rucksack is the container for your ‘life support system’ during the trek and this is the starting point to keep weight down. There is no need to have a pack that has all the extras like ice-ax fittings, attachment points for crampons and automatic cup holders! All these add unnecessary weight. For endurance walking in low level terrain I use a pack that has an uncomplicated design, is comfortable to carry, light weight and is around 26 litres capacity. The latter feature is to limit the volume and weight I carry. My current pick of the bunch for endurance walks, and indeed short rambles, is the Black Diamond RPM.  Access to the main body is via a zipped lid and inside is a bladder pouch holder and a front compartment. The lid has a zipped outside pocket and a zipped inside one which includes a clip to hold your keys etc… On the exterior are two mesh pockets each capable of holding a 600ml drinks bottle plus a lunch bar. The volume of the pack can be adjusted by an external draw cord on it’s front face which ensures everything loaded is held tight and close to your back.

Inside the Pack

Waterproof Jacket & Trousers

My most recent addition in outdoor clothing is a Marmot Artemis NanoPro lightweight water proof jacket. I bought this to replace my aging (and leaking) Marmot Preclip jacket. I wanted a lightweight waterproof jacket that had a chest pocket to hold my glasses when it rained hard! And this jacket has said pocket. I have now used it on several occasions including a full day of rain when on the 2014 Seagrave Wolds 16 mile Challenge Walk. It performed perfectly and I remained dry throughout the event. In contrast the oldest item of clothing I am still using is a pair of Rohan overtrousers. I bought these maybe 20 years ago and Rohan’s Waterlight H2P fabric still does the business. Although they are lined they are lightweight and fold up compactly.

Spare Warm Jacket

Again I am going back in time because my Marmot Driclime Jacket from over a decade ago is still the most effective and efficient garment to carry (and wear when needed) providing warmth and an element of wind resistance in a lightweight and compact package. I selected the jacket version with the full length zip to aid getting the garment on and off easily as the need and conditions required. The outer is wind resistant nylon and the inner is a lightweight polyester fleece.

Hat & Gloves

In weather that is forecast to be changeable, which is most of the time in England, I take a warm hat and gloves. These don’t need to be full on mountaineering styles but lightweight and effective ones. My warm hat dates from the last century and is made by Patagonia from their stretch Syncilla fabric whilst my fleece gloves are a similar vintage displaying the Icefall label. A baseball cap is useful just it case the sun decides to come out.

First Aid Kit

The usual stuff: assorted plasters, antiseptic wipes, pain killers and Compeed blister plasters are contained in a fold out pouch. Included in this pouch is a SwissCard due to having a pair of tweezers and a neat pair of scissors along with a tooth pick and nail file! As it is late spring and the sun may be out then it is essential to take sun cream. On recommendation from my daughter, who is a snowboarder, I am taking Piz Buin Mountain Suncream with a 50+ SPF! This provides protection not only from the sun but also cold, wind and high altitudes!

Torch

A trusted Maglite 2 AA cell torch is included in my pack. I will make sure it has a spare bulb in it’s tail and it contains fresh batteries. These essentials, the first aid kit and torch, are kept together in a Lowe Alpine U-shaped mesh bag and then placed in a waterproof bag.

Sit mat

A small piece of closed-cell foam is carried to ensure that when I need to sit down to eat or enjoy the view I can in relative comfort.

Nutrition 

I will carry two 600ml plastic bottles of diluted orange drink for liquid whilst food will consist of a variety of snack bars and dried fruit. This will be supplemented along the way as the route passes through many villages that have shops and some have a pub!

Spares

On a low level walk like this carry spares is not really necessary. Also it is light until late and the essence is to keep moving at a reasonable pace hence not taking the kitchen sink! However, space will be found for a length of paracord which has a multitude of uses including make-do laces.

Keeping it all Dry

Plastic bags will ensure everything is kept dry.

Navigation Aids

Route Plans

I have downloaded the route guides from: http://www.nationalforestway.co.uk/downloads/and have laminated them to protect them from the elements.

Maps

The relevant Ordnance Survey maps will be carried and used: 233, 245 & 246.

Compass

A Silva Type 4 will be taken along as a ‘just in case’.

GPS Receiver

I have one but still debating whether it is worth carrying in this kind of environment. OK it doesn’t weigh much but every kg counts in this game.

I hope you have found this helpful and I welcome comments.

Aiming Off: The Triangulation Pillar

Aiming Off: The Triangulation Pillar

RIN 7 Silva Type 1 ExplorerLAND NAVIGATIONAL TECHNIQUE: AIMING OFF

Introduction

The diagram accompanying this article is based on an overhead projector (OHP) acetate I produced over twenty years ago. On the acetate I used permanent OHP colour pens to help differentiate the various routes, signs and symbols. I can still smell the odour these pens gave off when I opened the cap! OHP’s were built to a military specification to survive a nuclear attack, remember the Cold War, but it had a weakness – bulb failure! Hopefully, if this did occur a spare bulb was located in it’s holder. Unfortunately, nine times out of ten it had already been used and one either had to locate a technician to get a replacement or swap the OHP with another one from the classroom next door. If the latter hoping that a lesson wasn’t in session. Times have changed technology wise in education during this period but the original visual information contained on that acetate still holds strong and the aiming off technique has not altered one iota. Back in the early 1990’s students would have received a black and white photocopy based on that acetate for their records and were encouraged to use colour pencils or fibre-tipped pens to highlight details whilst they copied from the OHP projection thrown onto a screen. Nowadays the information is stored digitally and the file can be printed as a hard copy in full colour, sent to a Virtual Learning Environment, e-mailed or viewed on a SMART board with all the associated interactivity this promotes. All wonderful stuff but the student still needs the ability to apply the aiming off technique in a practical activity. Only when this demonstration has taken place can the actual learning be evidenced. Now back to the topic area of the aiming off technique with a scenario based on the diagram and a rationale for using this navigational method.

Scenario

Whilst on a walk in a moorland area you now have reached location L on your route (see diagram). The next part of your journey is to reach the end of the next leg which you decided will be a trig pillar. The weather has turned and low cloud is drifting over the area creating poor visibility and impairing your observational ability. Now you need to decide what navigation technique needs to be deployed to ensure you reach the trig pillar. As can be seen below there are a few possible outcomes to using a compass bearing.

D = Direct bearing from location L to trig pillar and hits target. Route distance is 1.5km.
A = A more likely route using a direct bearing from location L to trig pillar but error occurs. As you walk you drift to the left of trig pillar and miss the target – a possible situation.
Aiming off = The best option as the distance required for an accurate compass bearing using route 3 is, in this scenario, around a third of the distance using the direct bearing route from location L to the trig pillar objective [D].

Deploying the Aiming Off technique

Bearing [route 1] is taken from location L to forest boundary wall aiming away from the wall corner. Using this bearing the wall becomes a catching feature. Upon reaching it we know that we turn left and now use the wall as a handrail feature [route 2]. We continue to the wall corner and use this as an attack point. We can now take a bearing from the wall corner to the trig pillar and using this bearing walk to our objective [route 3]. This distance, attack point to trig pillar, is much less than the one from location L to trig pillar and therefore likely to be more accurate. To assist accuracy one needs to measure this distance and apply either the double pacing technique or timing to ascertain arrival.

Going back to route A how could you rectify your error? Assuming you are now at the arrowhead on route A you realise you have descended and by map reading note the forest boundary wall also turns down hill. Heading east [route B] you would reach the wall. At the wall you use this as a handrail feature turn right and follow to the wall corner [route C]. Once at the wall corner we now use this feature as an attack point and we can take a bearing to the trig pillar and follow route 3. You may also have realised your error because you did not reach the objective from either time estimation or pace count calculation. Here you need to stop when the error has been realised and either start a sweep search or deploy the aiming off technique using routes B-C-3 stated above.

Rationale for using the Aiming Off technique

When using a base-plate compass care must be taken to ensure the bearing is accurate. However, they are calibrated to 2 degrees and it is easy to move the compass housing to one calibration either side of the intended reading (1). This gives an error of 2 degrees and can easily be more if one is trying to follow that bearing in adverse weather e.g. high wind, rain, mist and snow. Another 3 or 4 degrees error can be added in these conditions which can cumulate to a 6 degree error. The effect of a 6 degree error over a distance of one kilometre is that you will be miss your objective by 105 metres (1)! This has a serious consequence if visibility is only 20 metres. Using this calculation the percentage on a 6 degree error is just over 10%. Worth keeping in mind for the next time you need to use a compass bearing. Ways to avoid compass bearing errors are to be accurate as possible and to keep the distance of the bearing as short as possible. As this cannot always be the case this is where the aiming off technique comes into play. In the example on the diagram the distance from the attack point to the objective [route 3] is around a third less of that from location L to the trig pillar objective [route D] thereby limiting potential errors.

Aiming Off 2Ordnance Survey Triangulation Stations

As the navigational objective of this scenario is a triangulation pillar it is worth mentioning briefly what they are. Triangulation stations were set up in a variety of locations in Britain by the Ordnance Survey for the purposes of mapping. The preferred location was on high ground with a 360 degree view. There are a number of categories of triangulation stations and the most visual is a type of ground station known as a triangulation pillar or trig pillar for short. Triangulation pillars are made from concrete or can be a natural stone pillar (2). They are 1.2m high with a brass plate set into the top to accept a survey instrument (2). The coordinates for triangulation stations have not been realised via ETRS89 and OSTN02. They are the original archive coordinates and can therefore no longer be considered as true OSGB36 National Grid Coordinates of the station (2). The Ordnance Survey no longer uses triangulation pillars as this method of surveying is obsolete. Those that are of a historical significance or located in a site considered to be important are still cared for but many others have been left to decay naturally. However, trig pillars can still be found in their original setting generally in a weathered state and are still used as location indicators. It was a trig pillar’s role as a location indicator that provided the idea to use one as a target for the aiming off technique over twenty years ago. Trig pillars are still in situ today but don’t expect them to be in a gleaming new coat of white paint.

References

1 Peter Cliff Mountain Navigation (1978: 21/22) latest version (2006) ISBN 9781871890556
2 http://www.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/gps/legacy-control-information/triangulation-stations