The Joys of Map Reading

Last month I enthused about Nordic Walking and I have to say, I am over the moon with the response! There are now two nearly full classes in Settle every week, and I have just launched two sessions starting from Long Preston too.

I enjoyed a two week break with my family at the end of August, and as always, we like to try to explore somewhere new. Our map box is so full, we can hardly squeeze another one in there, but we can never resist buying the OS Explorer Map of a new destination. The little shop at our glorious coastal campsite on the Gower Peninsula in South Wales stocked the map we needed. Now, I hear you say, the way forward is digitally these days. But there is nothing nicer than spreading a real, paper map out and planning your next adventure over a mug of coffee!  What’s more, the newest OS maps come with a free digital download code, so that meant that I could head out on my bike with the paper map to do some exploring on bridleways whilst my husband downloaded the digital version onto his OS App on to do a run or take the kids out on a nice, circular walk. By the end of week 1, we had explored walks through the dunes, bridle ways to the nearest village shop, footpaths to the surf shop and local pub, a stunning coastal bike route that turned out to be a regular short cut to the next village, saving miles of driving and some lovely, long, exploratory bike rides to help me prepare for my upcoming Way of the Roses challenge.

With a chill in the air already most mornings, Autumn is clearly on its way, and that means the hills can throw unexpected challenges at us – all it takes is a bit of rain, a stiff breeze and then the cloud dropping lower, and suddenly, you’re not only wet and feeling the windchill effect, but you’re also disorientated, you’ve slowed down as you search for the right path, it’s getting dark and that only makes you colder. From this point, things start to get serious and you consider calling for help.

A typical half day navigation course teaches you not only how to read an OS map, but also how to be hill safe. We cover equipment and clothing, weather forecasts, basic compass skills, how to call for help in an emergency and plan a route that is achievable before nightfall.  Advanced courses venture off marked paths onto open moorland to look more closely at tiny features and the lay of the land and we practise compass and pacing skills that will lead you safely off a foggy fell or help you reach that much wanted summit in poor visibility.

Jo navigating her way to the summit of PenYFan in the Brecon Beacons, South Wales. No view for me that day!

What better time than now to upskill and prepare yourself for the next adventure! Map reading is a life skill to enjoy and share with friends and pass on to the next generation. Children just love spotting things on an open map! Just try unfolding a map at the table and watch as fingers trail along paths and you all start question where you are, where you have been, where you would like to go next… Let’s divert off and go find that stone circle! I fancy nipping up that hill -it’s only another 50m climb. Ooh, look, there’s a little circuit perfect for an evening walk! It’ll take us an hour… With map reading skills in your back pocket, you’ll be hill safe for this coming winter season and also practising the skills for future holiday explorations whether home or abroad!

I’ve had an awesome summer holiday from walking to a local pub for a family lunch out to cycling over high passes in the Brecon Beacons, with the confidence that I had enough daylight left to achieve the route I had planned.

If you are interested in booking a navigation course this Autumn, the following half day sessions are available:

Beginners: Tuesday 28th September and Tuesday 5th October, Saturday 2nd October

Intermediate: (able to read basic map features to find marked footpaths) – Tuesdays 12th , 19th October, Saturday 9th October

Sessions cost £20 per person.*

Please note, a minimum of 3 people is required for a course to go ahead, but 1:1 or 1:2 courses are also available at £60/ £80 respectively.

Call 07966 981985 or email jowulf@wolftracks.co.uk to book a place.

Published by Jo Wulf

Summer Mountain Leader Rock Climbing Instructor Teacher, Linguist Busy Mum Mountain Rescue volunteer

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