I’ve always had a bit of a thing for maps. I could spend hours looking at them, exploring the wilds from the comfort of home. When it came to using maps to navigate, apart from a few basic school geography lessons, I was self-taught. This had its disadvantages, mainly in sticking only to well marked paths as I had no confidence in my ability which limited the walks I would do. The advantage was that I had no idea about how pace or time, or how to use a compass other than to know which way was north, which meant I had to interpret what I could see around me to what was on the map.
Now I have been taught ‘technical’ navigation, I need to practice before my assessment. The best way to do this is something called micro-navigation. If you look closely at an OS 1:25000 map, there are tiny details, perhaps a few millimetres in size on the map: micro-navigation is finding these on the ground. The trickiest can be something called ring contours. Contour lines, orange on an OS 1:25000 map, show the height change on the ground in 5 metre intervals. A ring contour is a small patch of ground that is just high enough to breach the next contour: the challenge is that this could be that the ground around the ring contour is 4.9m higher than the last contour and the area in the ring contour is 5.1m. Now cover this in heather and bilberry bushes and it all gets interesting! This is where pacing comes in: if you know how many steps it takes to walk a distance you can measure how far you need to walk on the map.
So that was today’s entertainment! There is a special kind of contentment when you look at the map, look around you, then back at the map and smile quietly when you know exactly where you are. And then you have definitely earned cake.