At the sign of the “Map and Compass”

by David Murray on 11 January 2012

in Mountain Biking, Opinion, Outdoor equipment, Walking

Pub signs have provided a way of navigating through the streets for many a century. Instructions such as “Turn left at the Eagle and Child” or “Bear right at the Dog and Duck” have been commonplace.

Yesterday I wrote on our Lake District in Books site a short piece about Ordnance Survey maps. The response has been encouraging with several people stressing the importance of map, compass and the skill to use them. These responses via Twitter and email have led me to write again today, this time on the Around-England blog.

So what has this to do with pub signs? Well it just occurred to me that maybe there should be a warning on footpath signs pointing to the hills with wording such as “Map and Compass – Got them?” Someone could maybe design this incorporating a skull. Far too many people venture onto the hills ill-equipped, risking not only their own lives but also the lives of of the brave volunteers in the mountain rescue teams who would come out if called to rescue them. (See “Another Mountain Rescue Statistic – You? Me?“).

Yes, I know, if it were done there’d be cries of “nanny state” treating us like children. But then, maybe more of us should stop behaving like children and adopt a grown-up attitude of respect toward the mountains and the fells. But no, it’s not a serious suggestion. It is, though, a serious call to whoever reads this.

The map is the first thing, but without a compass it can be difficult to use especially in poor visibility, and once the light starts to go a good handheld or head torch becomes essential too. These should be part of the kit for every walker, but so often are missed. Further up this page I included a graphic of Peter Hawkins’ guidebook, Navigation: Techniques and Skills for Walkers (Cicerone Mini-guide): Using Your Map and Compass. If you’re uncertain as to your navigation skill level please get this book and digest it before your next expedition.

As a little extra help I’m putting here two videos from the Ordnance Survey featuring Simon King, the first on “Know Your Compass”, and the second, “How to Use a Compass”.

OSMapping have an extended series of videos on YouTube to help further.


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