What adventures did I have this weekend? Oh, I was on top of a mountain summit in the dark, got my compass bearing slightly wrong and then it started sleeting. All for fun!
If you’re wondering what on earth I was doing, my adventure this weekend was a three-day NNAS navigation course at Buckden, in the Yorkshire Dales. Inspired by national map reading week and feeling the need to improve my skills properly on all things navigation, I booked my course with Team Walking. Hopefully I would gain a NNAS (National Navigation Award Scheme) Silver award.
Over the three days our group had some indoor sessions before Mark, our course leader, took us out on the hills and along the river for some practical experience. The first morning we learnt about route planning, and measuring and pacing. My maths is horrendous at the best of times, but stood on a freezing riverbank I couldn’t do the simplest of sums. Had I failed this already?! It was a fun day, at one point I had to walk across a field with my eyes closed, and we had lunch in a church in the village of Hubberholme. As it got dark we were making our way over the hills back down to Buckden, but I had my trusty headtorch to light my way. Or so I thought. A pathetic little light emitted from my headtorch and I was reliant on my new friends to help light the path. I’d checked the torch at home around the house, it’s travelled to China with me, but in a proper outdoor situation in the hills it just wasn’t good enough. An important lesson learnt and a quick letter to Santa written!
Our second day we spent learning about contours and compass bearings and were out in the hills on open access land. Lunch was at an iron age settlement and later as the sun set, we walked up to the summit of Buckden Pike. As we looked across the landscape we could see in the distance the Yorkshire Three Peaks, with the sun setting it was spectacular and I was gutted my phone battery had died so I didn’t get a picture.
We waited for it to get dark whilst sheltering in a storm shelter tent and planning our route back down. Something else for my list, these tents are great and we were certainly a lot warmer than outside in the freezing elements. It was an interesting descent down, it had started sleeting just as we got some compass bearings wrong, and despite another headtorch and two wrapped around my wrists I still was struggling with the light! In pairs, we navigated our way back down to Buckden along an old Roman road. We stopped on the way back down, turning all the torches off and marvelling at the wonderful starry night. If it hadn’t been absolutely freezing with chances of hypothermia, I could have stayed up there and watched the stars for hours. My kids would have loved it up there.
The third day was assessment day. I could have been physically sick! Could I demonstrate I was competent? After another classroom session, we set off up the road to a moorland path for our day in Upper Wharfedale. It was my turn first to lead the rest of the group to a location our course leader Mark circled on the map. I was nervous and doubting my timings, however, I got to where we needed to be. We each took turns all day to find different locations on the map using our new skills. Lunch was on a limestone pavement! On my last task to lead the group I did have a little panic, but deep breath and lots of encouragement from my new friends and I set off. I couldn’t really miss the ravine and stream I was trying to find!
I really enjoyed myself despite the little panics and confidence doubting. I learnt so much and can’t wait to go out and practise, although maybe not on top of Buckden Pike in the dark without a decent head torch. Hopefully Santa will bring me a new one!
Did I get my Silver NNAS award? Well yes, I did!
All views are honest and my own, I received no incentive to write this.
Have you done any map reading or navigations courses?