Getting on the right track in the Dales

Thursday 23 March 2017

Trips Manager Ben brushes up on his navigation skills in the Yorkshire Dales.


The picture postcard village of Burnsall was the setting for my first steps into navigation. The little village is one of the most beautiful in the Yorkshire Dales, and our group met at 9am at the local pub for a one day map reading course run by Mark Reid of TeamWalking.

Once everyone had arrived and settled in with a cuppa, Mark went around the group for introductions. We all said what we hoped to gain from the course and what rating we would give our current navigation skills out of 10. Ratings mainly ranged from zero to five although there were two brave souls who ventured a six. 

I rated myself a four. I don’t get lost on the way to the corner shop, but much further than that and I may need to bring out Google Maps. Once the introductions were complete, Mark gave us a rundown of the day before we ventured onto the village green to begin working on our skills.

Out on the green, a course was laid out using cones. In pairs, Mark used the cone course to teach us the basics of setting your map and following simple directions. We came together as a group for a task that showed the importance of an effective strategy too.

The cones were then safely stowed away, and it was time to head to the hills. Into the Dales we went and began to learn about using features to determine our position and set our map to ensure we know where we are and where we need to go. 

Features turned out to be the best way to find where you are on the map, utilising whatever is around such as roads, hills or specific buildings. Mark also took this chance to drill the four D’s of navigation permanently into our brains: Direction, Distance, Duration and Description. These four key steps will ensure you have properly planned your route and know you are on course to reach the destination safely.


The course was based from the picture-postcard village of Burnsall

The rest of the morning was spent learning and honing more key skills, such as our 100m step count and average walking speeds in varying conditions. As well as teaching us this, Mark was also a font of knowledge about navigation, Ordnance Survey maps and the general area around Burnsall.

After a quick pit stop for our lunch, Mark went through what we had all brought with us in our bag for a day up on the hills. Although we thought we were decently prepared, he blew us all out of the water with his collection of shelters and more. And what was the most important thing to bring out in the hills…Kendal mint cake, of course!

Once we’d finished lunch, the fun and games really started. In our pairs, we each took a turn at drawing up a map for the rest of the group to follow to get to our specified location. Sounds simple, right? Well, there was a twist. You could only use either drawings or words for the group to follow. Me and my partner drew the short straw as we went first. It’s safe to say our drawing map wouldn’t win any prizes anytime soon (except the Turner prize maybe) but it did get the group successfully from A to B. Eventually.

As we all gave the task ago, it became clear just how important the four D’s are. Forget just one, and navigation becomes a lot more difficult. As well as improving our navigation, it was also a great team building exercise that really highlighted how important good communication is for success. It was easy to see how it could be a worthwhile exercise for businesses of any size. 

We were on the home stretch then and made it back to the pub, just as it was getting dark, for a well-earned pint. Over our drinks, we all recapped the day and reassessed our new and improved navigation ratings. I rerated my starting point, realising there was no way I was a four before, more like a 2! Now I’d say comfortably a four, maybe even a five! We all improved, but the biggest would be those who went from zero to four, an improvement of infinity percent! All in all, it was a great day, we all learned a lot, and it was fantastic fun to boot. Now we just need to practice, practice, practice!

Do the same course as Ben

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