Eight people from London GOC met at Tring station on a fine late autumn morning for an informal navigation workshop in the Chilterns. The participants were a mixture of complete novices at navigation and those who had learned use of map and compass at some point in the past, but needed to refresh their skills.
We started with a demonstration of the use of pacing to measure distances. The nearest road junction happened to be exactly 200 metres from the station. The leader, using skills learned on a formal navigation course in Scotland, demonstrated the number of paces needed to walk 100 metres. Participants were amazed to find that almost exactly the same number of paces took them to the junction.
We stopped for an early lunch at The Valiant Trooper in the pretty village of Aldbury. This was a 'working lunch' in the sense that we continued to talk about navigation techniques and to study the maps while we were waiting for our food to arrive.
Throughout the day different people took it in turns to navigate legs varying from a few hundred metres to a couple of kilometres, so that by the end everyone had had a couple of goes and gained a significant practical insight into the use of various techniques including timing, grid references, understanding map symbols, interpreting contours and following compass bearings.
Most of the early part of the afternoon was spent on the wooded Ashridge Estate with its myriad of trails, which presented a particular kind of navigational challenge and showed that compass bearings can be very useful (for picking out the correct path) even in areas where there are lots of signposts and other people around.
The clocks had gone back an hour that morning so by mid-afternoon we had to decide whether to head straight back to the station or extend our walk. As the weather was great and no one was in a hurry to get back to London, we opted to continue and see how the techniques we had been learning would work in diminishing light. In fact, by the time we got back to the station, at about 5.45pm it was fully dark. We had covered about 11km in total and had only gone astray a couple of times, but this was all part of the process of learning.