Have you ever tried to follow a path on the map but got confused as you couldn’t see it in the landscape around you?
A common mistake that people make is that they don’t understand what the symbols on their map actually mean. Take the map above for example on which there are several symbols that might confuse the unwary navigator.
The black dots show near Crowden Head
These are actually a Civil Parish boundary; an imaginary line separating two Parishes that has nothing to do with paths on the ground!
The black dashes at the top right and close to the Pennine Way
This is the symbol for a path that exists on the ground. But be careful with this as there are also lots of paths on the ground made by sheep or deer for example that aren’t shown on the map!
The green dashed line running NW – SE through the centre of the map
This is a Public Right of Way (footpath). And this is where a lot of people slip up as the symbol is a political designation (i.e. by law you have a legal right to be there) but it does not mean that there will always be a path on the ground. Anyone who has tried to run or walk across Kinder Scout following the public footpath symbol will know that the “path” doesn’t exist.
The green diamonds signify a National Trail
In this case the Pennine Way. As these tend to be more popular walking routes there is more likelihood that there will be a path on the ground, however if you look closely on the map to the north east of Red Brook you’ll see that the Pennine Way runs through steep ground whereas to the east of it, the black path symbol keeps to the higher ground. Ask yourself “Are there really two paths there or is the Pennine Way symbol an arbitrary line on the map?”
So with all these things to confuse you how do you make sure that the path you’re on is the one you want to be on?
Look at the contour lines
Whilst paths may come and go due to animal and human feet, the shape of the landscape will remain. A hill will always be a hill, a valley likewise. So if your intended path is supposed to take you downhill and you find yourself running on the flat, stop – something isn’t right.
Check the compass
Look at the direction that you want to be going and check that you are actually going that way. It is all too easy to run along a path that gradually changes direction. If you should be going north and you’re not, then again something is wrong! Too many runners stick their compass in their bumbag only to get it out when they are lost.. too late! Keep it handy and check that the direction you’re running is the right one!
If you are on Access Land then you have a legal right to roam anywhere – you don’t have to stick to public rights of way. This is shown by the thick beige line on the map and the symbol on gates or stiles.
So the moral of the story: Just because you’re on a path doesn’t mean it goes where you want to go!
Do you need to improve your navigation skills? Click for more information about my Navigation Skills Courses.