Map skills training report

Seven intrepid TRECies – Fran, Philippa, Caroline, Nicola, Joanne, Ruth and Tracy joined Evie O’Keeffe at the Waterside Discovery Centre, Wintersett for a full day’s training on a range of map and compass skills, incorporating woodland training, grids and bearings.

Evie first explained a few hints and tips for keeping track of your position on a map using landmarks around you, and discussed how to use your horse’s strides to help to track distance travelled if there is nothing else around.

The first exercise delegates worked on was planning a strategy for a section of route through a forest – rather than just seeing a mass of green they learned to read the contour lines, ponds, streams, rights of way and type of woodland to give them more confidence in locating themselves and describe what they would expect as they rode along. They also did the maths for number of strides on each track, and worked out the bearing to set off on at each decision point.

The next exercise was grid references, which was tricky to begin with. All participants received a romer to help them to plot the grid references precisely, and got to keep them for use in competition.

Fran very helpfully brought along a previous competition map and showed everyone how she marks up her map with kms using a small piece of plastic with a 4cm line on to assist with speed calculations, and several people had brought along different examples of speed cards.

We then discussed how to find out your location by analysing the tracks and features around you or using triangulation, either at the end of the bearings section or because you have got a bit lost.

After lunch we all went for a walk in the woods, and quickly realised how important it is to keep track of exactly where you are on the route. Then in to a bearings section including some hills which got everyone nicely warmed up, and illustrated how the number of strides can be affected by terrain and slope – on average adding 25% more strides than expected on the flat.

After a brief rest, the team were then given grid references in the woods – Evie was kind enough to put this ‘checkpoint’ at a clearing with benches to lean on although this is rare at competitions! The grid references were plotted much more quickly now out in the fresh air, and everyone found it easy to follow the route they plotted back to the venue.

By the end of the day everyone’s brains were aching (including Evie’s!) but reports from the delegates were that it had been a very useful, interesting day and good value for money at only £10 for members. Hopefully this report will help everyone to remember the things we covered.

This training will be run again in September and will be ideal for anyone thinking of making the leap up to level three at the end of the season.

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