Guest blogger and professional navigation guru Sam Sykes talks to us about safely getting to grips with walking in the Peak District...

The Peak District is a fantastically accessible place for so many, with its spectacular scenery and outstanding walking routes it is an incredibly rewarding place to visit for those who enjoy the outdoors.

To safely enjoy what the hills of the Peak District have to offer, it is important to be able to navigate effectively in varied weather conditions. Walking around the Peak District on a bright sunny day with lots of visibility is the ideal experience, but we all know that the weather can turn quickly, especially in the hills and mountains, and in a situation like that, when you can’t see more than a few yards, it’s important that you can easily use a map and compass with skill so that you can get to your destination safe and sound.

I have been teaching people to navigate in the hills and mountains of the UK and overseas for nearly two decades, and my company does the same for thousands of people each year. Our Duke of Edinburgh’s Award expedition and Mammut Mountain School courses all involve a lot of focus on robust navigation capability for the participants.

To get started with learning to navigate, it is worth exploring any navigation training courses on offer around the UK. A short day will do the world of good for your skill level, and confidence.

Following this, get to an outdoor shop and buy a good quality compass, and map of the area you are looking to explore, a 1:25,000 scale is best for detail when walking in the hills. In my opinion, familiarising yourself with the map is a really important first step. Allow time to understand what all of the details on your map mean - what is a road, river, railway, forest and hill. In your own time allow the information to percolate through, so that the map no longer looks like a mish-mash of confusion. In the UK we have some of the most accurate and clear mapping in the world, and the detail they contain gives you a huge amount of information so that you can interpret how your map relates to the ‘real world’ setting you will be in.

"I find that being able to relate the map to your surroundings is 90% of navigation. Always ensure that you ‘set the map’ so that north on your map is actually pointing north in real life. This makes understanding your surroundings much simpler. When it comes to your compass, make sure you know which way north is from the needle. Have a play with your compass at home, so it becomes familiar- it sounds simple but trust me, it works! For a more in-depth understanding of navigation, check out all of the really helpful content online, and/or try out one of the navigation courses I suggested."

When you embark on an adventure in the Peak District, it is important that you know the countryside code and also which places are accessible to the public, and which areas are not. Footpaths, and bridleways are clearly marked on maps, as is access land. Always make sure you stick to the footpaths and access land, and don’t venture into places you shouldn’t.

The Peak District may have idyllic views, but never become complacent. There are areas of incredibly steep and dangerous ground for the uninitiated. With your navigation practice, you will quickly understand where these areas are, so that you don't have any unintended consequences!

In the Peak District, Edale is one of my favourites. It has something for everybody, and is an ideal place as any to explore with your new navigation skills. As with any excursion into the hills, make sure you have an accurate weather forecast before you set off, and the appropriate equipment in your rucksack. If the weather is looking challenging, don’t risk it. The hills and mountains will always be there for you, and the cafes and pubs in the area are a brilliant alternative to an epic in the hills.

In summary, consult a professional instructor before you venture out, you will learn loads and feel confident in your abilities. Nothing beats experience, and all of us continue to learn whatever our ability.

So, stay safe and have fun!

This has been published as a part of #UniqueDistrict. From the 22nd of September to the 12th of October, using this hashtag across Twitter and Instagram could end with you bagging some amazing Mammut jackets! So, get tagging when your sharing your Peak District experiences on social media.

Read more about this competition here.




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