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How do you add accuracy to your navigation?

When no-mad teach navigation we talk about the need to See, Describe (and if you can, Remember).

This "seeing" and "describing" needs to happen on the map, and in the real world. And, move back and forth between those two. Think of the stereotypical view of a navigator with their head down in the map. They are missing a world of clues in the real world, all around them.

On the recent Dolgellau Deluge folk taking part needed to find a 1cm x 6cm copper tag (A BUCKET) so their navigation needed to be really accurate.

BUT, they weren't given detailed co-ordinates, so how could they find the tags?

Here's an example of the information they were given.

Notice that the grid reference given is a six figure reference. Which means the error available for a navigator can be enormous. The grid reference gives as accuracy to 100m. So, for this example the mapping looks like this:

The black pin is the location of SH 729 180.

The blue line is 100m and the green circle then shows an area of 100m around that grid reference.

The start/finish is at the red star.

Really unsurprisingly, every one found the start. And thats because, they didn't focus on the grid reference, all saw the picture and remembered that from somewhere else, their previous experience. The description then let them dial into the rainbow sculpture (where they found the gold!).

Transfer this out into unfamiliar areas and the need to see is in the terrain around us. So, whilst the co-oridnate will put them within an area (about 3 acres!). Dolgellau Deluge was set up with the stress of time, the stress of decision making, so the chances of finding at BUCKET in 3 acres is minimal, so how were folk finding these?

The clue is in accepting that navigation isn't just a logical science, it's also a bit of an art.

Yes, there is a clear process that we follow when we navigate, but there is also a massive need to really look, and feel the landscape that we're in.

So, rather than always having an expectation that we can march at a specific point, we need to be softer, and be able to really See and Describe what it is we're looking at.

If we can See (on a map, and in the landscape) and Describe those things we are seeing we unlock the ability to navigate.

In the example of Dolgellau Deluge, the grid reference gave a very broad description, the picture gave a familiar set of images for our eye to see, and then a description enabled really detailed navigation to zoom down from 3 acres, to 6cm x 1cm. What amazing navigators they all were!

We navigate all the time, for an example, on a walk to the shops. Even from the front door to the toilet in our won home is navigation. We probably see things that we recognise, and remember the way that we need to turn. This turns into a story in our heads, and so is easier to recall. However, when we pick up an unfamilar map, or are under time pressure, or any other stresses we need to rely on a logical repeatable approach, to unlock the art of navigation.

To answer the title - How do you add accuracy to your navigation? The easiest way is to add to your ability to see and describe things. And, the only way to do that is to build confidence in your ability to see and describe. Whether it is a small notch in a contour, a slope aspect, or any of the symbols and marks on a map, unless you can actually describe what you're going to see on the ground, you're going to miss the wonder of navigation!

As a navigator I love to challenge myself, and do regularly because it's a skill that fades. However, being a great navigator doesn't make you a good teacher of navigation. Teaching navigation takes a whole lot of other skills - see what other people think of the teaching at no-mad Adventures on our Google Reviews.

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