I like to print out a map of the area and draw the route on it. It makes it easy to find my location en-route. OS active maps allow you to draw directly on to the map with a sharpie and then wipe clean once your done with mail varnish remover!
Still not feeling confident
Hire a guide or ask someone who knows what they’re doing. WildWays can offer quick and simple online tutorials in map reading to get you started. Contact WildWays directly for more information. Once out of lockdown, we can offer face to face tuition in map reading skills for all levels and keep an eye on our events page.
Need some inspiration
Head to Al Humphreys’ website for inspiration on microadventures and using only a single map of your home area to explore.
And it’s really that simple. Look for the footpaths on the map. Look for something that could be interesting such as a river, lake or hill (if you have any!) and go and find out what’s there. Just as simple as walking from your doorstep. If it turns out to be really boring, then at least you know not to go there again, or at least not for a very long time.
I live in Doncaster. It’s flat and not at all like the Peak District where I love to go out tramping across the moors and scrambling up the cloughs. However, we’re in a lockdown and I like walking. I have Fridays off, the dog still needs his walk, so I may as well fill it with a 4 hour long walk.
I’ve obviously been on all the very local paths whilst out running and walking the dog, but there were a few which I wasn’t quite sure where they went. I also wanted to check out the footpaths and tracks near some farms. I follow these steps every time I go out for longish walk.
Plan a route
This took me about 5 minutes on OS maps on my phone as I roughly plotted a route to see how far it was. 12mile (20km) would be very suitable for what I was wanting. You have obviously got to plan according to your fitness, time available and what you want to get out of the walk.
Assess the risks
Before I go on any longer walks, I always think if there’s any alternatives or ‘escape routes’. For example, if the weather turns bad and I want to get back quickly, if I’m tired or the dog hurts himself. This walk was only around 12 miles so I would never be that far from civilization or a walk home. There were two things that could potentially cause problems for me:
- The footpaths didn’t exist anymore due to new houses being built.
- The footpaths didn’t exist because they were underwater with all the rain and flood we’ve had lately!
I thought I’d chance it. After all, I was never really that far from home.
Check the weather
Think about the wind, any rain and any temperature changes. Will I need my rain jacket or an extra warm layer? I normally use a number of weather apps when heading into the hills but because I’m in the lowlands, I just use the MetOffice app.
Pack some snacks and fluid
I always have something in the freezer to take out with me for a walk. It saves faffing around making something on the day, it’s usually really tasty and when the time comes around to eat it, it will have defrosted. On this particular day, I took out a bagel, bacon and cheese muffin and banana bread. I made up a flask of sugary tea and took a chilly bottle of water, and some treats for the dog of course.
Just get out there
And that’s it. Very little prep and the more you do it, the quicker you get at it. Easier said than done I know, but on this occasion I needed no persuading. The sun was shining and I’d been feeling a bit down all week, so I was really looking forward to stepping outside with the dog and exploring somewhere new.
Walking from my doorstep
Within 10 minutes of walking, we bumped into our new neighbours, four highland cows on Wildlife Trust land near our home. Another 10 minutes down the lane and there are several man-made lakes, created so that the material from the lakes would be used to raise the ground to build giant warehouse sheds. Over the last few years, as the area has become a little more mature, wildlife and waterfowl have made their home here and it’s frequented regularly by migrant visitors.
Boring bits but then I found peace
The next bit of path was a bit boring, walking next to a main road and then through some housing, but after an hour and a half we were in open fields. The sun was shining and I couldn’t hear traffic anymore – I could only hear nature. It was the sound of the wind and the sound of skylarks. This is what I was looking for – my ‘wild’. It was my happy place. Away from people, away from noise. Just me and the dog. It wasn’t the most beautiful scenery I’ve walked in and it certainly wasn’t natural (farmland and drainage swales, ditches and drains) but I was in nature.
We passed through a farm (all nicely sign-posted) and followed the track to another small holding where we headed over some more fields, stopping for a bite to eat, sheltered by a hedge. At the end of the this track, I was back in territory that I was familiar with. 3 more miles and we were home.
4 hours out in nature and 12 miles walked. Not bad for walking from your doorstep. Next week, I think I’ll try and head a different direction.
WildWays offer bespoke navigational skills as well as guided walks (once lockdown restriction are lifted). Keep up to date with our activities by following WildWays on social.
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