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Mon 15th April 2013

Map and Compass course

Map and Compass course

Our first Map and Compass course of 2013 was going to be a new start for Shepherds Walks. For many years Russell has led this course, but due to ever increasing workload he has stepped back from this course and Paul Freeman has taken over the reins of this hugely popular course.

Saturday dawned bright and warm for once and Paul breathed a sigh of relief as this was the right weather for an introductory map & compass course (he secretly wants mist and rain for the advanced course in October). Our enthusiastic participants settled into the Parish Hall in Rothbury for a day of two halves like any good game. First half (well a bit shorter than half) was the indoor session getting to grips with maps, compasses and basic navigation techniques. Shepherds Walks supplied us with new compasses and very handy map extracts of the area.

To start with we filled out a short questionnaire of how confident we felt against the topics we were to cover and what key things did we wanted from the day. The idea was that at the end of the day we would do the same again to see if we had learnt anything and if our confidence had improved. We didn’t put Paul under pressure (not much) by saying we wanted ‘fun’ and also to learn ‘what is a map & compass anyway’?

The bulk of the day was working outside through Rothbury and around the Carrigeways. Paul said this was all about ‘undertaking a journey’ to practice what we had learnt and add some new things along the way (he did slip in that we should pay attention as this afternoon pairs of people would be ‘leading the way’!). The morning was spent learning about the grid system & references, contours and taking bearings with compasses. We also discovered that not all ‘Norths’ are the same! Learning was helped by completing some practical exercises on grid references and bearings.

In the afternoon off we went on our ‘journey’. We practiced pacing and timing so that we could measure distance which raised concern from one local dog walker who thought we were lost (not yet….). Up on the carriageways we practiced walking on compass bearings, identifying features in the landscape and testing our pacing to see what happens when you try it for real. We also learnt a new language – all about how to find our way using collecting features, handrails and attackpoints. Each pair led a short section which for most was the first time they had done anything like that.

Paul had said earlier that maps were more than just shapes and colours but offer a ‘window onto the world’ so along the way we saw things we might not have noticed if we had just being out for a normal walk. This included historical artefacts to do with how maps were made in the good old days, ancient archaeology and features that exist in reality but not on the map and vice versa. We finished our journey above Rothbury next to a Bronze age standing stone perhaps one of the earliest navigation tools?

When we got back tired and happy we filled out our questionnaires again and yes, our skills and confidence had improved. 

Mon 15th April 2013

GPS Training

GPS Training

Our GPS training course has evolved over many years but when it is teaching people about technology that keeps evolving it is literally a different course every time we hold it.

As we arrived at Cambo Village Hall early on Saturday morning the weather was warmer and brighter than it had been for a long while and as lots of happy participants started to arrive it gave a real buzz of anticipation of the day ahead.

We loaned GPS units to those who had not already got one so that all participants could take part and with the majority of people with touch screen GPS units it was great to teach everybody on good GPS units.

First of all we did a little background about the technology before going over the set up process you need to go through to get the GPS units to supply you with the information you are wanting.

After a quick break we then went outside for the ‘waypoint game’ which involved manually inputting waypoint data and getting the GPS to navigate us to this point where a question could be answered. Everybody quickly got the hang of this and then we moved on to using the touch screen on the map pages on the GPS units to input this information.

Over lunch Peter gave a quick overview of the Garmin BaseCamp software and also digital maps as we planned on the computer the route for our afternoon GPS walk. We shared this information wirelessly to all the other GPS units and off we went, following a route through the countryside around Cambo.

Upon reaching the end of the route we used the tracklog or backtrack to take us back. It was interesting to compare the differences in navigating using these two different ways and with most people being very proficient at this point with their GPS units we could stop and really go into the finer details including how to display the compass on the map screen and how to change the data fields the GPS is showing you.

Back at the village hall we could then go over what information we had covered and then look at the different GPS units on offer.

A great day was had by all, some great characters, which really made for a good fun day. Thanks everybody for coming along.

Tue 9th April 2013

Leki Nordic Walking Festival

Leki Nordic Walking Festival

At Shepherds Walks we have been Nordic Walking for many years and over that time we have really enjoyed meeting, and Nordic Walking, with many people so what better way to celebrate this than to have a Nordic Walking Festival.

The number of people attending exceeded all our expectations and it was great to get Leki on board to support the event.   To have them along on the day really made for a real festival feel.

With so many courses during the day and Nordic Walks taking place we also brought in some of the best Nordic Walking instructors the North East has to offer with these coming from all different backgrounds. We have worked with all of them before and really appreciate their enthusiasm and commitment to Nordic Walking.

The day before had been a lovely warm day and the Sunday started off in a similar fashion but it was a little colder when the sun went in.

At 10.00 the first of the hourly Nordic Walking taster sessions started with the ‘Take your skills to a new level’ course starting at 10.30. There was a really good atmosphere with many people truly out for the day and browsing, talking and looking over the Leki products between their sessions.

The hour break for lunch vanished in a flash as the taster sessions restarted and the larger groups congregated ready for both the 2 and 5 mile walks in the afternoon.

They went off and returned at a very good pace and when Nordic Walkers come back with a big smile on their faces you know it has been a good walk.

A very big thank you must go to everybody who came along on the day and for all the great feedback we have received after the event.

This is an event we are planning to move around the region, so we can offer different walks every year. I very much hope you can join us again next year.