Peak & Northern Footpaths Society (est.1894)

Book Review: Navigation by Pete Hawkins, published by Cicerone

Shirley Addy, Editor and Footpath Inspector

This article is from Signpost 62, Spring 2020

Recently reissued as a second edition, Navigation was first printed in 2007 and became a best selling outdoor skills guide. Subtitled Techniques and skills for walkers, this book is aimed for walkers who seek to learn how to use a map and compass and those wishing to refresh their old, perhaps forgotten, skills. The book is handy pocket A5 size with over 150 colour laminated pages and covered by a PVC sleeve. There is also a clear plastic navigation aid which serves as a Romer, timing chart, and a pacing chart for the reader to fill in.

As a qualified mountain leader, the author is suitably qualified to write on navigation. He also runs a navigation school from Tideswell, where he lives, consequently his map illustrations cover areas of the surrounding Peak District.

The author begins by stressing the importance of having the ability to read a map and use a compass. A great point that he makes is that such skills enable walkers to enjoy access land and leave the path behind - a rarely exercised privilege. Confidence in map reading and using a compass gives the freedom to roam under the CROW Act 2000. As a personal view, I will add that having such confidence is both liberating and very satisfying.

The first few chapters deal with maps, grid references and rights of way. There is a very useful chapter on how to read contours and other map symbols - do you really know all about the green and black dashes and dots? In case you wondered why the tops of quarries look flat on Ordnance Survey maps, it is because contour lines are usually omitted in quarries but we tend not to walk in these areas.

The following chapters cover the different types of compass, how to use one, take bearings and find magnetic north. Lastly, the author deals with navigation, including techniques such as aiming off, back bearing and leapfrogging. Navigating in bad conditions and at night, route planning and the use of a GPS device are also covered.

As a voluntary countryside ranger for the Lancashire Countryside Service until its closure in 2016, I took an advanced navigation course. I therefore read this book with much interest and I found it to be a great 'refresher course.' There is a lot to learn and the author explains matters very clearly and uses numerous illustrations, most of which are helpful but contain a couple of typographical errors. He also lists many practical exercises, including one that could be used at a Christmas party!

The late Eric Langmuir began his book Mountaincraft and Leadership with the words 'Navigation is fun!' I share some of both these authors' enthusiasm, if not their great skills, in using map and compass. Navigation is to be recommended for both beginners and also for walkers experienced in map and compass techniques.


Next: A Walk in Words Only

Page title:Book Review: Navigation by Pete Hawkins, published by Cicerone
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