Dark Peak Navigation – Peak District

Dark Peak Moorland in the Peak District
A typical Dark Peak moorland on a typical Dark Peak day

One of the joys of the Dark Peak area of the Peak District National Park is the opportunity to really test your navigational skills. Above is the moor along Howden Edge between Middle Moss and Featherbed Moss. Crossing this type of terrain requires the use of different navigational skills, mixed together so that you end up where you are supposed to be. In good visibility it can be a challenge if a person is not used to being off path, in bad visibility or at night it can become very taxing on the wits.

In good visibility the use of the compass is not entirely necessary. The map and the land have all the information required. Telling a little story on how the journey should progress is more than sufficient to successfully navigate across such terrain.

So, is the walker supposed to be going up hill or down hill. What should they be able to see around them. Do they cross water. What is the distance between A&B and how long should that take. Does the walker know how many double paces it takes them to walk across moorland for 100m. Does the walker know how many minutes it takes to walk a kilometre across a moorland.

Orienting the map so that it reflects the land is an excellent idea, northing the map with a compass is the quickest way to do this if it is a new technique. Ticking off features as the walker travels across the land is an invaluable skill. Cross a stream, tick. Over a boundary wall, tick. Up a slope, tick. view a plantation across the valley, tick.

At night or in bad visibility it is exactly the same, but with the addition of a compass and much shorter legs and probably going a little slower if you are not used to it. Night time walking is fun so try it. Bad visibility requires excellent concentration and a positive reliance that what the map and compass are saying is fact.

Ordnance Survey maps are just the best bit of kit anyone could have on the hill. It is packed full of information and the only real device anyone needs. A compass supplements the map, the two being the perfect navigation tool.

Many people today use GPS, which is good, but if that is the only thing a walker knows how to do, follow the little blue arrow on the screen, then they have missed out on so much. And as happens when the battery dies, then its map time again, and a good, confident knowledge of how to use a map brings a walk to life.

A last word on getting lost, missing that feature, call it what you will. It happens, don’t sweat it.

It’s called adventure.

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