Navigating using Apps and GPS

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I once did a math calculation in my head, a simple multiplication, I was faster with the answer than all the young people around me who were firing up their apps. One looked at me amazed and asked how on earth had I done that. Well, I spent my early years learning my times tables and that stuff never leaves you. Another didn’t bother doing the calculation because she didn’t have an app on her phone and anyway someone else would have the answer.

Recently on social media there has been lots of posting about using Ordnance Survey’s phone app for navigating in difficult weather conditions or when the user was not sure where they were. It’s a good app, I have OS Maps on all my devices, iphone, ipad, Macbook. I use the app on my Mac to reproduce routes to 1:50k scale for my guidebooks. The ipad is good for sitting in bed and exploring new routes without spreading out my 1:25k map, it sort of keeps Alison awake if I do that. I put the map on my phone because I could, it is rare that I use it and to be honest its just taking up space.

What has intrigued me about the different postings and threads is that they all seem to default to the use of apps when the going gets tough, bad weather appears to be the most common reason, getting lost a close second. And there is nothing wrong in that. But what would the person have done if the phone had not worked and why is the app now the default for getting out of a sticky situation?

I was taught that the easiest way to know where you are, is, to know where you are. And that means having the map to hand and following your route, ticking off features, tracking distances and timings, knowing what is ahead and around. That way I knew where I was at all times.

The use of technology is great, if it gets people out exploring then that is a good thing. What I detect now is a growing reliance on technology and a disconnection with map, compass and the landscape. The map and compass are now somewhere in the rucksack. The app has become a shortcut to navigation. The problem is that using a phone or an app or a device removes so much from the skill base to my mind. When I look at a map I look at a far wider area than my walk route. I see the little nooks and crannies that look so interesting its worth exploring them. Little bits of information on the map draw my eye and I build up a picture of the terrain, it’s an exciting thing to do. And I carry that information in my head and use it on the walk along with the map.

Using a map and compass is a hill craft that is a part of a much wider range of skills, how to move over difficult ground, what to take on a walk, how to plan a route that does not lead to exhaustion, escape routes when things don’t go to plan etc.

In truth, it’s not necessary to use a compass in good visibility, all the information is on the map. Compass comes into its own in bad visibility when used in conjunction with a map. Or, and here is a confession, checking which way to go after walking to Ben Macdui, having lunch, relaxing, moving around and then setting off back in the wrong direction. Thankfully saved by a mate who had switched his brain on. They say the hardest part of any walk is always getting out of the car park in the right direction and often it’s true.

Using technology is good, but relying on it is not so good. And that is what I am seeing more and more of. Recently on social media and in the press there have been several reports of people having to be rescued by Mountain Rescue teams because they were reliant on an app. Along with battery failure there is often an inability to cope with the terrain and to be poorly attired for a day on the hill.

What now seems to be happening is a transfer of responsibility to technology and when that fails a transfer of responsibility to other humans. Isn’t it much better to have the skills to navigate out on the hill using a map and compass? Use the app if you want, but don’t make it the default device. Don’t be reliant on technology.

My best time out on the hill navigating was doing my triennial MR navigation assessment in visibility of no more than three metres on Saddleworth Moor at night in winter. Five check points spread across 8 square kilometres each one a 25cm stick painted brown stuck into a peat grough, 2 hours to complete using only map and compass.

Brilliant.

If you want to learn navigations skills using a map and compass these two outdoor professionals will be able to teach you.

Everyday Adventures 

Everything Outdoors

 

 

Alphin Pike – Peak District

This is perverse I know, but believe me when I say there are people out there in the Dark Peak who will like nothing better.

As we have had some rain lately the moors of the Dark Peak area of the Peak District National Park will be wet, perhaps even boggy, maybe if luck is in, up to the thigh in deep clawing peat bog boggy. The bogtrotters will be in their heaven.

If you want a really good mash then head out to Dove Stones over in the north west of the park. Ignore the dog walkers and ice cream lickers around the car park and disappear down the Bradbury Lane, noticing the Ordnance Survey benchmark on the wall and aim for Alphin Pike a short hop up on to the top.

Incredible views if the weather is playing the game. Follow the edge around, above the Chew Road, spot Dead Man’s Layby, then head out across to Ashway Gap.

You are on your own across this and don’t blame me if you lose a boot or one of those ballet slippers the fell runners wear. Just keep heading north. Cry if you want, no one is around to hear you. Pass the Platt memorial, the irony of a shooter getting shot.

Then DOWN Birchen Clough. I am supposed to let you know here, if you are scared you can go up, reverse the route. Me I loved the challenge of dropping down those two sections where decorum is lost, almost as good as trying to get out of a grough after a heavy storm. Look you take responsibility for you own actions, if it is too much for you then don’t do it. Stay in the car park with the ice cream lickers.

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Birchen Clough, Peak District

I love this bit after heavy rains. The water just thunders. Deafens the ears. Gets the blood pumping. Take your time and enjoy it. This is one of the best waterfalls in the whole Peak. This is the outdoors, not a bloody shopping mall. At the bottom, if you are lucky it will be deep, not that deep that you cannot cross with care, a bit of excitement. It has never been more than knee deep when I have done it. The best way is to avoid trying to keep yourself dry and just step firmly out, poles might be needed for stability, just enjoy it. For crying out loud when do you get to wade across a stream, a stream, not a river, in the Peak District.

After that it gets boring, a reservoir track, a slog back to base. Get yourself an ice cream, you are the only one there who has earned a lick.

Dark Peak Walks PB Walk 30

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Dark Peak Walks Book by Paul Besley, published by Cicerone Press. 40 walks in the Dark Peak with detailed route descriptions, maps, photos and points of interest.
Dark Peak Walks. Author Paul Besley. Published by Cicerone Press.

OS Benchmarks in the Peak District

Ordnance Survey map of 1882 showing Woodlands Valley in Peak District National Park
Ordnance Survey map of 1882 showing Woodlands Valley
REPRODUCED WITH THE PERMISSION OF THE NATIONAL LIBRARY OF SCOTLAND HTTP://MAPS.NLS.UK/INDEX.HTML

Old maps are a great way to follow the history of the landscape. Ordnance Survey have been surveying the Peak, then the Peak District National Park for hundreds of years. The maps we know today started life back in the mid 1800’s when teams of surveyors were sent out across the country to accurately measure the land, the buildings, boundaries, rivers and roads.

To accurately measure height the surveyors took a datum of the mean tide height, firstly from Liverpool and in later years from Newlyn. Having one fixed point, a benchmark, all other measuremenst could be taken as the surveyors worked their way across the country. Each time they measured the height of a particular spot they would mark the position with a cut mark of an arrow pointing up to a horizontal line, the benchmark.

Ordnance Survey map of Hag Farm showing benchmark position
Ordnance Survey map of Hag Farm showing benchmark position
REPRODUCED WITH THE PERMISSION OF THE NATIONAL LIBRARY OF SCOTLAND HTTP://MAPS.NLS.UK/INDEX.HTML

Benchmarks were placed on solid stone, stone buildings, stone gate posts, and walls, fixed items or structures that were unlikely to be moved. In total there are in excess of half a million benchmarks in the country, with over six thousand as the flush brackets most commonly seen on Ordnance Survey triangulation pillars.

So that still leaves a lot to be identified and spotted when out walking. The benchmarks are a good navigational challenge, and an excellent piece of detective work. Looking at old maps, such as the ones above, the benchmarks can be identified as small arrow heads along with a number in feet. Old boundary walls, buildings and gate posts are the easiest to find. Harder are the ones placed on boulders in the middle of a moor for instance. Judging the grid reference from an old map can be a challenge, but when you have got it right and you arrive at a benchmark in the middle of nowhere it is a great feeling of achievement.

The benchmark shown in the map from 1882 above shows a position and height of 872.4 feet and is at the junction of two tracks. Today one of the track has a gate across it and the left hand gate post has the benchmark beautifully cut a foot or so above ground level.

Today Hag Farm is called Hagg Farm on the current OS map, yet another interesting historical feature of old maps. In fact all the names on the 1882 map starting or ending in “Hag” now have an extra “g” added and this seems to have happened between 1880 and 1897 when the next OS revision of the map took place.

Ordnance Survey map of Woodlands Valley 1897. Peak District National Park
Ordnance Survey map of Woodlands Valley 1897
REPRODUCED WITH THE PERMISSION OF THE NATIONAL LIBRARY OF SCOTLAND HTTP://MAPS.NLS.UK/INDEX.HTML

Perhaps the names were changed by the surveyor or a greater understanding of local names and spellings was achieved for greater accuracy. Whatever the reasons, the Ordnance Survey maps for a fascinating and beautiful historical document.

All of the items mentioned in the post can be found on or near Walks No.13 of Dark Peak Walks published by Cicerone Press.

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Dark Peak Walks Book by Paul Besley, published by Cicerone Press. 40 walks in the Dark Peak with detailed route descriptions, maps, photos and points of interest.
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Ordnance Survey Map Markings

Ordnance Survey map 2017 Derwent Moor, Peak District National Park
Ordnance Survey map 2017, Derwent Moor
Ordnance Survey map 1884 of Derwent Moor Peak District National Park
Ordnance Survey map of Derwent Moor 1884

This week seems to have been all about Ordnance Survey and surveyors markings. The OS maps tell secrets if you know how to read them.

The present day maps don’t just allow us to get from A-B without getting our feet wet. If you know what you are looking for and have the time to do a bit of research they can be portals into history. The lines on the map aren’t just a whim, they actually mean something, occasionally something of social, political and economic importance.

Take the two maps above, both of Derwent Moor, the top a present day 1:50 OS map, the bottom one from the 1880’s. Notice the dash and dotted line on the top map running from the road bottom right to Dovestone Tor top left. It has the words Boundary Stones written underneath and above plus the words “Met Dist Bdy” in grey above the line. Met Dist Bdy is Metropolitan District Boundary. The line denotes the boundary here between Yorkshire or originally Hallamshire and Derbyshire.

The county boundary is the same on the 1882 map runs the same line as today, but it is not called that. Bottom right are the words “Union By”. The line is still a dot and a dash denoting County and Parish but the addition of Union By gives it a more sinister meaning. It meant Union Workhouse with each Union having a specific area tin which they were responsible for the application of the Poor Laws.

To the right of the boundary and you were within Bradfield or Ecclesall Union territory. To the left and you were in Hathersage. There were workhouses at High Bradfield and also on the Sheffield to Manchester road at Hollow Meadows, both are now residential properties.

It was important to know which side of the boundary a person was on, financial gain depended on it for the Union, and a less harsh environment could be available for the inmate, not all had treadmills. Hence the boundary stones, marking the line and which would be checked each year when officials of the parish would Beat the Bounds. Boundary stones were often placed as markers to avoid being on the wrong side of the boundary. These stones are still in place.

County, Parish and Union Workhouse Boundary on Derwent Moor. Peak District National Park
County, Parish and Union Workhouse Boundary on Derwent Moor.

This is the boundary today. A gamekeeper track now runs along its length from the Strines Road almost to Dovestone Edge as it crosses Derwent Moor. In the picture on the right of the track can be seen one of the boundary stones, there are several more along the line along with several Ordnance Survey benchmarks on the gritstone rocks that are scattered around the boundary line.

All that history from two square kilometres on the map. Next time you are on Derwent Edge and get to Dovestone Tor turn away from the edge and follow the line on the map and have a look.

 

Ordnance Survey surveyor marks

Lots of discussion on social media this weekend about Ordnance Survey marks on the gritstone of the Dark Peak in the Peak District. A topic that fascinates me with every walk including a foray into the wilderness to try to find some elusive mark made more than a century and a half ago.

Top left is a benchmark used to establish height at a point on the footpath to Stanage End from Moscar.

Below that is a benchmark used to mark a survey position on Higger Tor.

Top right is a really interesting one. An arrow below a square box with a dot in the middle. This denotes a survey height taken from the ground and not estimated. On modern maps today these are denoted as a black dot with a height number as opposed to an orange dot which denotes a measurement taken from the air.

Bottom left is a lovely levelling bolt, indicating a survey position near Laddow Rocks.

Bottom right two survey marks, one for levelling and one for triangulation found on Back Tor on Derwent Edge. On the left hand mark is a benchmark made by Lieut Barlow RE when he carried out the triangulation in 185. The right hand mark denotes a spot height taken in 1854 by Capt Kerr RE to establish the contour lines.

All heights back then used the Liverpool datum and approximate average of the sea height there. Nowadays the OS maps use the Newlyn datum taken from the tidal measuring station in Newlyn Harbour, Cornwall.

 

Easter Competition – Peak District

One Book or One Wapentac Map’n’Lite to be won over the Easter Holiday. Competition closes Sunday midnight. Email your answers to paulbesley@gmail.com

(If you do not want your email to be used for future competitions and offers please state so in the email.)

All triangulation pillars, points and benchmarks appear on or near the walks in Dark Peak Walks published by Cicerone Press and available HERE

Identify each Ordnance Survey triangulation pillar or triangulation point.  Name of triangulation pillar and grid reference required. Also which one is the odd one out. Wins a Wapentac Map’n’lite of Froggatt Edge

Ordnance Survey Triangulation Points and Triangulation Pillars

Identify location of each Ordnance Survey benchmark or survey mark . Grid reference would be superb. Wins a signed gift wrapped copy of Dark Peak Walks. Closest answers will win.

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Dark Peak Walks by Paul Besley

Ordnance Survey benchmarks and survey marks.

 

 

 

History on Derwent Moor – Peak District

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1880 Ordnance Survey map of Derwent Moor. Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland. http://maps.nls.uk/index.html

You can find a lot of history in a couple of hours walking on Derwent Moor in the Peak District National Park. Starting at Cutthroat Bridge on the main Sheffield to Glossop road, the bridge itself home to two murders several centuries apart, you immediately come across some Ordnance Survey history.

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OS Benchmark near Highshaw Clough

A benchmark right where the footpath drops down to cross Highshaw Clough. It is chiselled onto a gritstone boulder just before the footpath crossing the stream below meets up with the bridleway. The 1880 map has it at a height of 945.5 feet above mean tidal level at Liverpool, which was then the datum for height in the UK. The benchmark, an arrow below a line was also used as the survey data point for mapping the area. A second benchmark near to Whinstone Lee Tor is marked the same on the ground, but is marked on the map as a triangle with a dot in the middle indicating that this position was used to fix height (1492.0 feet), latitude and longitude.

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Benchmark denoting survey point for height, latitude and longitude near Whinstone Lee Tor

Further from Highshaw Clough heading north east towards Moscar House is a stone milepost giving the distances to Sheffield and Glossop. This sits on the old Sheffield to Glossop road, before the present day course of the road was established in the early 1800’s. It gives the distance to Sheffield as seven miles. I like following the old roads as they weave their way across the landscape. Sometimes the way is lost which is when it becomes more interesting. Navigating a route that is not there makes me look at the land form and decide which way I would go if I had to choose. Using the natural lay of the land is often a good way of finding the route again.

There is a footpath a little further on that heads directly west up on to the grouse moor and then on to Derwent Edge. The way is full of interest the most prominent being a large standing stone on the right of the path, it is shown on the map above on the left of the path, so the path has moved in the last 160 odd years.

Standing stone on Derwent Moor, Peak District National Park
Standing stone on Derwent Moor

This beautiful stone stands looking out towards Stanage Edge and the moors of Moscar and Bamford with all their ancient history, stone circles, hut circles, Glory Stones and the fluted gritstone of The Old Woman Stone, an ancient standing stone menhir vandalised by  the owners in the last century and brought crashing to the ground to stop walkers using it as a guide across the moor. Does this standing stone on Derwent Moor have a connection with the ancient places across the valley. It is evidently placed there by man judging by the large stones that are around the base keeping it in place. Did it mark the footpath or was the stone there before the right of way. There are no markings on the stone save for the fluting from erosion, which can also be found on The Old Woman Stone.

The footpath heads straight over the top and down in to Upper Derwent Valley by Grindle Barn, following the line of the old packhorse route to the village of Derwent. Before that where the path reaches the top by the final, or first shooting butt, the trail along Derwent Edge going left leads you to Hurkling Stones which judging by the lack of erosion around it is little visited. It has some interesting gritstone erosion with wonderful soft curves like the ones seen on Bleaklow.

Gritstone erosion at Hurkling Stones.
Gritstone erosion at Hurkling Stones.

As I was mooching around trying to find evidence in the way of chiselled markings that this place was the same place as mentioned in my post about the 16th Century Perambulation I came across a lovely stone trough.

Stone trough at Hurkling Edge
Stone trough at Hurkling Edge

The stone trough must be well hidden in summer. I wonder why it is there. No quarrying activities have taken place there and the area shows no sign of any other industrial workings. So I wonder if it is something to do with transportation. It is too far out of the way for the old Sheffield to Glossop road, or so I thought. As we moved away towards Whinstone Lee Tor I saw another stone trough maybe some 50m away from the first. Which leads me to thinking if it was some sort of stopping place and the troughs were for horses, but they are so small, so perhaps not. Worthy of more exploration and research I think.

All this in a two-hour walk. It is amazing what history there is at my very feet in the Dark Peak.

All of the items mentioned in the post can be found on or near Walk No.8 of Dark Peak Walks published by Cicerone Press.