By: Blonde Two

The Two Blondes abandoned their favourite Ordnance Survey map (OL 28 – Dartmoor) this week, in favour of one that shows a lot of country lanes, some Devon green lanes, a bit of urban sprawl and lots of sea.

We were on this year’s Bronze DofE practice expedition. Bronze is the first experience of expeditions for many participants (we hope not the last!) and the recommended terrain is, “Normal rural countryside which can be familiar to the participants.” The countryside that we were in, I have to say was probably more normal before we and our troupe invaded it.


I think the trickiest bit of using a map (especially one that is not your usual one) is that moment when you first look at it; you see before you a mass of lines, green bits, blue things and symbols, and you have to zoom your gaze in on the place that you are trying to find. It can be tricky but knowing your area helps. On the Dartmoor map for example, Princetown prison is a very distinctive circular shape, Fernworthy Forest has a long hard green line down its west side and the West Okement River flows through ‘Killer Valley’ between a mass of contour lines that explain the popular name.

There are ways around this problem and they do save time:

Picking out and learning a few key shapes can help. Giving them silly names makes you more likely to remember them. For example, “Loaf of Bread” (for a Dartmoor field system – do you know it?) or our much loved “Kink-in-Leat” (we want to see that one on the map!)

If you are doing a bit of micro-navigation, it can be helpful to hold your map so that your thumb is always on your last known point. This works well, but you will soon get an aching thumb and be unable to scratch your nose.

An elastic band (this is actually what hair elastics were invented for) is a great solution but tricky with a map case. Place the band so that it lies just below your point on the map and the area your eye has to cover before zooming in on the right place is much reduced.

Have fun! And don’t forget, if you want some more Blonde Navigation tips, get in touch and we will be happy to share some on one of our Dartmoor Guided Walks or Navigation Sessions –