Office Team member Becky had some time out of the office in April to attend our Wilderness Navigation course. Here’s what Becky had to say about her experience;
“Back at the beginning of April I was let out of the office for a week (thanks boss) to attend the Woodlore Wilderness Navigation course. I like a bit of a ramble at the weekends as well as the odd longer distance walk but my understanding of the map and compass were at best basic before this course. I was a little nervous about camping out in the woods rustic style for a whole week (I haven’t slept under canvas for more than the odd night for about 20 years) but with help from the Woodlore Outdoor Team I settled to it very quickly.
Course Leader James (Woodlore’s very own Head of Ops) promised great weather – apparently that particular course is always blessed so I packed sunscreen as well as Ultrathon. For the first couple of days the sunscreen didn’t get a look in as we got to grips with the basics of Navigation sometimes in the rain, wind and drizzle and after dark too. The weather wasn’t all bad those first days as I do recall the sun on my face as I attempted to walk across a meadow blindfolded!
Having the night excursions at the beginning of the week seemed an odd and sometimes difficult way to start out but as the week progressed and we built up skills and experience the value of these earlier exercises became apparent, they would not have had the same impact done any other way.
Day three saw a change in the weather as things started to hot up and with the sun came the realisation that the skills that we had been slowly assimilating were suddenly coming together. Fantastic!
The rest of that week saw a mini heat-wave (yes James I’m sure you are always right) which was not always welcome as we toiled all over Ashdown Forest in the sun. Trying to avoid use of obvious tracks in order to hone our skills meant the terrain was sometimes difficult for one with short legs and a doubtful sense of balance when knackered such as myself. The handle on my daysack proved very useful to those who helped to haul me out of the odd ditch.
The last two days required liberal applications of sunscreen as we enjoyed refining our new skills on beautiful private land near Tunbridge Wells. We were treated to supper cooked over the campfire (started with a bow drill naturally) and a tour of some of the fabulous old trees and fungi in the area.
Arriving late back at camp the sky was clear enough for a lesson in finding the North star. I find myself popping out into the garden of an evening now to check that I can still do it; sorry guys I still think that plough is better described as a saucepan.
I do not exaggerate when I say that the final day was exhilarating! Orienteering exercises tested our new skills individually for the first time. It was fantastic to wonder over this beautiful private land with confidence. Not only did I not get lost but knowing that if I did I had the skills to find out exactly where I was felt truly liberating.
A big thank you to my ‘buddy’ for the week Gavin for being patient with my often slower pace and to all those on the course with me – you were an entertaining bunch and I hope we meet again.
A bit of advice for anyone attending a course, especially famed for it’s good weather at an unlikely time of year like this one: get a new bottle of sunscreen, mine was last years and failed dismally, I arrived home looking like a freshly boiled lobster! Here’s hoping I’m let out of the office again, Becky”
Sometimes when you come away from any type of course, the skills you have picked up seem somehow elusive and without the confidence boost of working with a like minded group of people you start to have doubts about your new skills. As yet not so with my new navigation skills; I have been on several weekend rambles since the course and am pleased to report a growing sense of confidence as the techniques we learned put me on the right path time and again. Any ‘wobbles’ only go to reinforcing these techniques and being reminded of their value.