Most of my early walks were characterised by me bumbling about trying to find the right way out of the town or village that I found myself in. It seemed that the issue for me was down to the Ordnance Survey Explorer maps that I use. Whilst these are exceedingly good for navigating in the country, they can prove problematic in built up urban areas.
For example consider the photo below of Abergavenny on my Brecon Beacons map:
What is immediately apparent is how ‘dense’ the detail is and the complete lack of street names. This coupled with being in an unfamiliar town, can quite easily lead to disorientation.
It could be me, but on the whole I don’t like to ask strangers for directions – especially when hiking – it gives the impression that one doesn’t know what they are doing – even if it’s true! 🙂
So how do I navigate out of towns these days?
Simple. I use Google Maps Street View to practice my Great Escapes out of the town or village that I find myself in. For some complex routes it can take a few simulated walks before I can do the walk off pat.
Below is a screenshot from Google Maps showing my simulated walk out of Abergavenny for my recent Black Mountains walk.
Whilst using Street View, if one gets ‘lost’ one can refer to the ever present map in the lower right corner to get back on track. After a few simulated runs you start to remember unique features and start to become familiar with a place that you may never have visited!
The end result of these simulated practice runs is that on the actual hike, one can stride out purposefully and with confidence toward ones route out in the country. Locals will think you are a seasoned pro!
Below is a photo from the actual walk. I had used the church and the statue as a reference point to remind me to hang a right! It’s a marvel of modern technology that one can visit a new place and yet feel intimately familiar with it. Without Google Maps Street View, I would not have had such handy reference points such as this one!
Hopefully this tip will help hikers get to where they need to go with the minimum of fuss!