Day out to Otley Chevin and an encounter with Storm Doris

This blog post is to write about the day I had today at Otley Chevin in West Yorkshire, and it may give some ideas on teaching map reading and orienteering. 

We do physical education with outdoor education at Leeds Beckett and one of our modules this semester is called ‘OAA Journeying’. This basically consists of going away in a small group for 2 nights. We can go wherever we want to go, as long as one of the nights is wild camping. So for ‘practice’ for this residential, as a seminar group, we are going out and experiencing days full of maps, compasses, gale force winds and rain, sounds like fun right? 

Our lecturers today thought it would be a brilliant idea to take us all to Otley Chevin. For those of you who haven’t been there, it’s a huge area consisting of crags, walks, hills, woodlands etc. and also has a few huts, for seminar work (or for arts and crafts for brownies and scouts-but were classed as ‘too old’ for that (maturity is arguable though)). 

We ran up to uni at half 8 this morning in the beginnings of the wonderful storm Doris. We were drenched. We hadn’t even  got to the place where we were going for the day yet, and my hands were turning blue and my muddy walking boots squelched through the sports reception as we went to meet the rest of our group. 

We got in the mini buses on the way to the Chevin, and took the 20 minute drive to get there, before all running into the hut for shelter and warmth as soon as we got there. 

Our first activity was drawing a map. We had to draw what we thought the map of the room we were sat in would look like. We had to decide what would go on the map and how we would portray the different heights of things. It was quite interesting to know about different shadings and how that puts across how tall something is in comparison to other things. We then moved on to map symbols.

This might seem quite simple, like I have seen hundreds of maps in my life but matching up 52 map symbols to their descriptions was harder than I imagined! This is great to do with any age because you can progress it or regress it to fit with their ability. What we didn’t realise was, was that there was actually a small number on the corner of each laminated card, and the map symbol and the description actually had the same number as each other on the card, so it could have been so much easier! (Yes we are third year university students and didn’t even realise!) 

Next of the agenda was grid references. Playing bingo for this was so fun. We had a map between two, and our lecturer read out a grid reference, which we had to find on the map, and shout bingo when we knew what it was. I WON A SPORK. 

Me and Ash then had a 10 minute conversation about how it is actually a fork, knife and a spoon so should be a snork, but then I thought ‘why does the fork get most of the name’ so my name for it was a snook. Any suggestions on names for a contraption that offers a fork, knife and a spoon just let me know!

So with a little competition involved this got fun! Next was dinner time, I brought cooked pasta (I forgot a fork that morning so actually had to steal one from the food court at university…turns out because of my snook, I didn’t need it).

After dinner, we got in our residential groups and went on a 1.2km walk. We were all given a map and a way to walk, to get to the east side of the Chevin. We got there in good time, 10/10 for top navigating skills to me!

While storm Doris brewed on and made herself louder and clearer, we worked out our pacing for 100m, so we could work out our distances. Turns out my pace for 100m is 71 paces, one of the highest numbers in the class which means I must have small legs, brilliant. 

For this, our lecturer had marked out 100m, which is easy to do by finding landmarks on the map suitable for the activity, we all then walked together. The pacing is every two steps, so you would only count your right foot, for example, when walking between the two points. 

Orienteering was next. And it had started to get cold. We went through using a compass and the best analogy I got from today was ‘keeping red Fred in his shed’ when matching up the north arrow to the red arrow below it on the compass face. It was very easy to pick up but I have done it multiple times before. Experiential learning is key for this though. People will only learn orienteering if they have a go. 

Our final task was an orienteering challenge in our small residential groups. We had one hour to find as many points on the map as we could. We absolutely bossed it but counted our points wrong at the end. I wouldn’t say I was competitive, but it still makes me angry when I think we were cheated of the prize. I really wanted that prize biscuit. But I know we won overall, so pride is good enough i suppose..but I can’t dunk pride in a brew! 

Otley Chevin is a great place to go, whether for educational purposes with a group of people or even taking the dog for a walk or going on a stroll! A few crags for the climbers around here too. There are a few decent walks around there and plenty of orienteering challenges to conquer, some harder than others! Absolutely beautiful sites from multiple places. Remember to check the weather though, you don’t want to be battered by a storm like we were! Hopefully Doris will be gone soon!