Navigation Skills

4 Point Compass

The basic four points of a compass give you general directions often remembered by the following N(orth)aughty E(ast)lephants S(outh)quirt W(est)ater. you wouldnt on its own use this for navigation or for routecards.

8 Point Compass

An 8 point compass just adds the inbetween elements and could be used for directions but can be elaborated on further.

16 Point Compass

You would use this for navigation on route cards

4 Figure Grid Reference

This sheet is a quick guide to grid references. It should help you when you are asked to find something on a map, such as a town, or even an individual building. The grid lines on an Ordnance Survey map are called eastings (along the corridor) and northings (up the stairs).

Four-figure grid references
Each square has a grid reference which you get by putting together the numbers of the easting and northing that cross in its bottom left hand corner.

Six-figure grid references
In your head, you should be able to divide all sides of the square into ten equal sections. By doing this, you can pinpoint locations within the square – these are called six-figure grid references.

Relief and Contours

Contour lines are a map’s way of showing you how high the land is. They join together places of the same height and form patterns that help us to imagine what the land actually looks like.


‘Naismith’s rule’
Remember that the closer together the contour lines are, the steeper the land. Contour lines that are wide apart show us that the land is flatter. When you’re travelling across steep landscapes (where contour lines are very close together) it will add time on to your journey. Naismith said that you should allow an extra minute of walking time for every 10 metres of height that you climb. Contour lines are usually drawn at 10 metre intervals on a 1:50 000 scale map and at 5 metre intervals on a 1:25 000 scale map.

Measuring Distance

How long is a piece of string?

It’s usually not possible to travel in a straight line between two points on a map. If you’re following a road or footpath, it can change direction many times to avoid things like woods and rivers. However, there are still simple ways of measuring the actual distance you will need to travel between two points. One of them is to use a piece of string.

Step 1:
Take a length of string – it’s best to take one longer than you think you’ll need – and place one end on your starting point.









Step 2:
Now carefully lay the string along the road or path you know you’re going to use, following the curves as closely as you can. When you reach your finishing point, mark it on your string with a pen.









Step 3:
Now that you have your distance from the map, you can straighten out your string and place it against the scale bar to find out how far you will actually be travelling.








Another method of measuring distance is to take a sheet of paper and place the corner of a straight edge on your starting point. Now pivot the paper until the edge follows the route that you want to take.


Step 1:
Every time the route disappears or moves away from the straight edge of your paper, make a small mark on the edge and pivot the paper so the edge is back on course.









Step 2:
Repeat this process until you reach your destination.









Step 3:
You should be left with a series of marks along the edge of your paper. You can now place the sheet against the scale bar on your map. The last mark you made will tell you the real distance you need to travel.

Understanding Scale

Understanding Scale

What is scale?

Scale is what makes map drawing possible. It takes real life things and reduces them in size many times so they can be shown on a map. Every map has a scale printed on the front and you should always check this figure before you start reading it. It will tell you how much smaller the area shown on the map is compared to the same area in real life.

1:25 000
This means that every one unit of measurement on the map (like a centimetre) is the same as 25 000 of those units (in this case 25 000 cm or 250 metres) in real life.

Large scale maps
Large scale maps are better for showing individual buildings in detail because they only cover a small area of land.


Small scale maps
Small scale maps are ideal for travelling either by car or walking because they cover large areas of land

Other maps are drawn to a smaller scale and show smaller amounts of detail, but cover a wider area. These maps are often used for planning long walks and drives. It might help you to remember that the larger the number in the scale, the smaller the scale of the map will be.

Scale summary
Ordnance Survey produces different maps for different uses. Each of these uses normally requires a different scale.

OS MasterMap
Ideal for architects

Understanding Scale - Pic 4.jpg


1:10 000
Ideal for town developers


1:25 000
Ideal for outdoor activities


1:50 000
Ideal for planning a day out


1:250 000
OS Travel Map – Road
Ideal for motorists, and long journeys

1:1 000 000
Ideal for seeing the whole country at a glance


Download Bournemouth Explorers Route Card

Filling in a Route Card

All boxes on the route card should be completed

Make sure you write in the map you are using (e.g. OL22 New Forest)

Make sure your Grid Refs are accurate and only use 6 figure references

Escape routes should be planned and use easy to access end points (car parks, leisure centres, museums or other public places)

Measure your distance accurately this will have a massive impact on your timings later.

Know your pacing and team speed this will impact on your timings.

Give your self comfortable break times this can help if you run into problems as you can use these to make time up if you fall behind in your timings.

make sure you have the emergency contact number filled in on the route card for the leader in charge.

Rules for route Cards:

Add 1 minute for every 10 meters climbed (Route Cards)

Add 1 minute for every 20 meters descended (Route Cards)

Mag to grid get rid (Compass and Map)

Grid to Mag, Add (Compass and Map)

Along the corridor and up the stairs (Grid References)

Walk along the flat before flying upwards (Grid References)

Below are the Ordance Survey OS map symbols used, PDF can be downloaded here for all of the map symbols

Access Land


Art Gallery

Bike Hire

Boat Hire

Boundry Stone

Bracken, Heath or Grassland



Bus Station

Byway open to all traffic

Camping & Caravan Site


Cathedral or Abbey


Coniferous wood


Country Park

County Boundary

Craft Centre

Cycle Trail

Electricity Transmission Line

Emergency Phone

English Heritage




Garden or Aboretum

Heritage Centre

Historic House

Historic Scotland

Horse Riding

Information Centre

Level Crossing


Marsh, reeds or saltings




Mountain Bike Trail



National Park Boundary

National Trust

Nature Reserve

Non-coniferous wood

Normal Tidal Limit


Other Route with Public Access

Other Tourist Feature


Picnic Site

Place of Worship with a spire or dome

Place of Worship with a Tower

Place of Worship

Police Station

Post Office

Preserved Railway

Public House

Public Phone


Railway Station

Recreational or Leisure Centre

Recreational Path

Restricted Byway





Site of Antiquity

Site of Battle


Solar Farm

Spoil Heap

Theme Park


Viewpoint 180°

Visitor Centre

Walk or Trail

Water Activities (Board)

Water Activities (Paddle)

Water Activities (Powered)

Water Activities (Sailing)

Watersports Centre (Multi Activity)

Well – Sping

Welsh Heritage (CADW)

Wind Turbine


World Heritage Centre or Area

Youth Hostel

Once you have gone through each of the tabs take the Navigation Quiz