16 Point Compass

Use this compass as a 'print out and keep' version to help you with your directions when you're map reading. When you've printed out your copy, use scissors and glue to stick it onto some card and keep it in a safe place with your maps.


Step 1:
Find the two points on the map that you want to travel from and to. Line up your compass edge between the two points, so that your direction-oftravel arrow is pointing to your destination.

Step 2:
Rotate the compass housing until the orienting lines in the centre are pointing to the top of your map. You can do this by lining them up parallel to the grid lines.






Step 3:
Now rotate the dial until the north pointer lines up with the mark on the dial that joins the direction of travel arrow (this is called the index line).

Step 4:
Now read the bearing at the bottom of the direction-of-travel arrow, at the index line. In our example, the bearing is 320°. You will need to take into account the difference between grid north (on your map) and magnetic north (on your compass). This is called magnetic variation and your map will tell you how many degrees to add to your bearing. This can vary depending on where you are in the country.





Step 5:
To head in the right direction, you must now re-orientate your compass. This means turning the whole compass around until the magnetic north needle points in the same direction as the orienting arrow. The way the direction-of-travel arrow is now pointing is the direction you must walk in to get to your destination.








To help you stay on track, it's important to take regular bearings during your journey. Being one degree out at the start of your journey is not too serious, but if you continue in the wrong direction for too long, you will end up far from where you want to be. Wherever possible, try and divide your journey up into short sections, taking new bearings from the landmarks that you pass on the way. 








Grid References

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.





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 Refrences)

Map Symbols
Information Point Symbol Access Land Boundry Accessland Woodland Bracken / Grassland Bridleway
Information Point Access land Boundry Access land Woodland Bracken / Grassland Bridleway
 Building of Historic Interesting Symbol  Bus or coach station Symbol      
 Building or Historic Interest  Bus or coach station  Camping & Caravan  Castle of Forte  Cliff
 Coniferous Trees  Contours  Cycle Trail  Overhead Lines  English Heritage
Footbridge Footpath Garden / Arboretum Historic Scotland Information Centre
Level Crossing Main Road Mud Museum National Park Boundary
National Trail Nature Reserve Non Coniferous Trees Orchard Parking
Picnic Area Place of worship Church with Tower Post Office Public Convenience
Quarry Railway Station Recreational centre Shingle or Sand School
Scree Scrub Site of battle Telephone Viewpoint
Well or Spring Welsh Monument Wind Turbine Youth Hostel  


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

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












What is the purpose of a Route Card

Think of a route card as your lifeline to your expedition:

A route card will tell others your intended route.

A route card will help you navigate your chosen route.

A route card (if done well) could be used without a map.

A route card is way of safeguarding your walk with preparation.

A route card can be used by emergency services if the worst should happen.

A route card will notify others of your planned escapes or recovery points.



How to fill in a Routecard

Below is break down of the items that need filling in on a route card:

Aim of Expedition: This tells us why you are filling in a route card e.g. Day 1 of DofE practice near Corfe Castle

Day of the Week: What day you will be walking on (remember a route card per day)

Date of Walk: What is the date you will be walking on

Day of Venture: how many days are you walking for and what number is it of that day e.g. Day 2 of 3 

Members of Team: Full name of each team member.

Contact Details: If walking with a organising group provide a home contact and name of group.

Setting out Time: This is important to know as it will give an approximate location based on your route.

Starting Grid Ref: This is where your walk start for that day.

Start: Name of location your starting at to backup the above.

Leg Name (b): 6 Figure Grid Ref and name of location nearby.

General Direction or Bearing (c): Using a 16 point compass as direction or an actual bearing.

Distance in km (d): Estimated distance travelled on leg

Height climbed in m (e): Counting contours divide box into two to help calculate ascend and descend  

Time allowed for Journeying (f): Calculate time for (d) (Distance/Speed=Time) add calculated time for height using Naismiths rule from (e)

Time allowed for Exploring, Rests and meals (g): Total time allowed for stop (see Hints and Tips)

Total Time of Leg (h): Add column (f) and (g) together to give total time for leg

Estimated Time of Arrival (i): Add (h) on to start time or time from previous leg.

Brief details of route (j): Keep this to the point and readable use locations and map features to describe route avoid using left and right use compass points if possible

Escape Notes (k): brief note on nearest escape location

Hints and Tips

These hints are tips are used as part of the downloaded route card from the FAQ item below.

- Keep your written instructions short and precise (don't waffle).

- Use a pencil to start with so you can easily correct mistakes.

- Preferably type your Route Card up once complete.

- Keep legs of your journey to a maximum of 5k per leg.

- Use Naismith rule Add 1 minute for every 10 meters climbed and for every 20 meters descended.

- Per day try and keep to no more then 2 pages.


Download Route Card

Download Route Card as PDF

Download Route Card as Word Doc


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

Add 1 minute for every 20 meters decended (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)