1 Company Navigation Rep S.I. Lester (Walton Detachment) has successfully passed a challenging four-day navigation course in The Peak District. The course, the NNAS Gold Navigation Award, is run by The National Navigation Award Scheme. The NNAS is a personal performance, non-competitive, incentive scheme for all ages, designed to help people learn navigation skills and gain confidence to get out and enjoy the countryside.
SI Lester, who is also 1 Coys Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Officer, is full of enthusiasm for navigation as a useful, challenging and interesting discipline. He says; ‘nav training isn’t just finding your way, it teaches you essential skills such as teamwork, self-confidence, planning, problem solving and resilience.’ He has previously completed the NNAS Tutor Award which enabled him to teach NNAS bronze, and used the techniques learned to teach three star cadets over the past three years. His new qualification enables him to teach NNAS Silver. He says ‘the NNAS syllabus makes it fun- we don’t sit in the classroom, its very practical.’
SI Lester on Brown Knoll. Picture; SI Lester
Along with SSI White, SI Lester is one of only two navigation reps in Cambs ACF, and is keen to help raise the profile of the subject in the organisation, and encourage other CFAVs to undertake the necessary training. 2 Coy’s Nav rep SSI White is also qualified with the NNAS Gold and NNAS Tutor Award, and as well as teaching and developing his own navigation training syllabus, he has been mentoring and supporting SI Lester, help which SI Lester describes as ‘amazing’.
Also significant was the assistance of former National Navigation officer Colonel Ayers, who had previously given SI Lester encouragement and suggested he take the NNAS Gold course. SI Lester then approached 1 Company OC Major Deacon and was given strong encouragement, as she fully understood how important this training was to the organisation.
The course consisted of three training exercises over three days with a fourth day as a separate, final assessment. At the gold standard for this award, candidates were required to practice micro navigation; the search for small objects, and they would need to employ a range of simple and complex navigation techniques.
SI Lester ensured he was well equipped. As well as good supplies of food and water, he carried a four-man emergency shelter with the intention of being able to help others in the event of an emergency. He also took waterproof Gore-Tex clothing, a change of clothes, hat and gloves, a camping stove, maps, compasses and torches, with spares being carried in case of loss.
One of SI Lester's companions. Picture; SI Lester
SI Lester stayed at a youth hostel in Edale, with the course centring around the Kinder Scout area. His fellow students were not members of the ACF, but were private individuals who wanted to improve their navigation skills.
The course started on the evening of 18th September with a night navigation exercise on Longstone Moor, in which SI Lester and the other candidates had to find three mineshafts entrances, and a knull (high point) over an area of three miles, in the dark, as well as demonstrating strategies to ensure they did not get lost.
On day two, the group set off from Edale car park, walked up The Pennine Way and practiced micro-navigation by searching for various objects on the The Kinder Plateau, using pacing, timing and walking on a bearing, and received instruction in box searching. Box (or spiral) searching is an accurate method for searching ground. SI Lester explains; ‘with boxing, if in a group, one person walks in one main direction i.e. north by 10 paces, then turn east, walk 10 paces, then south 20 paces, then west 20 paces then North 20 paces then east 10 paces. Then move in a few paces and do the same again with say 15 paces in a square this allows you to find a small object in a large area. We do this because OS maps are only accurate to 100 square meters.'
SI Lester explores the stone shelter on Brown Knoll. Picture courtesy SI Lester
On the third day the candidates parked at Rushup Edge and walked up to Brown Knoll. They searched for individual boundary stumps, just 18 inches across. To find their way, they used different navigation techniques, including ‘leapfrogging’. This is a means of ensuring a group of people walk accurately on a compass bearing, and is needed due to the practical difficulty of walking whilst reading a compass at the same time. A member of the group is sent on a short distance ahead on a compass bearing. As they walk forward, they will deviate from the bearing, so when they stop, the person behind uses a compass to adjust the position of the person in front, left or right until they are back on the bearing. Then, they swap over, walk ahead of them and they are guided using the same process, and so on.
Some of the stunning scenery in the area. Picture; SI Lester
On 25th September SI Lester returned to Kinder Scout for his final assessment. As this was without his fellow students and instructors, he took with him his partner, Tina. This final assessment proved to be very enjoyable but extremely challenging. He said ‘we went through a forest and up a very steep incline and out onto the moor. There were no footpaths. Our objectives were to find very small areas such as small gullies and streams, and pieces of aircraft wreckage from planes that had crashed in the area during WW2.’ After having found various pieces of wreckage, they moved west across the moor to find an individual fence post. Lloyd then continued west to the edge path, and used a relocation technique by taking a back bearing from Mermaids Pool (to confirm their position to ensure accuracy) before attempting to find their final objective. Using ‘box searching’ they found it, - a plaque and small cross in remembrance of the crew of a Handley Page Hampden Bomber that crashed there in 1942 hidden behind a boulder just east of the edge path. This final day’s navigation took nine hours and covered eleven miles.
Aircraft wreckage on Kinder Scout. Picture; SI Lester
SI Lester was extremely enthusiastic about his experience. ‘I can strongly recommend Peak Navigation www.peaknavigationcourses.co.uk/, the course instructors Mick and Jane are amazing people, they really made us feel at ease- it didn’t feel like a course at all. I no longer see maps in 2D- the course really opened my eyes, maps have come alive and I now see them in 3 dimensions.’
He went on to say he enjoyed himself so much he spent the entire time ‘grinning from ear to ear.’ He also feels that his experience has given him much greater confidence in the outdoors. ‘Whilst I was out on the moors, I came across others who needed help with navigation- it was phenomenal to have gained the confidence needed to advise them - because I knew exactly what to do.’
SI Lester during his final assessment, with aircraft wreckage, and right, his partner, Tina. Pictures; SI Lester and Tina Corby.
1 Coy OC Major Deacon said; "Investing in our adults is fundamental to ensuring that the cadets get the best knowledge and experience passed on to them. SI Lester completed the NNAS course off his own back, and in his own time. A great achievement by him, and an asset that the county can now use in the future."
With renewed confidence, experience and skill, SI Lester (along with SSI White) is really looking forward to being once again able to teach not only cadets, but adults too. He says that adults interested in learning about navigation should; ‘go for it. We can help you, and If you want to go on a NNAS course, we can prepare you for it.’
You can contact him at; firstname.lastname@example.org
Or SSI White at; email@example.com
Text by PI Stuart, County P.R.O.