The Hill & Moorland Award

The Hill & Moorland Award

7 May 2022

  • Cambridgeshire ACF

The Hill and Moorland Award is a course for adult instructors and cadets aged 17 or above, which is held in the Dark Peaks in the Peak district. The course is aimed at instructors wanting to become a Hill and Moorland Leader, leading groups of cadets into remote regions of the UK and Ireland.

In order to attend the HML course, you need to have a minimum of 40 days walking in a minimum of 3 different areas of the UK in a hill and moorland environment. You also need to have a good knowledge of conservation, wildlife and fauna as well as the rock types and geology of various areas, and be familiar with the area’s history and the countryside codes and rules and regulations associated with managing groups in these areas.

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SSI Lester (left) and colleagues.

2 Coy’s Duke of Edinburgh Award (DofE) and Navigation Officer SSI Lloyd Lester attended the course 20-22nd April, having previously completed Hill and Moorland training in August 2021. This qualification builds on SSI Lester’s extensive previous experience which includes National Navigation Award Scheme Gold and Tutor Awards, and multiple DofE qualifications, Gold, Silver and Bronze DofE Assessor, DofE Expedition Supervisor, DofE Leader and DofE Award Verifier.

After introductions, the first day of the course was a journey of approximately 16km over 7.5 hours in open moorland, with the emphasis on micro and macro navigation, moving from contour features to manmade features over broken terrain. Starting at Langsett Barn, moving on a circular route up Pike Low, Bull Clough and Hingcliff Hill before heading back down to Langsett Barn. SSI Lester said; ‘The weather was warm, but with a strong gusting wind. Visibility was good throughout, however moving through broken heather made movement challenging and there was plenty of water underfoot.’

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Derwent Dam, with Dambusters memorial.

Day 2 was a much longer day, approximately 15 hours, and involved travelling in the dark. The group started from Bamford / Ladybower reservoir and the Derwent Dam, the location where the Dambusters had trained during the Second World War, and ascended onto Win Hill and then Crookstone and Kinder Plateau before descending to Hope via Jaggers Clough for an evening session which consisted of research and discussion on the local environment, history, geology, weather, and general local knowledge. The candidates were expected to be able to present interesting information about the area, with SSI Lester giving a talk on the Dambusters. The group then continued the journey through Bamford and onto Bamford moor for poor visibility navigation, eventually returning to vehicles at 1am. The day's focus was on problem solving, access and conservation and effective route planning on 1:25km maps. Later in the day the emphasis was on poor visibility navigation, movement on open ground and use of differently scaled maps, 1:40k, 1:50k and 1:25k.

The final day was shorter, with an emphasis again on micro-navigation and appropriate route selection with some scenarios around injuries and party management. The distance covered was a circular route approx 6.5km long, starting and finishing at Stanage car park and taking in Stanage Edge, Stanage Pole, White Path Moss and Friars Ridge.

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SSI Lester and DofE bear.

To prepare for the course, SSI Lester spent many days and nights walking in the hills and Moors of the Peak district, Pembrokeshire and Yorkshire, both solo and with his family and friends. He also read many books on navigating in the hills and mountains and researched the wildlife and fauna. He completed several online courses on geology and weather patterns.

This qualification works in collaboration with Lloyd’s DofE assessor qualifications and NNAS gold navigation qualification. On completion of the HML course, an instructor becomes qualified to lead groups into the hills and moorlands of the UK and Ireland and assess up to a gold standard for the DofE. The logical follow on course is the Camping Leader course, which SSI Lester is attending at the end of May.

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Alport Castles, above Ladybower and Hope Valley

When asked his favourite part of the course, SSI Lester said “I love being in remote areas and I love getting to be at one with nature and the surroundings, especially when I’m on my own”. He added, “This course does this in droves, navigating the moorlands in my opinion is far more difficult that mountain navigation due to featureless terrain and the elements of micro navigation.”

When asked why others should attend this course, Lloyd said; “Anyone wanting to lead and assess Dofe groups need to be qualified, current, and competent in the field they wish to work and assess to. This course suits anyone wanting to lead and assess walking groups from Bronze, Silver and Gold DofE in certain areas of the UK and Ireland. To prepare for this you will need a lot of dedication as it takes on average 2 years to get through it from start to finish, you must have a good level of fitness and many hours in the hills and moorland areas. It is recommended that someone attending this course would also have a minimum of silver NNAS course to prepare your navigational skills.”

Other relevant navigation course available to instructors include: NNAS Navigation award, Lowland leader, Summer/ Winter Mountain Leader, DofE Assessor course and various skill-based courses.

Text by SI Emily White with thanks to SSI Lloyd Lester.