Navigation along the route

Part of my route planning exercise of course dealt with thoughts on what navigational challenges certain sections would offer. I’ve walked some National Trails before and–apart from a stretch on the Pennine Bridleway around Hollingworth last September where signposting was extremely poor–in general I remember these long-distance paths to be very good maintained in terms of signage. This doesn’t mean that I’ll depend on waymarks alone, not even on the National Trails I’ve incorporated in my route. This might work on the South West Coast Path as I can’t be completely wrong as long as I have the sea to my left and the land to my right 😉 but all the twists and turns of the Cotswold Way or the moorlands of the Pennine Way won’t see me without some sort of map.

Given the structure of these trails I plan to stick to the strip maps in guide books. Other parts of my route will not follow a National Trail but other LDPs like the Heart of England Way which are supposed to be signposted, but I’m not sure whether it would be good idea to rely on that. And although these trails already make up a significant part of my route there are still long sections which aren’t covered by any “official” path. This is mainly true for my way through Somerset and for the Scottish Highlands north of Fort William.

Geocaching taught me to use a GPSr and I’m fairly accustomed to using it while walking whatever route. And in addition it’s quite convenient to track a tour and do some statistical analyses afterwards, something I always like to do. Unfortunately, my old trusty etrex Vista HCx gave up the ghost last year. Its successor has some advantages when it comes to storage capacity but forced me to look out for a new topographical map of the UK to use with it. Having found a good solution I will save my intended route and some bad weather alternatives on the GPS together with lots of waypoints for campsites, bothies, youth hostels (just in case), geocaches, …

Of course, with a device like that there’s always the risk of running out of power. Batteries don’t last forever and recharging can become an issue in more remote areas hence for these I need a fallback option which will work in all circumstances: maps and compass. And this is exactly what I will carry in addition to the GPS there. I’ve already prepared the maps in marking my intended route on them but they will also allow me to adapt my route if necessary. Luckily, I’m not unfamiliar to navigating in this “old-fashioned” way so I think there’s reason to assume I won’t lose the way completely and will manage to find John O’Groats 😉

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