Entries tagged "natural navigation"
The outdoors can feel less exotic in winter and to counter this I thought I would run a competition to get us looking a little harder for intrigue at this time of year.
The winner of the competition will be the person who emails me the most interesting winter natural navigation clue, but to qualify it has to be one that I have not come across before.
The prize is a private nighttime natural navigation course in the South Downs in West Sussex, for up to 4 people. The winner will also receive signed/dedicated…
Nature's Radar, my academic paper on natural navigation observations during a small boat voyage in the North Atlantic has just been published by the Journal of Navigation.
A full colour PDF copy is available by clicking here
There is also a rough HTML version.
Journal of Navigation, http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract?aid=8725663
The Wall Street Journal has recently reviewed The Natural Navigator book.
Here is a taster:
"...as the title of his deeply poetic book—"The Natural Navigator"—suggests, there is life after the compass, maps and even GPS. Or, to put it more accurately, there was life before them, and that way of life—in which we orient ourselves by examining the types of clouds in the sky above us or the strength of sea currents beneath our feet or the marks that winds leave in the snow—is worth studying and defending...."
The full review can be read…
Navigation is about knowing where you are as much as working out how to get to where you want to be. A lot of the fun may lie in finding direction, but natural navigators also need to be tuned to the clues that help us to establish exactly where we are.
For thousands of years, humans gained an understanding of their latitude from the height of the sun and stars, but there are many clues beneath the sky. From general notions, the smell of the sea from land or the scent of a Caribbean island after crossing an…
One of the most rewarding things about natural navigation is that it shuns any attempt by the seasons to quieten things down. There are many interests in the natural world that are closely shepherded by the seasons; foraging, birds and wild flowers will have their peaks and troughs, but some things are immune. Geology will reveal many of its fascinating faces regardless of whether it is February or August.
But natural navigation is a little different to all of the above, because it keeps its interest throughout the year, without too many troughs, and unlike geology it does…
It would be true to say that I would not be writing this blog if the sun rose in the same place each day. I don't mean that in a very general sense, it's not because the whole world would be very different and maybe the dinosaurs would have survived and humans would never have evolved, blah, blah...
No, it is because in the spring of 2008 I was busy trying to work out whether there was any point in trying to make a living by teaching natural navigation, or not. Whether, perhaps, that was the stupidest idea…
Welcome to those of you who have found your way here, on the trail from BBC1's Country Tracks. (For those of you who haven't, a programme has just gone out on BBC1 in which I gave the presenter Miriam Cooke some natural navigation tips in a forest by the Arch, near Devil's Bridge, in Ceredigion, Wales. There's a short clip here.)
However you found your way, now that you are here have a bit of an explore and get as lost in this website as you like.
If you've enjoyed watching some natural navigation on TV,…
This photo, from my recent and gallette-packed French summer holiday, shows the distinctive orange lichens that have daubed a southern-facing wall of Suscinio Castle in Brittany.
Being a coastal region, Brittany is a natural home for these orange Xanthoria lichens, which can be both a blessing and curse when it comes to using them to understand direction. This is because conditions need to be close to perfect for lichens to thrive, but if they are too good then a lichen will manage well on more than one side, and occasionally on all sides.
This nuance creates a…
I'm just back from a week in Cornwall, where I have been helping the BBC with a new series called, 'All Roads Lead Home'.
It has been an amazing experience and most excitingly it means that... natural navigation is coming to a televison near you soon!
The premise of the series is as follows: Alison Steadman, Sue Perkins and Stephen Mangan learn how to navigate naturally and then go on 3 journeys together, each one to a place that holds some important connection for them. (Sue Perkins loves and lives in Cornwall, when she is not inhabiting…
After an intense week of scouting in northwest Ireland with the BBC last week, I felt a little weary come Saturday morning. We had covered almost all of the largest island of the coast of Ireland, Achill Island in County Mayo, and then zoomed about Ballycroy and a few other places too. A couple of days mucking about would have been nice, but instead I had to get the first draft of my new book to my publisher's by this morning. Tomorrow I'm off to Cornwall with Zoe Timmers from the Beeb again. One of those busy times,…
I recently came across this short video by Michael Barton. It contains a neat natural navigation tip and bushcraft at its most fun. Click on the image below to watch the video.
One of the natural navigation techniques that ocean sailors have used for centuries is noticing that the incidence of flotsam and jetsam increases, on average, as you get closer to land.
A similar principle can be used on land to find towns or villages. The number of roads, paths, power lines and communication cables increases as you get nearer a town; of course light and noise pollution also increase. There are some more 'lateral' clues too.
On the weekend I was walking with friends in the South Downs. My friend had the map and so I…
My book is being published in the US in January. I'm very excited and not a little curious to see how American readers react to it.I can't think of a book that has hurtled more determinedly into the gap between the two faces of America. Is it a country of 'drive 100 yards to the mall' or 'head west', the pioneer spirit and Henry David Thoreau? Of course it is both; I have seen someone in Florida drive between two shops but stay in the same car-park, but I have also watched someone who thirsted so greatly for…
Welcome to all New York Times readers. You have successfully navigated your way to the home of natural navigation on the Internet. Enjoy a wander through these pages, or, if you prefer the feel of paper in your hands, check out my book, The Natural Navigator. It is being published in the US in January.
If you are not a NYT reader, but would like to be then my natural navigation article can be found here.
Another very enjoyable Beginner's Guide to Natural Navigation course at West Dean College on Saturday. There were sailors, walkers, a forager and an army officer among the ever-varied student backgrounds. My thanks to all for coming.
Last night, shortly after 10.30, I took this photograph of the moon rising above the woods and emerging from behind thin clouds. It looks very much like a full moon, but is actually one day after full, a waning moon. It does highlight the difficulty of judging the phase of the moon accurately.
From an aesthetic perspective there is no…
Another very enjoyable Beginner's Guide to Natural Navigation course at the Royal Geographical Society yesterday. The diversity of interests and experiences never fails to amaze me; from desert wanderers to cruise ship sailors and even a sailor from a tall ship in the Pacific. Wonderful!It was a beautiful full moon last night and I got to experiment with a new lens that I have bought. Still a long way to go until I take a photo of the moon that I am happy with, but always learning which is satisfying.The phase of the moon appears the same all over…
A detailed review of the book has just been published on Nick Gallop's Skills for Wild Lives website, which is well worth a visit anyway. (Image courtesy of his website).
Thanks to everyone who came to hear my talks and buy the book at the Outdoors Show yesterday. I will be giving the talks again today and on Sunday at the following times on the stage at the Wilderness Camp:
1.15: The Wonderful World of Natural Navigation. A quick peek at a couple of the journeys that led to my passion for the subject, including the transatlantics, and then a whirlwind tour of lots of techniques that you can use yourself.
4.00: Navigating Using the Night Sky. The ways we can use the stars, moon and planets…
There is a really good attempt to give a flavour of the whole subject of natural navigation in an article in the Independent today by Tim Walker. Tim came for a walk in London to sample natural navigation urban-style.Anyway, flower pot time. Take a look at this photo that I took yesterday just before lunch. Note the wet ground in the shade and how the shadow of the pot has moved 'up' leaving a wet area in its wake. The shadow is moving west to east, away from the camera. As it is close to the middle of the…
I landed back at Gatwick last night following an accidental visit to Tenerife.The wind has been my friend on so many occasions recently, a dependable breeze helping me on my way through the woods or the clouds scudding overhead pointing the way home. It was probably time that it reminded me that it is not just in the business of helping me on my walks.The plan was simple: I wanted to use a one week gap in the diary to get out to one of the wildest spots within five hours of home to do some natural navigation research. Days…
My book is on the printing presses - this is very exciting and an excuse for a quick plug in my blog!In the book I emphasise the importance of using our senses in natural navigation. I cover examples from the sound of birdsong to the smell of trampled fruit in London.I stumbled across a kindred spirit on the Internet this morning in Sachin Somanna, the author of this article about Gayathri Tiffin Room. It certainly smells from here like one of the joys of the Indian city of Mysore:"We do not need any directions to reach Gayathri Tiffin…
... from a fortnight's family break in Phuket, Thailand. Apologies if anyone has been trying to contact me without luck, my phone would not let me update my messages.I made a special effort not to make too much effort, this had long been scheduled as a 'meet the family again after an intensive two months on the book' trip. The plan was to make like this Gecko and flop in the light and warmth. There were a few natural navigation treats that had me scrambling for the camera and they will pop up here in time...
I got back late last night after a very full day in the Yorkshire Dales. I was doing a shoot with the Escape to the Country team which finished at 6 o' clock and then it was a six hour drive, Diet Coke and dark chocolate all the way, to get back home in time to get the first draft of my book to Virgin Books for the deadline.Had a great, albeit quite short, time in the Dales. The production team and house-hunting couple were really fun to work with and it is hard not to enjoy a day in…
Recovering from a full and fun day filming with Jules Hudson and the team from the BBC's Countryfile program. We were out on the South Downs and I spent the first two-thirds of the day teaching Jules some of the methods for navigating using nature and then 'released him into the wild' with a tricky challenge. If you'd like to know whether Jules managed to find his way using nature then it is being shown on BBC1 this Sunday evening (03 May) at 7.30pm.I learnt plenty on the day too, Jules was an archaeologist by trade and a passionate…
Just back after a fantastic and physically intense fortnight in the Libyan desert. This photo of me scaling a dune was taken after nine hours trekking. Every little helps at this stage of the day and so you'll notice that I'm walking on the firmer windward side of the ridge.It was a great test of skills and opportunity to research. I learned plenty during my time with the Tuareg and, outrageous to claim so I whisper it quietly, I may even have taught them one or two things. I return with over 1000 photos, a packed…
The more I study natural navigation, the more indebted I feel to trees. There are few environmental conditions that they do not make some effect to reflect. Sun, rain, shade, heat, cold, dryness, dampness, soil type... and in this case snow and wind.Early on Monday morning these young beech trees pointed very dependably to NNE with their white lines. I was able to leave the path with confidence.
Time for a bit of ramble.At the heart of natural navigation there is potential for conflict.If the sun did not behave with rational, dependable predictability then reading its effects might be a forlorn cause. We can say with great confidence where it will be in the sky at almost any moment in the future. And yet, nearly everything that follows the sun closely, from plants and animals to the weather itself, does not seem to have much fondness for rigid patterns or predictability.This photo is an example. I could have worked out…
Everyone who starts their day outdoors welcomes dawn, but for natural navigators it is an important time that should be both enjoyed and absorbed. Sunrise is one of the best times to check our bearings, metaphorically and literally.Something we need to look out for on land, and to a lesser extent at sea, is the light from towns. Light pollution is a perennial fiend for stargazers, but it can also throw us if we are searching for early signs of dawn, and its effects can be especially…
Yesterday afternoon I was driving back home from Chichester when the car took over and lead me to the West Stoke car park. This wild places book has had a bewitching effect. Was it a case of many a true word spoken in jest in my entry yesterday? I really did not expect to find myself at Kingley Vale, one of the nominated 'wild places', as soon as a few hours after writing it.Walking for a couple of hours from sunlight to dusk and beyond, there were plenty of rich natural navigation clues and I…
Dawn is a critical and exciting time for the natural navigator, it sets up the day. It is also a time of rapid change, I took the second of these two photographs only one hour after the first yesterday morning, but that need not catch us off guard.
With experience it is possible to tell that this moon is two days off a new moon, which means that it will rise two of my fist-widths (24 degrees) ahead of the sun. The sun travels through…
The worlds of technology, navigation and nature convened in a mildly surreal way over the past month.
Satellite navigation development, like all things space-related, often appears to be governed more by national pride than calm pragmatism. Nobody has yet explained effectively to me the need for billions to be invested in Galileo, the European alternative to the American GPS system. The Russian version of GPS, GLONASS, has not been a story of relentless success or necessity either, but apparently the system has now been tested on Vladimir Putin's dog.
'Mr Ivanov said…
Those who have been on a course will know the strange pleasure that I get from connecting seemingly unrelated things through natural navigation, so here, before your eyes I will attempt to connect a cat on a dustbin and a Greek orthodox priest.
The Gooleys have just returned from a week visiting family in the Peloponnese. My brother's house is high in the Greek hills and we found ourselves following the same route down a few times each day on the way to towns, villages or the beach. It was during these trips in the car…