Entries tagged "sun"

Using Lichens to Navigate

2015-02-23

This is a photo of the top of a historical stone post, known as a 'staddle stone'. Staddle stones were used to build barns off the ground, in order to protect them from rodents and water. In this picture there is a beautiful example of some sun-loving golden Xanthoria lichens enjoying the south side and the moisture-needing moss thriving on the north side of the stone dome. The split between the two isn't perfect, Xanthoria can survive…

The Gegenschein

2015-02-07

Whenever light hits particles, either in our atmosphere or in space, some of that light is scattered and some of it gets reflected back relatively strongly in the direction it came from. Think of shining a torch in a dusty room. Those either side of you will see the light being scattered off the dust, but you will see the dust much more brightly, as it is being reflected straight back at you, the torch holder. The 'Gegenschein' is the name of this effect when the sun's light bounces of dust in the solar system,…

Weld Heliotropism

2014-10-06

The Sunflower (helianthus annuus) is famous for its ability to track the sun over the course of a day. A less well known, but quite abundant plant, called, 'Weld' (Reseda Luteola) also displays this ability. It is an effect known as 'heliotropism'. Weld thrives in ex-industrial areas, in disturbed ground (it loves old bomb craters) and by roadsides, as in this picture. It has been used historically as the source of a bright yellow dye. It is also very useful for natural…

Light, Life and Direction

2014-08-28

Take a close look at the picture above. Notice how there are areas of with low plants - in the foreground - and areas of taller plants - in the middle distance. The taller plants are the light-loving plants, like nettles and brambles. The lower plants, spread along the woodland floor, are the shade tolerators, like wood spurge and dog's mercury. You can see in the picture above, even though it is taken on a cloudy day, how dramatically the plants change when the woodland canopy opens up. Most people understand…

Our Last Adventure

2014-06-30

On the 22nd June this year, The Sunday Times Magazine published an article about the last time a father took his 14 year old son, Kadian, on a bike ride. The son was killed outright by a white van, as the son sped from a footpath out onto a road. At the inquest following this tragedy, the coroner recorded a 'narrative verdict', meaning he did not attribute cause to any named person. My reason for mentioning this heart-wrenching story here is that one part of the inquest surprised me, for reasons that will become clear.…

Marsh Marigold and Spring Wildflowers

2014-04-16

Marsh Marigold flower

I undertook a small natural navigation challenge in West Sussex yesterday. The sun was out so it was not especially tricky, but that is never the point really. When direction is easy it gives me extra time to focus on spotting new things (and if I feel like more pace-counting, perfecting distances). The spring wildflowers were out in great numbers. I was joined at times by bluebells, red and white dead-nettles, daffodils, primroses, wood anemones, ground ivy, common comfrey, green alkanet, marsh marigolds (see picture at top), cuckoo flowers, wood spurge and also some garden…

Sharpening Skills at the Start and End of the Day

2014-04-14

Just before you see the sun rise in the morning or just after it has set for you in the evening, try to work out where it is using clues in the land and sky. This is good practice when you don't need it and improves your awareness hugely for those times when you might. The sun does not set or rise for all things in a landscape at the same moment. The higher something is then the earlier it will see sunrise and the later the sun will set for it. I…

Dead Reckoning and Path Integration (or How to Walk Like an Ant)

2014-03-28

One of the questions I like to ask at the start of some courses is this: If you walk ten paces north, then ten paces east, then ten paces south, what would you need to do to find your way back to your start point? The answer is at the bottom of the page. If you got this right, or even if you got it wrong but made a logical attempt to solve it, then you are already familiar with the concept of 'dead reckoning', even if the name is new to you.…

Shipwrecks on BBC4

2013-12-04

Shipwrecks is a three-part series on BBC4, presented by naval historian, Dr. Sam Willis. And it sets out to do what BBC4 does best. It compensates for a lack of Hollywood budget by treating the viewer as intelligent. Rare and radical. BBC4 as a whole is extraordinary. I can only imagine the guts it took for some soul to march, with quickening heart, into a meeting and suggest that of the 60 odd million people living in this country, there might be a few thousand who don't consider Hello Magazine to be news. I salute…

Watches, Time and the Art of Not Getting Lost

2013-11-18

On courses and at the end of talks, I regularly get asked about how we can use our watch as a compass. There are two ways of using a watch to help navigate that I will touch on here, one of them is well known, but I never use it. The second is a familiar concept, but is one of the most underused methods of navigating in the world. I use it all the time. This second method is the single best way of realising you are not lost. First Method: Finding Direction Using a…

12345>>>