Photo of snowy Sussex woodland trail Photo of snowy Sussex woodland trail

Newsletter Quiz

The following is taken from the last newsletter (subscribers received a fuller version of this a month ago, you can subscribe at the bottom of the page and unsubscribe at any time in a few seconds):


I have a new book coming out on 17th May in the UK (and in the summer in the US.)

Here is the cover, with a few more details here.


I’m just back from 9 days research up north, naturally navigating the foothills of the Cairngorms and tracking a variety of animals – including pine martens, which was a first for me.

I was living in a very nice modern bothy with a log burner, but no electricity, running water, gas etc. Melting snow for drinking water, tea and cooking was part of a routine of joyful simplicity. Note the improvised fridge/freezer hanging from the hook near the top left. This was meant to be for a shower bag, but there was no shower bag. My one shower came from heating a rusting bucket full of icy river water over a fire for an hour. Very nice it was too, if a little ruddy.

A foot and a half of snow fell in a couple of days whilst I was up there, which made direction-finding and tracking very easy and covering distance difficult – but all satisfying.

I took over 400 photos during my time there, here are a selection to test your wits against. They get progressively more difficult. Clues below and Answers at the very bottom.

1. Roughly what direction are we looking in this picture?

2. What strange creature passed this way?

3. Look at the picture below. Why is there snow and ice on only one part of the loch?

4. Whilst navigating across a forest, I spooked an animal which fled. Which animal?

5. Look at the picture below and work out: what direction did the snow blow in from?

6. Use your answer above, to work out the direction we are looking in the picture below.

7. Study the first picture below.

If you look closely, you’ll notice a pair of tracks in the snow near the top right of the picture above.

a) Who or what created these tracks?
b) Was it travelling towards us, away from us or both, and why?


QUIZ CLUES (some slightly cryptic):

1. It’s a solar panel.
2. A pair of creatures, with two real legs each.
3. Notice how the colour of the water changes. Why?
4. The dark space, about the size of my boot, has been formed.
5. Look for evidence of long term wind trends (windswept trees, mound and dip, flagging, lone stragglers. Check index of Walker’s Guide / Lost Art if those terms are unfamiliar). Then refer to strips on trees.
6. See Newsletter.

7. See Newsletter.

Answers at bottom.



I’ve created a dedicated area of the website for water readers and there are some interesting developments there. I will be continually adding examples to the bottom. Please do send in your own examples of water clues and signs.

To toast this new section of the website, here is another clue question:
8. What does the pattern of sand ripples below indicate? Answer at the bottom.

You can always catch up on the latest news and blog posts via the perfectly titled, Latest News page, including The Bear Whisperer.

And I post different things on Twitter and Instagram.

Happy Navigating,


1. We are looking close to west.
Solar panels will normally be aligned to face close to south – even when they are covered in snow and next to useless in the Scottish midwinter.

2. A pair of skiers passed, the second planting their pole close to the first.

3. The dark patches of water show us where the wind is touching the surface and generating ripples – this delays ice forming. Nearest to us the water is in a ‘wind shadow’, created by the high ground the picture is taken from. This still water freezes more quickly and the ice allows snow to settle.

4. A mountain hare. The hares rest in depressions in the ground known as ‘forms’, but bound away when disturbed by inconsiderate natural navigators.

5. The snow came in from the southwest. The fallen tree ‘mound and dip’, flagging, lone stragglers and many other clues show that SW is to the right of the picture. The strips on the trees is also on that side of the tree, indicating that is where the snow blew in from.

6. We are looking close to northwest. The snow on the twigs has blown in from the left of the picture. From the question before we know that direction is SW; if SW is to your left, you must be looking NW.

a) We are looking at otter tracks.
b) This otter was heading away from us, both times.
The patterns in the water show us that the river is flowing towards us – we are looking upstream.
Otters are clever and economical; they will swim with the flow of the water downstream, but take shortcuts over land where possible to avoid swimming round bends against fast water. These tracks are otter upstream shortcuts.

These are ‘flat-topped’ sand ripples, formed when water flows quickly one way and then the other. They are a sign of tidal waters.

More on the newsletter here.