Back in November last year, I attended a Lowland Leader Course which was ran by Cliff LOWTHER of Roxcool for Mountain Training. This was a 2-day course to set me up in navigation and other outdoor skills so I could complete an assessment enabling me to take out groups for Lowland walks. Well, a couple of weeks ago I did the assessment, another two days of intensive navigation and first aid and various other outdoor skills.
The first day started with a meet at the village hall in Borrowby, near Thirsk. The weather was sunny and looked to stay good for the day. One of the other candidates was already there as I pulled up, he was one of the lads on the 2-day course in November so we had a chat and put our boots on. Cliff, the instructor, turned up in his VW campervan, only to be met by my new purchase, my new T5 VW Campervan conversion and he was given a guided tour of my pride and joy. We set up in the hall which didn’t take too long as one of the 3 expected candidates had cancelled last minute so it was two to be assessed instead of three. The instructor had a smile on his face when he stated the smaller group would mean a more intensive 2 days, I was happy with that!
The other candidate was called Chris, so Chris and I planned a route on a 25:1 map around the area and had it sorted in 10 minutes. Cliff said the route had to take in woodland, farmland and road to keep the job right, so our 7 mile offering was accepted and we packed up our kit and drove to the start point.
We had a good session over the route we planned, lots of ‘Distance, Direction, Duration, Description and Dangers’ thrown in and the weather gave us a nice soaking. Overall the day went swimmingly and Cliff had no problems with our performance. The drive home was with a head buzzing about any mistakes I might have made and the next day of assessment.
Day 2 we met in Swainby and what looked like an overcast day. Chris and I knew this day would be the make or break to gain the qualification which to be fair, only had taken 3 days, but a very hard 3 days. Using 50:1 maps (which I can’t stand due to fences/boundaries not shown) we set of into the Cleveland Hills and farmland. We started off with ‘blind navigation’ from the start. This is when only one candidate gets shown start/route/finish point, the other has to know exactly where they are when asked by the instructor at any point during the route. Which means you cannot switch off no matter what!
The route passed by, changing navigator every quarter mile or so. But during this, the instructor stopped the two of us and asked about flora and fauna. This is an essential skill if you want to keep walkers interested during a day out and to be fair, it does make the route a bit more interesting. So, you have to know your Sorrells from your Jack by the Hedge and your Swallows from your Swifts.
Our course joining instructions informed us to have a 5 minute informational talk ready for the final day, something relative to the outdoors and hiking. Both Chris and I had discussed our topics and were forearmed and ready for the bombshell to be dropped by the instructor at any time. Plus, we were braced for our first aid scenarios which were no doubt going to happen when we’d let our guard down slightly, and they did!
I don’t want to give too much info in case I ‘spoiler’ future courses but what I can say, what an enjoyable course and final assessment, well worth a go if you’re interested in walking outdoors.