Saturday Walkers Club

Frequently Asked Questions


A good tip is to check the BBC Breakfast Program or News 24 first thing before you set off, for a last minute forecast on the chance of rain or shine.

What to Bring / Wear?

  • Essential: The book, a compass, a water bottle, a windproof layer.
  • A Good Idea: Some snacks/a packed lunch in case there is a problem with the lunchtime pub.
  • Boots: In the winter you will need proper walking boots as some of the walks can get very muddy (light shoes to change into at the lunchtime pub, or on the way home are also useful). In the summer, trainers will do.
  • Waterproofs: A waterproof jacket is essential if there is a chance of rain, and waterproof trousers if it will rain. You can get away with an umbrella during a shower if it isn't windy. There is no need to buy Gore-tex, as there are many equally good equivalent 'breathable' waterproof fabrics nowadays. Indeed, as few of the walks are very strenuous, a simple PVC mac would do. However, do check for 'taped seams', as water can get in through the stitching.
  • In Winter: A torch in case you don't finish before it gets dark.
  • In Summer: Hat, sunscreen, etc. as you'll be outside for several hours.

Travel by Car

  • This usually works out cheaper for more than 1 person.
  • Returning to your car : Not all book 1 walks are car friendly, so do check that the start and end of the walk are on the same train line! If you have 2 cars, you can park 1 at the end of the walk and drive the other to the start.
  • Parking : Sometimes (and especially on weekdays) its easier/cheaper to park in a residential area 1/2 a mile or so along the route from the train station. You could also park at the lunchtime pub, which tends to be in a quiet village, and start the walk from there.

Navigating using Detailed Instructions (rather than a map)?

If you are used to a map and compass, this may seem a little odd, but it works well, especially in the lowlands and woods where there are many paths. You can of course print off 1:50,000 maps segments from this website, or 1:25,000 scale from Multimap or Streetmap

Some useful tips.

  • Photocopy the book to save weight
  • Use a pencil, and lightly cross out each paragraph you've read, so whenever you look at the instructions, you always know where you are.
  • If you think you may have gone wrong, but aren't sure, use a compass to check you direction. If your path is at 290º, but it should be 240º, then that is a 50º difference, and something is wrong.
  • Average walking speed is about 60 meters per minute.
  • Map Reading Made Easy (by the Ordnance Survey)

What do I do if I get lost?

First of all, don't panic.

Second, don't just carry on, because, if you don't have a map, and you have gone wrong, you really will get lost. If the next instruction is "in 100 meters...", which will take about 2 mins on flat terrain, don't carry on walking for 10 mins!

All the walks in the books have been checked several times by different people, so all the obvious and commonly made errors have been corrected.

The most common error people make is skipping a paragraph, or reading the same one twice. Sit down, and spend a few mins re-reading the last paragraph, and see if you've missed something. Maybe there was an arrow or a path partly hidden by undergrowth, or you missed something while you were talking.

If you have made a mistake:

  • Go back to the last point you were sure of, and try again.
  • Do not just carry on, or try and guess the right way. Without a map, it'll take longer probably much longer.

Although, it feels hard to retrace your steps, and walk back the way you came, its usually the right thing to do. Even if you have to go back 500 meters, thats only 10 mins walk, and you'll probably spend that much time just thinking about it!

What is this Year's OS Map Magnetic Variation?

North on an Ordnance Survey (OS) map (the grid) is not quite the same as magnetic north on a compass, nor is either the same as true north (the earth's axis)

  • "Map north" (the north-south lines) on an Ordnance Survey map is not true north - its slightly off, and the amount varies throughout the country.

  • "Magnetic north" (which your compass points to) is not true north either, and it moves slowly from year to year as well

In July 2009, the magnetic variation (or declination) was:

  • London : 3° west of grid north.
  • Penzance : 1° west
  • Shetland Islands : 4 ° west

How to use this figure

Add for Mag(netic) - Get Rid for Grid. So if in the southeast:

  • if you take a compass bearing from an OS map, add 3° before following it.
  • if you take a compass bearing from the real world, subtract 3° before placing it on your map

Magnetic Variation Calculator (British Geological Survey)

What speed do I walk at?

  • Average walking speed is about 2.5 miles an hour (4 km/h), which works out at roughly 1 metre/second / 60 meters per minute.
  • Allow 2 miles an hour (3.2 km/h) taking into account mud, hills, navigating, talking etc.
  • Walking quickly, on good terrain, 3 miles an hour (4.8 km/h) is possible.

How far can I see?

The distance to the horizon is

  • 113 x square root (height in km) km

  • 3.6 x square root (height in meters) km

  • 2.25 x square root (height in meters) miles

So, if you are on the South Downs (height about 200 meters) looking out to sea, you can see 32 miles on a clear day, i.e. 2.25 * √(200) miles.

If you are looking at another mountain, or other object above the horizon, you need to add your distance to the horizon, and its distance to the horizon together. So, if you are on the South Downs, looking towards the North Downs (also about 200 meters), you could see the very tops of them 64 miles away.

You can derive the formulae for yourself if you know the earth's radius, and understand radians ... sin Θ => Θ as Θ => 0

Last Updated: Sep-09