Navigation Glossary

Confused about navigation jargon? Here’s a glossary that explains terms like attack point, re-entrant and catching feature. If you would like to develop your navigation skills why not try one of our National Navigation Award courses.

4 Figure Grid Reference
The coordinates for a 1km square box formed by the vertical and horizontal lines on a map that utilises the Ordnance Survey National Grid reference system.

6 Figure Grid Reference
The coordinates for a 100m square box on a map that utilises the Ordnance Survey National Grid reference system. 6 figure grid references are useful in communicating your position to someone else. 6 figure grid references, comprising of 6 numbers, are preceded by two letters. These letters tell you which of the 625 UK 100 x 100km major squares you are in.

Access rights (Scotland)
The Land Reform Act 2003, created a right of access to land and water in Scotland, subject to certain limitations. The act placed responsibilities on landowners, landmanagers and local authorities. Users forego their access rights if they are not exercised responsibly. The Scottish Outdoor Access code sets out what is responsible access.

Aiming off
A technique for finding a target. In circumstances where there is a risk that you might miss the target, you can sometimes use a feature in the landscape that leads to target (e.g. a stream, road, lochside, valley, fence). You deliberately navigate to one side of the intended target, then upon reaching the feature, you follow it, left or right, to the target.

Attack point
An intermediate point on your navigational leg that can be helpful in enabling you to navigate to your intended destination. Sometimes the route that is most likely to get you to your target isn’t a straight line. Sometimes it is best to go to an intermediate point, which may be off to one side.

Catching feature
Something in the landscape that will indicate whether you have gone to far or overshot your intended destination

Collecting / ticking off features
Things in the landscape that you will pass as you journey along your route; for example, a bend in the track, a path junction, woodland, a building.

Contour line
A line on a map (orange on Ordnance Survey maps) that represents the shape of the landscape. Contour lines join up points of equal height. On Ordnance Survey (OS) map contours are normally at 10m intervals. Harvey map contour lines are sometimes at 10m and sometimes at 15m intervals.

The target or navigational objective. It is your intended destination for a navigational leg.

Countryside Rights of Way Act 2000. This legislation gives a public right of access to land mapped as ‘open country’ (mountain, moor, heath and down) or registered common land in England and Wales. These areas are known as ‘open access land’. Importantly there is not a general right of access to land and water in England and Wales as there is in Scotland. Users are also required to exercise their access rights responsibly and this is set out in the countryside code – covering England and Wales.

Emergency procedures
What to do in the event of somone being in or being at risk of immediate harm. Immediate harm will arise from: unconsciousness, fracture, bleeding, heart attack, hypothermia, choking, shock and a range of other injuries and conditions. Depending on the circumstances, risk of immediate harm can arise from people being lost in the outdoors or benighted.

This stands for Global Positioning System. It is a satillite based system that enables you, with the use of a GPS device, to find out your position on the earth. Your position is normally given in latitude or longitude or a grid reference.

Grid lines
The lines going up and across maps – they are blue on Ordnance Survey maps. The vertical lines are aligned north south and the horizontal lines are aligned east west. The boxes formed by these lines are always 1km square. Note that orienteering maps sometimes don’t have grid lines, or may just have vertical lines. Note that the vertical lines are not aligned to magnetic north, which in Dec 2017 in Glasgow is -2 degrees 37 minutes NEGATIVE (west).

Line or linear features that can be followed and help you navigate to your intended target.

Harvey’s Maps
A company that produces maps in the UK at different scales for leisure and recreation. Only parts of the UK are covered by these maps.

Latitude and Longitude
These are lines that subdivide the earth and form part of a geographic coordinate system that enable positions on the earth’s surface to be described. Lines of longitude go through the north and south poles. Lines of latitude go around the earth in parallel with the equator.

Linear Feature
Features on the map and landscape that form a line; e.g. paths, tracks, roads, walls, fences, ditches, pylons, pipelines, streams etc. Linear features can be used as handrails to help you navigate to your target.

Magnetic deviation
This is the difference in angle between the north pole and magnetic north pole, from wherever you are on the planet. The magnetic north pole is in the Canadian Arctic and moves a small amount every year. The needle on your compass points to the magnetic north pole, not the geographic north pole. Note that magnetic deviation is different in different parts of the world, even in different parts of Scotland. It also changes over time, albiet slowly. To find out what the current magnetic deviation is in your area type ‘magnetic declination’ and the area; e.g. ‘Glasgow’ into this web page

Map Scale
Map scale refers to the relationship (or ratio) between distance on a map and the corresponding distance on the ground. For example, on a 1:100000 scale map, 1cm on the map equals 100,000 cm on the ground. 100,000 cm = 1km.

Naismiths rule
A timing formula used to work out how long it will take to walk a certain distance: 5km per hour plus 1 min for every 10m ascent.

National grid
The Ordnance Survey National Grid reference system is a system of geographic grid references used in Great Britain, different from latitude and longitude. Note that other countries have differnt grid systems. Both Harvey and Ordnance Survey maps use the National Grid reference system.

Ordnance Surey
Ordnance Survey (OS) is the UK national mapping system. They produce maps, notably the 1:50,000 landranger maps and the 1:25,000 explorer maps.

A technique for measuring how far you have travelled by counting the number of steps or paces you have taken.

Point features
These are features in the landscape at specific places or points in the landscape. An example is a trig point, building, phone box, cairn, antenne.

A small valley like feature in the landscape recognised on the map by the contour line curving in (upslope) then out again.

A process for finding out where you are. There are different methods; for example, matching features in the landscape to the map, setting the map to the landscape using a compass to orientate the map to north, using a compass to work out the direction or angle of a linear feature and matching this to the map.

Ring Contour
A small circular shape in the landscape recognised by a contour line that forms a circle.

A ruler that enables you to measure distance on a map. Each Romer is scale specific.

Scottish Outdoor Access Code
This guidance defines what responsible outdoor access is in Scotland. It provides guidance to both landowners and land managers and those exercising access rights (walkers, cyclists, canoists etc). 

Setting / Orientating the map
Matching up the map to the features you can see in the landscape. In doing this you will also be aligning the map to north.

A small ridge like feature recognised by contour lines curving out (down slope) then back in again.

A technique for measuring how far you have travelled based on distance and an estimate of your speed.


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