All Roads Lead Home and natural navigation

25 Oct

Regular readers of my blog will know that I don’t watch much television (I never even got around to watching the latest series of Who Do You Think You Are?), but there was one series recently that I made an effort to watch, albeit on BBC iPlayer rather than when it was actually broadcast.

The series was called All Roads Lead Home and was about the subject of natural navigation. There were only three episodes in this series, and the idea of the show was for three celebrities to find their way around the landscape without the use of a map, compass or GPS, and using only the clues provided by nature (and the occasional man-made clues like churches and graveyards).

The series didn’t receive particularly rave reviews, partly I think because people were expecting the celebrities to be dumped in some remote corner of Britain and then be expected to find their way home. Instead the walks they made were much shorter, between fixed points and they were given a guidebook which gave them directions such as “at the next junction take the south-west path”, they just had to use the clues to figure out which direction that was.

I found the series very enjoyable, natural navigation is something that has intrigued me for a while, the expert on the series was Tristan Gooley, and I already have his book The Natural Navigator on my shelf and have been following his blog for a while. It also helped that the celebrities received their training at West Dean House near Chichester, West Sussex, which featured in clips in the series along with the parish church at West Dean and the South Downs.

For the family historian episode two was particularly pertinent, when the group visited Ireland, ancestral home of one of the celebrities, Stephen Mangan. This episode was much more about finding his roots and exploring the landscape of his ancestors. Natural navigation requires that you pay greater attention to your surroundings and not just turning up in a car as they usually do on Who Do You Think You Are? and this is a useful lesson for anyone wanting to really get to know about where your ancestors lived.

I know I am over reliant on maps when I go walking (although I rarely use a compass), and I know that when I first walked the South Downs Way last year I enjoyed it much more when I actually put the guidebook away and began to see the landscape around me. Searching for natural clues or in my case for the waymarking provided is a great way of opening your eyes to your surroundings, rather than having one eye constantly on the map, waiting for the next change in direction. Hopefully this programme will encourage me to put the map away a bit more often when I go out wandering.

Copyright © 2011 John Gasson.
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