Newsletter > Newsletter archive > January 2021

January 2021

How about a navigation skills brush-up
Well we're all stuck close to home again, in our case by being snowed in as well as through the Covid restrictions. No doubt we are all repeating the same few walks, but there are plenty of small pleasures to be had, especially while the weather is so changeable. The environment can look and feel completely new, depending on the time of day or what is, or isn't, falling out of the sky. We also find it worthwhile simply reversing the route, so that you come at things from the opposite angle. It's surprising how much difference that can make, sometimes making it feel like a different walk entirely.

If you don't mind doing a little extra mental work, or have a younger generation to teach, it's a good opportunity to hone those map and compass skills. If you get ambitious you can even experiment with navigating at night, with the moon or a magnificent starry sky as an additional reward. Ordnance Survey has a superb set of resources for learning about all aspects of navigation, whether for beginners or those looking to improve advanced skills. There's a Beginners Guide to download and print out and a whole series of short videos.

If you are starting out and buying a compass for navigation we recommend getting a decent 'baseplate' one, the best known of which are made by Silva. You can buy cheap ones for a few pounds but we have found that they fall apart very quickly. A Silva Ranger Compass costs around £25. This may seem a lot but properly cared for a good compass will last for many years. Just don't store it, as we did, near the speakers in your vehicle. The strong magnet in the speaker caused it to reverse polarity, which itself caused a few minutes of confusion in the Welsh mountains a few years ago.

Looking further ahead, we hope to be able to offer practical navigation skills courses later in 2021, most likely in the autumn. As we have done before these will be based in Cumbria's Eden Valley, in conjunction with Kirkby Stephen Mountain Rescue Team. Please contact us if you would be interested in these one or two day courses and we will get back in touch as soon as they are set up.

Planning ahead for sunnier days
It seems that it will be a little while yet before restrictions ease and we can travel freely again. In the meantime, why not brighten these bleak winter days by planning and researching a future walking adventure?

Many of us will look to the UK for our first holiday of 2021, and in anticipation Slow Travel specialists Inntravel have boosted their programme of home-grown walking breaks. They now offer 14 holidays in the UK, stretching from the Scottish Borders to the South Downs, and ranging from gentle strolls on the flat to more challenging hikes across hillier terrain. All holidays are self-guided, with Inntravel providing detailed route notes to guide you from A to B, as well as organising luggage transfers and making reservations at high-quality inns, guesthouses and hotels – each chosen for their warm welcome and commitment to excellent, personal service.

New for 2021 is Trails of the Riverbank, a leisurely route which begins amid Oxford's ancient spires and explores the peaceful water meadows and pretty villages of the Thames Path. Also joining the programme is The Northumberland Coast & its Castles, on which you walk north from Warkworth to Bamburgh, discovering the region's rich history and sweeping coastal scenery as you go.

Inntravel are looking to expand their UK programme further throughout the year, so why not sign up to their email newsletter for details of their latest routes? You can also find out more about their holidays by visiting or emailing their expert team at

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Sutton Hoo
For those interested in things archaeological there's a new film out later this week, though only streamed on Netflix and not in the cinema, for obvious reasons. 'The Dig' tells the story behind one of Britain's most remarkable ancient sites, Sutton Hoo in Suffolk.

In 1939, a self-taught archaeologist hired by the landowner uncovered the imprint of a 27-metre long boat in a burial mound on her land. A central chamber held the possessions of an Anglo-Saxon king, whose exact identity remains a mystery. Alongside swords, gold buckles, coins, feasting vessels and silverware from the distant Byzantine empire, the archaeologists uncovered an unusual 'human mask' helmet, one of only four from the period to survive to this day. As an emblem of its age it has become genuinely iconic.

Just over a year ago, after visiting a somewhat lacklustre special exhibition at the British Museum, we wandered into the Sutton Hoo collection in the open galleries and were much more impressed. The artefacts are simply stunning and, to make up for current difficulties in going in person, there is an excellent online resource exploring the collection and its background. When the situation allows again, the Sutton Hoo site, owned by the National Trust, is well worth a visit.

Andalucia offers free Covid travel insurance
Our friends at Casa Ana have notified us that the Government of Andalucia is offering free Covid travel insurance for visitors from overseas throughout 2021. This is something that other regional authorities, or even whole countries, could perhaps consider following suit with. Casa Ana are going ahead with walking holidays and writing retreats starting in late March.