Blonde Two (Fi Darby) explains her own personal journey with map reading and finding a new confidence to navigate. Discover how you can too!
My name's Fi and I can read maps.
I understand that this doesn't make me Wonder Woman (although I do have some big pants), but alongside making a pretty good korma, being able to write about almost anything and lighting a fire with a tampon (yes - true story), being able to map read is one of my favourite achievements.
You see, like lots of people, I couldn't always do it. My life is full of anecdotes that suggest I once fitted the 'does it go this way up?' stereotype often associated with female map reading. Here are a couple of examples.
I once navigated my husband and 3 children home from the Brecon Beacons to Worcestershire through Oswestry because I was, ‘Sure we went through here on the way.’ We didn’t and 20 years later we still don’t mention ‘Oswestry’.
I once walked 3 miles in the wrong direction along the Malvern Hills. To anyone who knows the Malverns, this is almost impossible as you have the River Severn on one side and Wales on the other. I grew up there and still got it wrong.
I once took a group of youngsters on a trip to visit one of our local Dartmoor Rescue Centres. I had been there before but got lost on the way and had to ask someone to come out and ‘rescue’ me.
Finding my feet...
I sound like a hopeless case, but I am living proof that anyone can learn to read a map and use a compass if they have the right training. These days I am happy to navigate across Dartmoor in the dark, walk in a straight line across a bog and teach other people (including men) how to safely use a map and compass. Along with my walking buddy, Lucy Atkins, who is the other half of Two Blondes Walking, we have taught many young people to navigate and have now branched into teaching adults, including ladies-only groups. We work mainly on Dartmoor and, because Dartmoor can be a very featureless landscape, navigation skills learnt there tend to be pretty solid.
I love our ladies-only navigation workshops. Apart from the fact that a group of outdoor girls are almost always great fun, women know when to persevere and how to show unbridled excitement when they experience navigation success. Women aren’t any more or less easy to teach map and compass skills than men but when they work in a group of their own gender, they feel able to ask the ‘silly’ (their words not mine) questions they want to ask that (by their own admission) they might not have asked in front of a group of blokes.
By far the most common comment we get when asking our ladies why they chose a women-only navigation course is, ‘My husband always has the map.’
Not any more he doesn’t!
My husband has, I think, finally forgiven me for Oswestry, maybe because these days it is me who teaches him how to navigate.
Fi Darby (Blonde Two) and Lucy Atkins (Blonde One) aka Two Blondes Walking run navigation workshops and wild camping weekends on Dartmoor. If you are interested in learning how to navigate (even if you are a bloke) or wild camp and would like us to find a navigation course that would suit you, do please get in touch.
By Fi Darby
Fi Darby is Blonde Two of The Two Blondes. The Two Blondes describe themselves as 'very ordinary women', but in reality as well as holding down day jobs, Lucy is a teacher at Trinity School in Teignmouth and Fi is a Freelance Copywriter, their passion for the outdoors and particularly Dartmoor takes them regularly into situations that are beyond the norm for most women of their age.
The Two Blondes met through their shared love of expedition work with young people. Their first meeting was when Lucy was training Fi’s son Olly for Dartmoor’s Ten Tors Challenge and Olly ‘volunteered’ his mum for camp bacon sandwich duties. Soon after Fi and Lucy found themselves working at the same school in Devon and training youngsters together for both the Ten Tors Challenge and the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award. When asked about this Fi said, ‘February camps on Dartmoor weren’t uncommon and we soon realised as the only two female leaders that sharing a tent was going to be much warmer (and more fun) than sleeping alone.’ Their friendship was cemented through this expedition work, they decided to share their adventures with the world and Two Blondes Walking was born.
Lucy and Fi have been writing their daily outdoor blog Two Blondes Walking since 2012 and their tales about fresh air adventures, camping mishaps and humorous outdoor incidents have led to a loyal following.