Orienteering with your kids

June 13, 2020

We recently gave Orienteering a try at a National Trust location. It’s a great way to teach the kids map reading and something you can easily do in an afternoon.

Why you might want to try this with your kids

Like many other parents, we have found that Geocaching is a great way to motivate your kids when doing a hike. (Click here if you want to read an introduction to Geocaching).

The downside to Geocaching is that you are dependent on a device, which doesn’t help with teaching your kids how to map read.

A possible solution to this is Orienteering.

a great way for kids to learn some map reading skills

If your kids are familiar with Geocaching they’ll soon see similarities with having to find things, but that’s where the similarity ends.

Time to brush up on your map reading skills.

What is Orienteering

Orienteering relies on your navigation skills to travel between different points on a map, called control points.

There are many organised orienteering events with local clubs up and down the country, and even across the globe.

have a go at orienteering

You can also find some Permanent Orienteering Courses around the country, such as some National Trust locations (see below), where you can have a go at orienteering without waiting for an organised event.

Below is a video from British Orienteering that shows you a bit of what it’s about as a sport.

Types of Orienteering

Orienteering is traditionally on foot. There are many competitions where runners race between the control points.

There are lots of other forms of orienteering too, such as car orienteering, ski orienteering, horse orienteering…and just about any mode of transport where you can navigate between different points.

Fortunately, there’s a simple way to try it out without having to run (unless you want to of course!).

How to Play Orienteering

A course is created with a number of control points. Each control has a number or letter.

You are given a control description sheet that tells you which controls you must visit and in which order, and may contain information about where to find the control.

Traditional Orienteering Control Punch

A Traditional Orienteering Control Punch

As you navigate around the course you record your visit to each control.

In an organised event, you may have to use a special ‘punch’ at each control, marking your control sheet as you go around. Though many events now use electronic devices to record your visit at each control point.

For a permanent orienteering course, such as the ones provided free at some National Trust locations, you record the letters you find at each of the control points.

Don’t worry. It’s a lot easier than it sounds!

Orienteering Maps

Official orienteering maps are slightly different to Ordinance Survey Maps but very similar.

Below is an example of an Orienteering Map available from the National Trust.

Example Orienteering Map

An example Orienteering Map

Giving it a go

We gave orienteering a try, not running about, but instead having a good walk across the hills on a Sunday afternoon.

Some National Trust properties have Permanent Orienteering Courses and you can download maps from their website (see below for links), or pick up an orienteering map at the visitor reception.

This is an easy activity to try in an afternoon.

Remember print out a map for each of your kids (something we forgot to do – doh!).

On the course we tried, the control points were found on posts. Each control point is numbered and has a letter printed on it. You write the letter next to the number on the map or control sheet.

Easy. Though we did have to retrace our footsteps a couple of times to find the post 😉

An Orienteering Control Point we found

Where to go Orienteering with the National Trust

Here are the current locations that have orienteering courses (thanks to the National Trust for supplying us with this list).

Some of the maps you can print out from their website, others are available when you arrive at the location, and others may only be available when they run organised events.

County Location Orienteering Maps
 Devon  Saltram Download here
 Killerton Download from Devon Orienteering
 Knightshales Download from Devon Orienteering 
 North Somerset  Tyntesfield Leigh Woods
 Middlesex  Osterley Park
 Cambridgeshire  Wimpole Estate
 Herefordshire  Brockhampton Estate Three routes – 1.3km, 3.5km and 4.4km
 Shropshire  Attingham Park Download Orienteering Map
 Carding Mill Valley
 Liverpool  Speke Hall
 Formby  Available to purchase at reception
 West Yorkshire  Nostell Priory  Pick up a map from reception
 Tyne & Wear  Gibside  Ask for a map at reception
 West Midlands  Wightwick Manor  Pick up a map from reception

Save Money on National Trust Parking and Entrance

If you don’t already have National Trust Family Membership, it’s something we recommend you look at.

We are members and it gets us into places up and down the country, as well as free parking at NT landscapes. If you plan on visiting these places throughout the year the Family Membership is a great way to save money on entrance prices.

You can find more about Family Membership by clicking here.

Other useful links

Want to know more? Here sre some useful links, including some places where you can find other Orienteering maps and courses to try.

Go on, give it a go.

Family Navigation Lessons
Do you want to teach your family how to use a map and the basics of using a compass?

Well, we’ve got a Family Navigation course that has a number of weekly activities to help learn basic navigation.

Find Out More >


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Gav Grayston
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Gav Grayston Contributor

Father to 3 kids, who loves getting out and about (hiking, running, camping, cycling, canoeing...) Co-founded Get Out With The Kids to help other parents enjoy the outdoors with their family.

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