MapActive: teaching confidence in map reading

Participants finish the session at Darley Park

DVO’s Club Development Officer Chris Millard reports on our beginners’ initiative

Imagine back to your first orienteering experience. Did you understand the map? Could you relate the features on the map to those on the ground? Did you find the whole thing a bit intimidating? I certainly did and could probably have done with a MapActive course!

Based on teaching material generously gifted to us by CLOK and NOC, we have just run our first navigation skills course, with a cohort of 12 participants graduating with greater confidence for exploring new trails, woods and urban areas.

But how do you start coaching a complete beginner? Hand them a map and push them into the forest? We often forget that our skills have developed over many years and the sink or swim approach will not work for most! For someone new to the sport, the mapping colours are confusing enough, without adding in map symbols, contour detail and control descriptions.

The MapActive course comes in two stages with each stage divided into four teaching sessions (two practical and two online). Each stage ends with an event where participants practice their newly learned skills.

Skills are introduced in order of technical difficulty and progress (quite rapidly) up the technical difficulty scale in a sequential manner. The progressive nature of the course was apparent when a participant missed a session and our coaches had to work extremely hard to make up for lost ground.

Contour session in Allestree Park

One of the keys to success of this training course was the strong ratio of coaches to participants. Our six-strong coaching team (Ann-Marie, Darren, Sal, Jane, Judith and Chris) did a fantastic job in supporting and developing our participants. The intensive coaching was important in order to teach all the skills needed to get competition-ready after two sessions.

The coaches debrief over a cup of tea


It was impressive to watch how quickly the MapActive participants got stuck into the course. All did brilliantly at the events at Hardwick Park and Allestree Park, with several finding the energy to complete two courses. They acknowledged how encouraging it was to be part of a cohort and they appreciated how warmly they were welcomed at our events. Thank you DVO members!

Using compasses to set the map


So what can we learn from MapActive? One of the key learning points was that we can never underestimate how intimidating orienteering can be to beginners. Our input on the enquiries desk and on the start line is important and we need to be on the look out for anyone who is needing help. Another learning point is that coaching sessions are an important step for everyone in developing our skills. Even in leading the course I have learnt so many new elements that will help my orienteering (for example, plan, picture, direction – see I’m sure there is another article in that – Ed!

When can we sign up for MapActive or further coaching? We hope to run another course of MapActive before long and plan to re-start an informal club coaching programme for improvers. Watch the website for more details!

Another session complete


The Club has been able to run the MapActive programme as a result of grant funding from the Orienteering Foundation and the East Midlands Orienteering Association. The trend on the graphs below show that participants have rated MapActive as a very effective intervention!

Survey results showing respondents’ confidence in map reading before and after taking part in MapActive

Future events

Saturday 24 August 2024
Bradford Dale

Sunday 25 August 2024

Monday 26 August 2024
Matlock MapRun

Recent results

Sunday 14 July 2024

Saturday 22 June 2024
Allestree Park

Wednesday 12 June 2024

Routegadget (view routes)

MapRun Results

Join DVO

Derwent Valley Orienteers are a friendly, active club with members throughout Derbyshire.

We welcome new members whatever your experience and can help you learn orienteering and how to improve, either informally or through coaching.

Learn more


You can subscribe to receive information about future events suitable for novices.


We’re supported by the Orienteering Foundation

Thanks to a grant from the Orienteering Foundation, our Club is focusing on offering training courses for newcomers and help at local events in the Derby Area and beyond, but open to people from across Derbyshire.