Preparing for the Lowland Leader Award
The Lowland Leader Award - If you’re considering starting the Lowland Leader Award or are moving toward assessment, the following topics are of consideration, taken from course delivery experience over the last three years.
The pre requisites and syllabus
I encourage all candidates to be familiar with the syllabus and certainly the pre requisites. Have an idea of the core syllabus areas and ensure you have achieved the minimum pre requisites. I see a number of candidates at assessment who still aren’t sure of what is required!
There is excellent information and guidance in the award handbook on the relevant Mountain Training webpage.
The ability to navigate with ease and confidence is fundamental in being able to look after our groups and make appropriate broader decisions.
In this terrain, overcomplicating our navigation or incorrect application of more advanced techniques is something I see regularly. (See Nigel William’s article on Teaching Navigation Issue 13 Spring 2016)
Determining the correct direction of travel by maintaining correct map setting using visible features, or a compass to orientate the top of the map to north, can be used frequently and with ease. No numbers are needed.
Get the basics correct, and techniques such as pacing distances, timings and walking on accurate bearings can be progressively added, developed and used when appropriate.
The use of different map scales is also of use. My training candidates use 1:10:000 orienteering maps for sections of a day, which moves them between features that appear quickly. In turn, the basic principles of map setting and strategy are encouraged and confidence grows.
Woodland is the nemesis of the Lowland Leader, with seemingly hundreds of paths on the ground that aren’t on the map. Get into woods, get confused, get yourself back again, try it in the dark, it will be of benefit!
Don’t neglect contours and shape, it still exists even in the Lowland environment and should be recognised.
A Lowland Leader can operate all year round in “summer conditions”. Wherever you lead groups, at what ever time of year, your kit should be up to the job and weather forecast. Even the Chilterns in March have seen me wearing several layers, with the need to keep moving.
Have some pride in your personal presentation too, torn denim jeans don’t present well, and aren’t suitable for walking in!
Dealing with emergencies
At assessment candidates should hold a suitable 16 hour first aid certificate.
Mountain Rescue in the terrain areas that the Lowland Leader will find themselves in, isn’t usually an option. Having worked with members of the emergency services moving through the award over the last year, I've learnt that potential response times to more serious incidents (immobile casualty), and means of removing casualties maybe longer and potentially trickier than at first thought. It could be hours.
A good start therefore is appropriate personal and group kit. It is as important here as anywhere else. Group shelters, foil bags, survival bags and first aid kits, or combinations of, based on your judgements should be carried. Ask your course staff for guidance on what they carry and why.
Knowing bluebells from deadly nightshade, a tick from a ladybird or a chalk stream from a ditch, will impress me and get my interest. Whilst we can’t have encyclopaedic knowledge on all matters relevant to the terrain we are in, a basic level of flora and fauna, history of the area, amazing folk story or relevant local access issues or such like, are all well received.
The Lowland Leader Award is a great award that brings a good standard of leadership relevant to this environment. Prepare yourself well for the courses, maximise the experience and it should be an enjoyable and engaging process. It also acts well as an introduction and progressive award for the Hill and Moorland and Mountain Leader schemes. The foundations of good leadership and associated techniques that you posses will be developed. Good luck, wherever you are at on the scheme, and I might see you wandering in the woods one day.