The Journey Home

The homing pigeons released at your school, carrying your secret messages are flying back to the code breakers at Kingsmead School. 


Challenge 1

How long do you estimate it will take them? What is the distance from your school to Kingsmead School? What speed do pigeons normally fly? What is the wind direction? Are the birds flying into the wind? 

Challenge 2

Describe the journey the birds will make if they follow a straight line between your school and Kingsmead school.

Challenge 3

The code breakers at Kingsmead will email your message back to you. There will be a number of challenges for you to complete. There are some fantastic prizes to be won.

The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Race

The following example is the journey home for the racing pigeons participating in the most prestigious pigeon race in the UK 2012, The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Pigeon Race.

The ideas presented in this lesson could be replicated for the journey your birds took to get home to deliver their Secret Messages.


The pigeons were liberated at 07.10 am from Fougeres, France on Wednesday 6th June 2012. The racing pigeons fly as fast as they can and navigate their way to their own loft. What settlements will they see? What key landforms will the fly over?

Learning Objectives


  • To describe the journey home using key geographical terms.
  • To be able to use the compass points to describe direction. (Pigeon flying direction and wind direction).

 Literacy across the curriculum – Key Words.

Terrain, landform, hill, mountain, river, coast, settlement, rural, urban, cliffs, chalk, channel, north, south, east west (4, 8, and 16 points of a compass),

Challenge 1

Observe the following video clip of the Quessn’s Diamond Jubilee Race and record where the competitors come from.

Challenge 2 – Mapping the journey home using Google Earth, Google Maps or a map of northern France and the UK.

  1. Using Google Earth, identify the start of the racing pigeons journey, Fougeres and add a placemark. (HELP Google Earth QuickCast)
  2. Add a place mark for each of the ten featured competitors lofts in the UK. (See table 1 below).

Goggle Earth - Placemarks (Click Image to access example above).

  1. Draw a route from the release point to the racing pigeons home.
  2. Right click on the route and select the elevation profile. This will show the terrain that the racing pigeons have to fly over. This will help you identify hills and mountain ranges the birds have to fly over to reach home. You can repeat this for each competitor. You could work in teams and present the findings.
  3. Calculate the distance between Fougeres and the loft locations using the measuring tool. Add the results to Table 1.
  4. Copy the map images to Keynote or Publisher so that you can use them in your report later. (Example)


Challenge 2a

Select a route or several routes and write a description the birds will fly over between where they have been liberated to their home. You description should include the direction the birds are flying, the settlements they pass over and any interesting landforms they fly over.

(Writing frame available)


Challenge 2b Same activity but a different audience

Imagine you are the leader of the racing pigeons flying home. Talk to your racing pigeon friend next to you describing the journey you pass over.


Investigating wind direction using your school grounds

You may need to do the following 10 minute exercise to develop understanding on wind direction.

·      Ask pupils what the wind direction is today by asking them to think which part of the face the wind was hitting when the travelled between to parts of the school. E.g. crossing a field between buildings. Walking in the main gate to the main building.

·      Find the location of your school in Google Earth, (post code). Mark on the map the way the wind was travelling. Ask them what the wind direction is.  (90% will get it wrong!)

·      Explore the following website

·      Click on your closest arrow. The arrow will then display the wind direction and wind speed.

·      What is the wind direction at your school today?

·      Set this as a homework or challenge so that pupils repeat the exercise many times for fun.


Perhaps go outside and find out which way the wind is blowing.  No wet fingers just drop some grass or you might have a wind vane or weather sock.

Challenge 3

  1. What is the general direction the birds are travelling to the UK?
  2. Using Map 1 below, what was the wind direction on the day of the race?
  3. Will this wind direction help or hinder the racing pigeons progress to the UK?



1.     Northerly

2.     Southerly

3.     It will help the birds to fly home quicker.



Today with modern weather information racing pigeon organisations carefully monitor the weather conditions so that the racing pigeons don’t have to face adverse weather conditions. If the weather conditions are too strong a head wind or rainfall predicted along the lines of flight the birds are kept in their transporters and released when the weather improves.


Map 1. Shows the wind direction on the day of the race.

National Curriculum

Key Stage 1

Describe the key human and physical features along a journey.

Use simple compass directions and locational and directional language.

Use Aerial photographs satellite images to describe journeys.

Key Stage 2

Latitude and Longitude.

OS Maps


© Peter Humphries 2014