OS map and Silva compass

Enjoy map-reading with Ordnance Survey maps

As a great fan of the traditional fold-out paper version of OS maps, I was surprised to receive an email today from Ordnance Survey confirming that their paper maps are here to stay. “What?!” I thought. “I didn’t know they’d been threatened with extinction too!” … but then I read on …

Apparently, in some of the UK newspapers that I don’t read, there has been a story circulating recently that Ordnance Survey will no longer be routinely producing maps that cover the whole of the UK.

I am pleased to report these stories are entirely false! In the words of Ordnance Survey themselves –

This is simply not true!

We are pleased to confirm that we have no plans to stop producing our iconic range of OS Explorer Maps and OS Landranger Maps for the whole
of Great Britain.

Ordnance Survey go on to emphasise the importance of their paper maps and recommend that people carry a paper map as well as digital versions. You can find free map-reading guides on the OS website including a map-reading guide for children. I found the children’s guide a useful tool when I was introducing my own children to map-reading.

Map-reading is one of those skills I am always keen to encourage. When we meet ‘lost’ people I find it much easier using a map to explain to them where they are … relative to where they want to be! I know map-reading was part of the school curriculum (at least in the recent past! – though things change so quickly in the field of education here in the UK these days!). But a skill like map-reading can only really be honed with practice. With the Easter holidays around the corner, there’s a great family fun activity for everyone to get lost in!

I jest … slightly! If you are all just beginning map-reading and practising your skills together, I would recommend starting out by exploring your own neighbourhood or somewhere you know reasonably well. This will give you a chance to get to grips with exactly what all those lines and map symbols look like ‘on the ground’.

Map-reading the landscape
Our feature-rich landscape including an earthwork (under the small copse of trees) and a TV mast (across the valley on the horizon towards the right). Roads, field boundaries and height contours can all be more easily understood when they are there in front of us.

We are fortunate to live in a rural valley with lots of visible features such as patches of woodland, a river and streams, a television mast, hills. When teaching my children about contour lines, I found climbing a hill between two known points helped them really understand the relationship between those wavy brown lines on the map and the actual gradient of the hill.

After we’d been learning about public footpaths and bridleways, it was fun to plan a route before going out and discovering the ‘real version’ of the features we’d noted in our plan as we went along. We ‘discovered’ lambs and horses in some fields we were crossing, so this prompted a discussion on the importance of closing gates behind us. We also ‘discovered’ missing stiles and marshy footpaths that had to be carefully negotiated, but this was all part of the fun of exploring.

Moorland in the North Pennines
Exploring the moors in the North Pennines

I am pleased to say my map-reading teaching seems to have stuck with our boys, so now when we’re out walking in unfamiliar territory I am no longer the only one who can read the map and compass.

J Peggy Taylor

2 thoughts on “Enjoy map-reading with Ordnance Survey maps

  1. I’m a fan of prnted maps myself. When I go abroad I won’t have my dataplan hence no internet. While I have an app on my phone with maps that I can use offline, I always prefer to have a *real* map. Often much easier than trying to find something on a small inch screen. While I may not have ‘off the beaten track map reading skills’ I do have a sense of direction, so I usually find my way 😉

    1. I do agree a good sense of direction is definitely a bonus. Myself, I am absolutely fine finding my way around the countryside … but I find big shopping centres a nightmare 😉 Perhaps because I’m not much of a shopper, most shops look the same to me … I need a map to find my way out 🙂

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