Posted by: MummyTravels | May 19, 2012

Map-reading for beginners

I do not have a natural sense of direction. A friend once claimed that you could tell the correct way to go by looking at what I did instinctively, then doing the opposite. So as a result, I’m actually quite good at reading maps – otherwise, I’d be lost for good.

Drop me in a city, and I’ll pore over plans, work out routes in advance, try to memorise bearings, all because I know that otherwise I’ll end up wandering aimlessly and straying further and further away from my goal. While aimless wandering is great, and you discover all kinds of hidden treasures that way, it’s nice not to be utterly confused.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t work when you’re rambling through the great outdoors. Take away signposts, street names and useful landmarks, and my natural ability to go horribly wrong returns with a vengeance. There’s always GPS… until the signal vanishes halfway up a hill – which brings me to the traveller’s friend, Ordnance Survey maps.

These really are works of art. The amount of incredible detail packed into each map, telling you everything from what’s where and how steep a slope you’ve got first, always impresses me. Sadly, I am frankly rubbish at reading them.

The intricate web of lines is as foreign to me as Finnish. In fact, I’d have more chance at picking up basic Finnish. So the new series of free workshops run by Cotswold Outdoor is a great idea.

Running until July, Ordnance Survey experts are teaching essential mapping and compass reading methods as part of the one-hour classes aimed at complete novices or anyone who’d like to hone their basic skills.

Covering everything from basic interpretation of the map to understanding distance and selecting safe routes, as well as what to do if conditions are bad, it’s ideal if you’d like to explore the countryside this summer, but know you don’t have the proper knowledge.

Sadly my plan to head along to the London class was scuppered by one of the worst night’s sleep of my pregnancy, leaving me feeling so diabolical I had no energy to even catch the tube, let alone absorb knowledge. But they’re running at stores nationwide for the next two months, so simply reserve your free place, as spaces are limited – check online for details, or a complete list here.


Image: sarahgb(theoriginal)/Flickr


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