OROne of my strongest childhood memories is sitting in the back of the car with a map. On long trips, my job was to trace our route with my finger and say the directions out loud (although my parents knew exactly where we were going). I can remember that almost magical feeling of power and responsibility, as if I was somehow in control, that we would go where my finger led us. That’s where my love for maps began.
When I grew up, I joined the Scouts and proudly remember receiving my boating badge. With it, he realized that everything you need to understand the surrounding landscape – mountains, forests, lakes, and rivers – is folded into something that can fit in a backpack.
Understanding a map creates a new kind of relationship with the great outdoors; If you can learn to do it at a young enough age, it will stick with you for the rest of your life. Studies have shown that if you can get someone interested in outdoor activity before the age of 14, you will stick with them. If you don’t, there is a danger that they will always think of the great outdoors as something to pass by. For me, a map is a passport to go out on the street.
In my role in Artillery survey (OS), I want to help more people to go out more often. The great outdoors should be for everyone, and we know that from our work with experts like the former Olympic and sports scientist. Greg whyte that physical activity outdoors during the confinement is more important than ever.
The good news is that people seem to be dating. Since February, the use of our OS Maps Get Outside Adventure Planning App It has increased by 78%, and about 3.5 million people use it now. There is a feature that allows you to view local green spaces, and their usage has increased by 3,000%. November is normally a quieter time for application, it is darker, the weather is more inclement, but it is clear that with restrictions on other types of activities, people are starting to walk in nature. My hope is that even when the full list of competing hobbies returns, many have discovered a love of the outdoors and keep moving on.
You don’t need a car, or travel far, to find unexpected treasures; they can be right on your doorstep. In fact, my favorite map is my local area in Bournemouth, which also covers the New Forest. Even the cover of this map is attractive: a griffin-like forest waiting to be explored. You can be forgiven for thinking that there is nothing new to discover in your local area, but there will always be things that you have never done before. For example, in the New Forest there is something that is described as a Portuguese fireplace; I’ve often noticed it, but had no idea what it could be. So we went for a walk to find it, and it really is a Portuguese fireplace – a war memorial to a Portuguese regiment that helped with the production of lumber during WWI.
Running your finger over the names of places on a map is a journey through history and geography. It’s those little things you can discover that make maps so special.
Reading maps can also be a brilliant way to entertain children and build their confidence. When you can bring the landscape to life with a map: “We are going to walk through an ancient forest and over a Saxon burial mound“- All that rich history comes out and you start an adventure. Letting a child take charge of the navigation is also a great tool to provide them. They are naturally fascinated by the relationship between the world and themselves.
While map sales are increasing, the mapping and imaging process has faced new challenges. The Ordnance Survey flight unit has spoken of the chilling experience of flying over the UK during the blockade. The work of the flight team supports the accuracy of the operating system mapping and is essential for users such as emergency services, so as soon as it was safe to fly, they were back in the sky.
During the first lockdown, OS pilots flew the only plane in the sky, documenting Britain’s changing landscape as the country below came to a standstill. They witnessed a unique view from the cockpit: empty highways, unpopulated beaches like desert islands, airport runways crammed with distrustful planes, and skies claimed by birds and wildlife.
Camera operator Roger Nock takes the aerial images that keep the operating system maps up-to-date and told me: “Sometimes we were the only people in the sky. That hasn’t happened since the dawn of aviation. “
Cities like Nottingham and Birmingham were like ghost towns because of the number of people obeying the closure. There was also no traffic during peak hours and a big difference compared to previous years was the lack of fog over the cities due to less pollution ”.
We are living in unprecedented times, but I hope that when we leave them behind, many of us will bring with us a new love of getting out and about in the British countryside.
• Nick Giles is Managing Director of OS Leisure. The Ordnance Survey Great British Scavenger Hunt (Trapeze, £ 14.99) is available now
Digsmak is a news publisher with over 12 years of reporting experiance; and have published in many industry leading publications and news sites.