Ordnance Survey - English
Printable version E-mail this to a friend

Map reading “essential” for walkers this Bank Holiday weekend

With more and more people holidaying in Britain the country’s Mountain rescue teams are experiencing one of their busiest years with a rise in emergency calls from inexperienced walkers.

With some teams of volunteers being called out up to three times a week by ramblers who have forgotten a map, Ordnance Survey, Britain’s national mapping agency, is adding its voice to those calling for walkers to be well prepared.

Rob Andrews of Ordnance Survey comments: “We’ve seen a big surge in map sales this summer and walking is fantastic fun and great exercise but there are preparations that everyone should make before heading out. Carrying a map and compass, as well as being able to use them, is as essential as wearing suitable boots and warm, waterproof clothing.”

Julian Carradice, who leads the Mountain Rescue team in Wasdale, told the BBC people needed to be better educated about the basics of fell walking. "A lot of the call-outs I'm getting are from people who could, to be honest, be much better prepared and could take a bit of responsibility for their own safety.

"They could be finding their own way off without needing us, who are actually an emergency service."

There are a range of resources available for inexperienced walkers to help understand the basics of map reading as well as the general walking advice available from the Mountain Rescue Service. Map reading podcasts are available online as are downloadable guides from Ordnance Survey’s website. In the meantime, here are the national mapping agency’s top tips:

Top map reading tips

  • You should always carry a compass with you but if you ever find yourself disorientated and without one this simple tip can really help. Locate yourself next to a feature or landmark and then rotate the map so that other features line up with the actual ones you can see. Because the top of the map always points north you’ll now know which direction you’re facing.
  • Remember contour numbering always reads up hill – in other words the top of the number is uphill and the bottom is downhill. Also remember the closer contour lines are together, the steeper the slope so plan your walk with this in mind.
  • The grid lines on a 1:25 000 scale OS Explorer Map are 1 km apart, while if you’re travelling diagonally the distance across is roughly about 1½ km. This is a very quick and easy way of working out how far you’re travelling.
  • Don’t be frightened of maps - sometimes the volume of information can seem overwhelming but they’re really not as hard to use as you might think, in fact map reading can be brilliant fun.

Ordnance Survey's free map reading guide can be downloaded at: http://www.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/oswebsite/mapshop/pdf/map_reading_made_easy.pdf

Head of Corporate Communications - Rob Andrews
Email: rob.andrews@ordnancesurvey.co.uk
Phone: (+44) 023 8079 2265
Senior Communications & PR Officer - Paul Beauchamp
Email: paul.beauchamp@ordnancesurvey.co.uk
Phone: (+44) 023 8079 2568

Press Office fax: (+44) 023 8030 5295

Government Webinar Series