National Map Reading Week (17th October – 23rd October)

So, you must of heard about #NationalMapReadingWeek that has been launched by Ordnance Survey! To celebrate #NationalMapReadingWeek next week, I’ve been working on a series of blog posts about my own personal experiences with reading and using paper maps (or not as the case maybe…)


As the youngest and newest member of staff at A-Z, I realised I didn’t know as much as I thought I did about maps (and working in the social media/marketing department, you don’t really need to know how to use a compass or know what a contour line is)

When you have a smart phone with a map on it that gives you directions, you could argue why would you need to know how to use a paper map? Well how many times have you used a satnav or smart phone map and ended up in a field somewhere with the satnav telling you “your destination is on your right”, I know it happens probably 50% of the time I’ve used a satnav.

Being able to read a map is a really crucial life skill and unfortunately not as many people have these skills anymore (including myself) When I was at school Geography wasn’t compulsory. The ironic thing is, I have a degree, but at 23 years old if I was left in the middle of nowhere I probably couldn’t find my way home with a paper map. (how embarrassing)

Don’t worry, I do have the basic knowledge and skills, how to read a road map, grid references and scales but once I started working at A-Z, I started hearing all this ‘weird’ terminology… Contour lines, navigation with a compass, wait, there is more than one North? How is this even possible!

This made me think, do I actually have any idea how to read a map? What even is a map?! Kieran suggested leaving me in the middle of nowhere and only using a map and compass to find my way back. I honestly don’t think I could. I would be lost forever or at least until someone else found me… It isn’t just me believe it or not, 4 out of 5 young drivers cannot read maps at all according to the Daily Mail. It might sound strange to some people that if I was stuck somewhere and had no idea where I was, I honestly wouldn’t be able to find my way back with a paper map alone – That is a scary thought!

I honestly believe everyone should have these vital skills because you don’t know when you will need them! If I could successfully learn how to use a map and compass properly, ANYONE can. Literally, turn me around twice and I’m lost.

With #NationalMapReadingWeek quickly approaching, I decided to challenge myself to planning a route on a paper map, work out the distances and get from A to B successfully. Before I could go and do the walk, I needed to refresh my basic knowledge and learn what all these abstract terms are. I’m very grateful that Kieran in the office helped massively with learning the terminology and answered all the questions I had. Another fantastic resource is Ordnance Surveys blog which takes you from basic navigation all the way through to the more advanced map reading skills. I would 100% recommend looking at their map reading guides, it’s packed with beginners advice and tips! This also massively boosted my confidence and I actually felt like I could successfully complete the little challenge I’d set myself.

This is Frank… the fearless hound.

Armed with an A-Z Adventure Atlas and Frank, off I went on my first ever adventure with a paper map!…

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