A-Z Maps blog

This is the home of ramblings from the inside of the iconic brand that is A-Z. On our blog you will find out how to get from A to Z and a lot more in between.

Bournemouth Marathon training update – Kieran

My approach to training for an event like this is normally quite laid back; a couple of training runs, a few lengths in the pool, try to avoid too many Tikka Masala’s and see what happens on the day. I’ve never run a marathon before, in fact I’ve never run… Read More
Bewl Water

Bournemouth Marathon training update – Caroline

24 weeks before the BIG race and I have realised I need to do some marathon training, but before I start any running I need to improve my fitness and the easiest and cheapest way to do this is by walking. I decided to sign up for the A-Z annual… Read More

Bournemouth Marathon 2016 training update 2016 – Phil

After three fairly relaxed months after Christmas and that silly, alcohol fuelled decision to take part in the marathon, I suddenly realised the size of the task in front of me. I found myself spending every available moment frantically researching training programmes, dietary requirements, running gear and stretching techniques. Completely… Read More
Caroline's trainers

Bournemouth Marathon 2016 progress update 1

Bournemouth Marathon 2016 progress update A few months after committing to run a marathon, the stark reality of the challenge is starting to dawn on the A-Z team – this is going to hurt! The initial optimism (mainly Kieran’s) and bravado is starting to wear off as people’s thoughts turn towards… Read More

Bournemouth Marathon 2016 fundraising

Bournemouth Marathon 2016 fundraising While the A-Z team are running the Bournemouth Marathon to challenge ourselves and to get fit, we are also choosing to support 3 very worthy charities where the money raised actually helps to save and improve the quality of lives. Geographers’ A-Z… Read More
Bournemouth Marathon

Bournemouth Marathon 2016 – The A-Z Challenge

The Office Christmas Party can often produce a few surprises and things people feel they may regret in the morning and the A-Z 2015 one was no exception. Some way down her second bottle of Pinot, Caroline Ball, our Human Resources and Christmas party organiser, decided she wanted to run… Read More

The A-Z Maps Three Peaks Challenge – Part 2

With the largest of the Three Peaks done, things should be easy now….right? Day Three - Scafell Pike, the second of the three peaks Starting height: 120 metres above sea level Car park grid reference: NY235122 A-Z Map reference: 5C 14 (1D 61) Start time: 6:20am   Day 3 started like a typical Lakeland day; wet and misty to start with the prospect of a little sunshine later in the day. We parked our cars at Seathwaite Farm, officially the wettest place in England. Armed with our Adventure atlases and weatherproof map cases we head south through the farm and up to Stockley bridge. We’d already decided to take the Grains Gill route up to the Scafell massif instead of the more popular path alongside Lingmell Gill which most three peakers use due to its speed. The views are not as good, not that it mattered today though. The mist breaks occasionally just to give fleeting views behind us of the Borrowdale valley, Derwent Water and Keswick, up ahead is the imposing Great End. Our path takes us to the foot of this massive slab of rock and to a T-junction. Turn right and you’re led to Sprinkling Tarn and beyond that Great Gable. We go left and we’re quickly up to Esk Hause, a crossing point of two footpaths marked by a huge cairn, it’s clear to see where we go. We take a sharp right which heads up onto the Scafell massif itself and as we climb higher into the clouds visibility gets worse. This, coupled with the lack of any real footpath make navigation with map and compass much more important. Yes there are cairns to guide you, but these are easily missed in these conditions. After about a kilometre of messing around in the mist and plenty of boulder hopping on the moonscape type terrain the ground quickly falls away on all sides, this is not the summit however. Depressingly, the real summit is a short sharp drop followed by a climb back up which borders on a grade 1 scramble. After a puff of the cheeks and a few more boulders to hop across, the summit cairn can finally be seen. We hit the windy, misty top at 9:15am, just in time for Hayley to go off to try and find the local conveniences, but there’s no gift shop and toilets on this mountain! It’s been two and a quarter hours since leaving soggy Seathwaite and up until now we’ve had the mountain to ourselves but now a steady trail of damp walkers joins us at the summit. All have come from Wast Water via the Lingmell Gill route and most are doing the 24 hour challenge, they don’t stay for long. Scafell Pike isn’t a ‘pretty’ mountain top, especially in these conditions; it’s too cold and windy to stay for long. After a quick sausage roll and a battered banana it’s time to head down the same route as we’d come up. There was a short discussion about heading down the Corridor route but past revelations about the ‘tricky step’ persuaded us all to head back along the same path. We head back down and back up the scramble and back across the boulder field which is now slightly more visible. Kieran’s like a Tigger in Waterproofs as he bounces from one boulder to another shouting ‘That’s another Wainwright bagged!’ As we get back to Esk Hause the sun finally comes out revealing the Eskdale Valley in all its beauty. Mark ‘David Bailey’ McConnell, ever looking for that great photo opportunity takes 5 attempts to position the camera and set the timer to get all of us plus the sprawling valley in shot. Needless to say we had many photos of some ‘interesting’ rocks. Further down the path we get some sensible group shots with the map book, after all it is a work trip! We’re all down by 11:30am and quickly pack the cars, stretch and in some cases strip off. Just as we’re doing this Mark hands a map book to a father and son team looking a little lost and intending on hitting the summit. After turning them around and explaining the best route to them they’re off and so are we, down to North Wales. We’re staying at The Premier Inn at Caernarfon and once again the talk turns to who’s going to be sharing a room with whom. But this proves to be slightly premature... Best laid plans! Not long after Tim had stepped up to do his first stint of driving for the weekend he utters the words you really don’t want to hear as you’re cruising along the M6; ‘that’s not supposed to do that’. The car loses all power and is soon drifting down the motorway. He quickly guides the car off at the next junction for it to come to a complete halt on the slip road, things don’t look good. The recovery man arrives and soon there are more bits of engine on the roadside than under the bonnet. Litres of fuel are gushing out from lots of places it really shouldn’t be. It doesn’t look like we’re getting to Wales! Stranded somewhere in North Yorkshire Matt, Andy, Tim and Kieran are facing the prospect of a long transfer home and only completing two of the three peaks as it doesn’t look like the car is going to move another inch. Even with the recovery man referring to the problem under the bonnet as an issue with the ‘enginey thing’ no-one can raise a smile. The other members of the team soon arrive and it’s decision time. Do we finish our Three Peaks challenge as a group here, or does one car bravely carry on to the finish? After a long debate we decide that it’s right for one car to carry on and also squeeze one other person into the one remaining car that works. Tim, Matt and Kieran reluctantly choose to stay with the stricken car which by now is in kit form; Andy meanwhile wastes no time in jumping ship. Before anyone can mutter ‘splitter’ he’s grabbed his stuff and wedged himself in the back between Sharon and Hayley. Morale among the remaining 5 takes a slight dip now that the team has been broken up and only half are due to finish, but this is short-lived. As soon as Mark, Steve, Sharon, Hayley and now Andy arrive at their hotel, showered and eaten, all thoughts of the others stuck in a transport depot somewhere in Blackpool disappear.   Day Four - Snowdon (Yr Wyddfa), the last peak in our Three Peaks challenge Starting height: 360 metres above sea level Car park grid reference: SH647555 A-Z Map reference: 2E 33 (4B 68) Start time: 6:30am So only 5 people make it to the Pen-y-pass car park at the foot of Wales’ highest peak to take on Snowdon, the last of the 3 Peaks. The others had last been heard arguing over the last KFC in Warwick services just a few hours before. But never mind them, this was now all about the remaining 5 and the completion of an eventful 3 Peaks challenge. And so, after another early start, the weary but rested remainder leave the car park and head out along the Pyg track. Be careful here, there are a couple of footpaths out of this car park. The Miners track is an easy-going flat path that winds around the Llyn-Llydaw Lake but has a nasty sting in its tail when it eventually climbs back up to join the Pyg track. The Pyg in comparison is a steady climb the whole way. The classic shape of Snowdon is hidden from view at this point, firstly by the ridge of Crib Goch and then by the low cloud which is still to move away. We head up the un-even rocky staircase which is a bit of a shock to the system this early in the morning, discarding expensive clothing garments as we go and soon we pop up over a ridge and the magnificent bowl-like terrain confronts us with Llyn Llydaw at the base. We turn right here along the fence line but are careful not to choose the sty immediately to our right. Cross this and you’re on Crib Goch, a knife-edged arête leading up to Snowdon’s summit – another day! Our path runs flat for a short while before the ascent begins again, all the while skirting around the perimeter of the great ‘bowl’. There a few hands-on moments as we scramble over large slabs of rock that protrude out of the side of the cliff but apart from that, this path is fairly routine. Soon our path and the top of the Miners track meet and we gaze down to the foot of this path, glad about the choice we’d made. Next up we hit some zig-zags which usually mean things are getting steeper. And they were! However, after about 3 or 4 turns we get up to the Snowdon Finger Stone, a monolith stone that stands erect at what feels like the summit, but it’s not. In fact the flat ground that we’re now on gently rises up to our left and we see the summit atop a professional made cairn sitting just in front of the stone clad building which houses the gift shop and coffee house, Sharon and Hayley are now happy! The smell of diesel hits us and we realise that we’re no longer walking on the path but have strayed onto the train track instead. The Snowdon railway which chugs its way up the side of the mountain gives people who aren’t able to walk up themselves, a chance to be on top of the highest peak in Wales but it’s too early in the day for visitors. We follow the path and then up the steps that wrap themselves around the cairn which now feel like the hardest part of the walk so far, did it need to be made this high? We get to the top at 9:00am and again there’s not too much to see but never mind. We’ve done it, 3 peaks in 3 days. Just time for a quick photo, touch the summit trig point and it’s time to go. We head back to the Finger Stone, turn right into the zig-zags and soon we’re back to the junction with the Miners track. Be careful not to miss the sign as Mark did saying he’d seen something ‘interesting’ in the distance. Once on it the path descends quickly down to Glaslyn Lake, where it would be rude not to skim a few stones in the crystal clear water. Once at the bottom the miners track is an easy walk beside the 2 lakes back to the car park. Finished! We’re back to the car by 11am, the car park is full and the queue for the toilet is around the building. For the last time we consign all manner of walking gear to the back of the car and head for home. So really this is how the trip ended for our two groups, one stuck on the hard shoulder of the M6 somewhere in North Yorkshire and the other celebrating a great achievement at the top of Wales' highest point and summiting the final of the Three Peaks. If you’re looking for an achievable adventure that’s both challenging and enjoyable and don’t mind the odd mile or two sitting in a car then you can’t go far wrong with this. Nothing wrong with doing it in 24 hours, this is just slightly more fun. Here’s a few things we’d recommend for your own Three Peaks challenge: Use our National Three Peaks A-Z Adventure map book and map case Get some decent hill walking gear Have a relatively good personal fitness Get some earplugs Have a bit of knowledge about navigation and bad weather walking Eat Jelly Babies Leave early and avoid the crowds Get some decent breakdown cover! Good Luck!   Competition Here's another another quick competition for you. We're giving you the chance to win any one of our A-Z Adventure Atlases. All you need to do is answer this question: What is the total straight line distance, to the nearest mile, between Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike and Snowdon? Enter by posting a comment below or by sending us a Direct Message (using Facebook or Twitter). The closing date for entries is Monday 29th February 2016. Please see full competition terms and conditions below. Terms and conditions Read More

The A-Z Maps Three Peaks Challenge – Part 1

Most people know The Three Peaks challenge as a 24-hour challenge. We’ve done it and didn’t completely enjoy the whole experience. It’s true that you’re left with a tremendous sense of achievement after completing the nation’s three highest mountains in 24 hours but the time restriction that accompanies the challenge doesn’t allow much free time to enjoy the climbs, views and summits of Scotland’s, England’s and Wales’ highest peaks.  Add to that the risk of travelling (sometimes fast) between the peaks and the disruption caused to the residents of Wasdale as hordes of noisy ‘three peakers’ arrive in the Lake District at 3am, the 24 challenge is not for everyone. But there is another way... Day One - A long journey from The South to The North   To mark the release of our National Three Peaks Adventure Atlas we thought we’d give the three peaks of Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike and Snowdon another go, but this time take on the cha llenge over three days instead. There’d be no sweaty and slightly smelly minibus this time. With no stopwatch to be racing against we could travel in relative comfort and get some decent night’s sleep. And as we’d be spending nights in Fort William, Keswick and Caernarfon, we’d also be putting money back into the local coffers too. Bonus! So 8 of us left Kent in 2 cars at around 5am on a Friday morning with bags of enthusiasm, but by the time we’re half way up the A1M, boredom has kicked in. Even the relative excitement of trying to navigate through Yorkshire with only an A-Z of Essex to guide us doesn’t keep us entertained for long.  Still, we manage to stay ahead of the Bank Holiday Friday traffic and soon cross the border and head into Scotland. Once we’re through the bottle neck that is Glasgow we’re soon heading along the A82 which takes us right through the awesome valley of Glencoe. We eventually arrive at Fort William at around 6pm and our accommodation for the night; Snowgoose Mountain Centre, Corpac, just 2 minutes northwest of Fort William. After drawing lots to find out who’s going to share a bunk with Tim as apparently he snores a bit (!) we head into town for our first bit of decent food for the day that’s not a pack of chocolate biscuits. We can truly recommend the Grog and Gruel in Fort William for a hearty meal and a friendly welcome; just try to avoid wearing an England rugby top as Andy did, especially around the time of the Scottish independence vote. Apparently a Burger and fries and a pint of Nessie’s Monster Mash (or a Smirnoff Ice in Hayley’s case, still thinking she's 18) are a perfect pre-walk meal for attacking Scotland’s finest the next day. Day Two - Ben Nevis, the first peak in our Three Peaks challenge Starting height: 15 metres above sea level Car park grid reference: NN123731 A-Z Map reference: 1A 10 (2C 38) Start time: 5:15am We’re pretty much the first couple of cars in the car park and it’s a calm, clear morning. Ominously all the surrounding peaks are visible except for the one we’re heading to... Ben Nevis is the highest of the 3 peaks and normally the first of the 3 to be tackled on the Three Peaks challenge. The starting point is pretty much at sea level meaning this was going to be a long walk up and down. Wishing we’d gone for the Pasta dish instead last night, we set out across the river using the footbridge and head back along the river for about a hundred yards before turning left across some fields. After a couple of minutes we get to a sty, which proves tricky for some considering the amount of gear we’re carrying, especially Tim and Matt who had recently emptied the local Cotswold Outdoors store. Turn right here and the flat ground now gives way to the steep path named the ‘Mountain track’ or ‘Pony track’ - a rocky path that traverses the side of a huge slab. This twists and turns back on itself before you round a left hand bend and here the path steepens again to a natural stopping point. Don’t stop here however, 50 yards further on the ground flattens alongside a small lake or Lochan. Just past this is a T-junction, make sure you turn right here as a left turn will take you around tothe North side of the mountain and a much longer and steeper ascent along the Carn Mor Dearg Arête. Just after the junction we cross an impressive waterfall which signals the start of the famous Ben Nevis Zig-zags. These are 7 or 8 short sections of path that hog the side of the mountain and with each one the terrain gets slightly steeper and the rocks underfoot get looser. The car park is still visible at this time getting smaller and smaller. Usually this far into a mountain walk all you’re able to see is a load of rock in front and behind you, but being on the side of ‘the Ben’ the road and the river are clearly visible as are the mountains that look strangely higher on the other side. Soon the loose stones underfoot give way to the white stuff. Cue all manner of gear extracted from the backpacks; Gaiters, Crampons, poles etc. Now the mountain changes completely taking on a truly alpine feel, with a fresh dusting of snow the previous night massive snowdrifts had formed and each of the ‘Five Finger Gullies’ eat into the summit plateau perilously close to the straightest route to the summit so make sure you keep your head up, no guard rails here! Steve’s the first one to the top getting there at 9.07am, amazingly only one other person is there, but within 5 minutes the rest of the group arrive. Even Mark, who spent several minutes helping out a group of girls with their walking poles turns up eventually. The 6 foot cairn that the trig point sits on top of is completely covered by snow and it’s even a tricky step down to the old summit observatory. This does however give a bit of relief from theelements whilst we compose the team photo. We do this quickly as we notice that the path back is now full of walkers heading to the summit, time to go! A tip for next time   If you’re planning to do Ben Nevis in May time, don’t start at 8am. We descend the same way we came up but this time have to squeeze past groups 4 or 5 wide, most gasping for air and asking ‘nearly there?’ Just around the next corner is our reply. Steve manages to pick up someone who’d been abandoned by her group, apparently a few weeks before they’d thought it would be a good idea to have a go at the Three Peaks challenge. We came across her too scared to go up or down. Ben Nevis isn’t a particularly scary or dangerous mountain providing you’re doing everything sensibly but if it’s to be your first time on a mountain something slightly smaller may be a good idea first. The path clears after the bottlenecks that are the Zig-zags and once we’re past the Lochan and around the long right hand bend back into the valley we can see the car park. This path now seems to go on forever though; it’s still about a 3km walk back to the start / finish from here. The further we get down and the later it gets we can’t help but notice that walking boots and waterproofs have given way to trainers and shorts and t-shirts on most who now pass us, hopefully they’re not aiming for the top. We’re back to the car by midday, ‘Saint Steve’ says goodbye to his new best friend and we’re soon off out of Scotland down to Cumbria. Our target for the evening is the Denton House Bunkhouse in Keswick, ideally placed just a 2 minute walk out of town. We arrive at 7.30pm and head straight into town for some proper grub, no more Lucozade or Flap-jacks today. We find a very accommodating pub called The Pack Horse Inn, they don’t mind us moving half their furniture around so that all 8 of us can sit together and discuss the days achievement and also to steal most of Mark’s chips. After that it’s back to the bunkhouse but not before we visit Keswick’s best Ice Cream parlour. So, one mammoth journey and one mammoth hill done. Tomorrow, it’s England’s highest for us - come back next month for part 2 of this article and see how we get on. Competition - updated 1st Feb 2016 - closed We've just got time for a quick competition. We're giving you the chance to win any one of our A-Z Adventure Atlases. All you need to do is answer this question: What is the combined height (in metres) of all three mountains that make up the National Three Peaks? Enter by posting a comment below or by sending us a Direct Message (using Facebook or Twitter). The closing date for entries is Sunday 31st January 2016. Please see full competition terms and conditions below. Update 1st Feb 2016 Thanks to everyone who entered our Three Peaks Challenge competition. We've just drawn the winner so our congratulations go to Samantha Abbis who entered via Twitter with the correct answer of 3407 metres. Look out for part two of our Three Peaks Challenge blog later today to find out whether the team completed the challenge. There could be another competition in there too... Terms and conditions Read More
London A-Z map jigsaw

National Jigsaw Day

To celebrate National Jigsaw Day we’ve put together this quick online puzzle for you to have a go at. It’s just for fun, but can you beat our time of 4 minutes 34 seconds? If you enjoyed doing this puzzle, take a look at our 1000 piece… Read More

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