My First OS Map

With thanks to fellow outdoor blogger Emily Woodhouse, this is my first response to what will be a series of daily prompts for this week. Not being able to get out or travel far often can leave bloggers with a lack of impetus to write. You can follow Emily’s work at Travelling Lines.

What is your oldest piece of outdoor gear or equipment? How long have you had it?

Tell its story.

I had to think for a bit about this one as my first pair of walking boots were worn out long ago and I would’ve sold or passed other early items and jackets with each inevitable upgrade.

My first OS Map (No. 141) covers the western portion of the Mendip Hills that have always been closest to everywhere that I’ve called home. My life as a walker began in 2012.

After short solo walks around Blaise Castle and Ashton Court in Bristol, I wanted to head up on to and explore the Mendips alone. A decade before this, I would occasionally visit Black Down on family dog walks and, before that, my first experience of peat would’ve come during a geography field trip.

It was the first map I bought and the one that’s ultimately seen the most action and outdoor exposure. The laminated cover was peeling off some time before I realise they could be removed. This makes using and folding the map considerably easier – I’ve since (carefully) peeled the covers from each of my other OS maps (totalling in excess of thirty, now).

I’ve also adopted the Atkins Way method of folding from Two Blondes Walking, who instead fold an OS map along its vertical creases (with the eastings) before folding in parallel to the northings. There’s still the challenge of having cross east or west over the folded edge of a map but I rarely find I need to open it out on a hill where it’s at risk of sailing off in to the sky.

Even in those days where I wore cheap Karimoor boots, a £10 packaway jacket and a simple backpack from my years in college, I saw sense in paying a little bit extra for the laminated ‘Active’ version of this one. That, again, is a habit I’ve adhered to.

With a compass costing less than £5, I somehow taught myself (or remembered) the very basics of navigation. Eight years ago, I didn’t even own a smartphone and doubt many apps were available to help with GPS.

I would discover that you could draw over a laminated map with a marker or felt pen (to plot a route) and later remove these lines with methylated spirit. My biggest mistake was in using a blue pen too often – which immediately turns all rivers in to potential roads or paths!

Every few years, Ordnance Survey will revise their maps to ensure that all details are correct. Although mine is starting to wear in a few places, I have no doubt that it will stay with me in to its second decade of existence.

Today, I’m aware of smartphone apps and I do subscribe annually to OS Maps on Android. But I still prefer to have a paper map with me each time I go out. In hand, behind my waist belt or perhaps in a pocket of my backpack, just in case. I like the tactility. That challenge of navigation only under your own means. I still make mistakes but I enjoy this more than watching a digitised arrow inch across a backlit screen. I don’t think that will ever change.

You should soon be able to find posts from other participants on social media by searching for the hashtag #adventureprompts.

Thanks for reading.

Author: Olly Parry-Jones

I live in Weston-super-Mare, close to the Mendip Hills in Somerset and I enjoy time spent outdoors, whether that's walking, camping or backpacking. My day job involved making furniture from recycled wood (I'm a furniture maker and carpenter by trade). I have two blogs: Olly Writes (woodworking, DIY, baking) Walks With Olly (walking, camping and kit) You can also find me on YouTube, Twitter and Facebook. My second YouTube channel is titled 'Walks with Olly'.

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