Thursday, 7 August 2008
Mad about maps
I love maps, and I have collected many over the years. A few are to keep, because I love them, but most are to use.
Today, I've started gathering maps of Snowdonia and the Lake District together, for our holiday next week. Some we've had for years - fished out of the car's door pockets and assorted bookshelves. Some are new - neatly folded and sent in double quick time earlier this week by good old Amazon.
My favourite maps-to-use are those from the Ordnance Survey Explorer Active range. They show everything you need for outdoor activities: cycle hire, marked walking, cycling and horse riding trails, car parks ... and pubs. Unfolding a map, tracing with my finger the paths I might walk, fills my head with exciting possibilities and plans. Shall I take the cliff path along to the lifeboat station and end up at the pub in town? Or shall I walk up to the ridge, take some photos and then spend the afternoon winding back down to the village through the forest? Planning day long walks with a pile of maps by my side is one of my all time favourite things to do. Now I want to go and find out what that "Fish Ladder" in the map below is all about!
Sometimes, especially with small children in tow, I want to walk more of a tried and tested route - but still feel as though I am a rugged explorer finding my way through the wilderness with a map. For this, the Jarrold pathfinder guides are perfect.
The Jarrold guides have walks of varying lengths and difficulty, and contain excerpts from Ordnance Survey maps as well as photos of key points along the walk - maybe a view, a monument, or the gate where you must turn back on yourself and head up hill.
And this summer, I have two new discoveries that will add so much to our walks and exploration.
Firstly, a whole load of books for C and O from the Usborne Spotters Guides series.
As well as this Night Sky guide (which I think will be a hit during the first week of our holiday, when we are camping) I also have the wild flowers, trees, butterflies and ponds and lakes books. Having something to look for is my second favourite way of keeping children motivated and not moaning on a long walk (my top method is bribing them with toffees).
And finally there is a treat for me. This book by Hunter Davies which has introduced me to the wonderful world of Wainwright.
Before this week, I had vaguely heard of Wainwright and knew that he had written walking guides to the Lake District, but no more. This book has explained to me why he is so revered and admired by walkers, publishers, artists and writers alike.
Wainwright hand wrote and hand drew every single one of his books. He found a local printer who would faithfully reproduce the books as he wrote them, not change them into typeface. His books contain loving prose descriptions of the landscape, evocative pen-and-ink drawings and incredible maps and diagrams. I am now such a fan - after just one evening reading Hunter Davies' book!
I can't wait to get up to those Lakes now and try out some of Wainwright's walks for myself. Time to go and buy a big bag of toffees....