UK National Mapping Body to Launch ‘National Map Reading Week’

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The British Ordnance Survey is the peak mapping body for the United Kingdom, selling more than 1.9 million paper maps each year. Despite the rise in the use of GPS and mapping apps, including the Ordnance Survey’s own “OS Maps”, they maintain that navigation with paper maps and compass is an invaluable life skill, and a necessity for travel in back country and wilderness areas.

After a recent increase in Mountain rescue callouts, they conducted a survey of 2,000 British adults on geographical and map reading literacy. They were taken aback to find that 40% of respondents couldn’t pinpoint London on an outline map of Britain, while only 14% could find Edinburgh. Nonetheless, almost 90% of respondents felt they had a good sense of direction, and over 50% claimed that their knowledge of British geography was ‘good’ or ‘excellent’. Only 40% of respondents felt confident reading a map, and 10% had never used a paper map.

In response the Ordnance Survey is launching “National Map Reading Week” from the 17th to the 23rd of October.  Combining a range of activities and resources, the initiative aims to improve the map reading skills of everyone from children to adults.

This includes an online portal for school children to learn about mapping and GIS, a series of navigation videos with Steve Backshall, blogs detailing navigation and map-reading techniques, exercise booklets, and local events.


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The blogs include in-depth briefs on location pinpointing with triangulation, grid references, teaching younger children about maps, and beginner and advanced map scales.

There will be map reading events and walks for all levels at a number of locations around the UK, including Manchester, the Peak and Lake districts, and Snowdonia. These events range from 1 and a half hour map walks to six day mountain leader courses.

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