Maps

If you set out to walk across the country in a straight line, you’ll need help with maps.

Planning my walk along the line of the 52nd parallel north (or 52° North), from Felixstowe in Suffolk to Fishguard in Pembrokeshire, has been a pure joy of many, many months’ duration, all thanks to Ordnance Survey (OS).

As described below, I did my own thing with the maps, as my own particular way of getting outside and exploring our wonderful country.  Hopefully it might encourage others to do their thing with their OS maps (whatever that is) and Get Outside too!

My starting point was to cut up some Road Atlases (based on OS map data) and make six 1:200 000 maps with the line of 52°N drawn on.  I covered one of these maps in each of the walk’s six weeks, from the end of June to the start of August 2019.

Here’s the first one, covering Suffolk and Essex (the black line is 52°N):

These six maps were manageable, and showed that the walk would go through some fascinating places (which I’ve loved videoing and writing about at 52inBritain.co.uk).  But would the walk be practicable?  I needed to zoom in.

Specifically, I needed all the OS Explorer paper maps spanning Britain at this latitude.  I already had OL13, OL35 and OL45 (from previous trips to the Black Mountains, Pembrokeshire and the Cotswolds respectively), but I needed to buy all the others to fill in the gaps (specifically sheets 185 to 197 inclusive).

Owning all the OS maps across a particular span of the country had been a dream since childhood, and now I had the perfect excuse to get them.  Here are all the back covers cut out and laid on top of each other:

Next I needed to study the actual walking route on all of these 1:25 000 maps.  So I cut out a strip around 52°N from each Explorer map (keeping all the off cuts, of course – never throw away a map), and stuck them all together to make a long “map roll” right across the country.

It’s 450 km as the crow flies from Felixstowe to Fishguard, or 450 000 000 millimetres.  At a scale of 1:25 000, the roll is therefore 18 000 millimetres (or 18 m) long.  Here it is from the air, rolled out at Broadway Tower in Worcestershire:

And here’s the first metre or so of the roll (at the Suffolk coast) showing the line of 52°N together with colour-coded Post-It Notes (yellow = overnight accommodation, green = the amazing places I would visit, orange = companions walking with me, and pink = media coverage).

This mega-map roll enabled me to plan the walk in detail, but how was I going to actually navigate whilst on the walk itself?

This is where OS Maps Online came in, on both laptop PC and mobile phone.

On my laptop I took 90 screenshots of 5 km stretches across the country (i.e. making 450 km in total).  I overlaid the line of 52°N in Word, and then, on an A4 print out, drew in blue pen what my proposed walking route would be (keeping as close as possible to the 52nd parallel).  Here’s Sheet 01 of 90:

As you can see, my route zigzagged a great deal.  On this sheet alone I crossed 52°N four times.  So I actually walked quite a bit more than 450 km.  Maybe 500 km?  (I didn’t measure it as my focus wasn’t on the physical challenge of the walk, but rather on writing up the blog each night of my daily interviews with all the amazing people I met.)

I took these A4 sheets with me on the walk (in clear plastic pockets), crossing about three sheets a day.  But the final piece of OS help, perhaps the best, was OS Maps Online on my phone.  The pink triangle (showing my exact position) became my best friend on the walk.

The pink triangle really helped if I got lost, needed to find an alternative route because the path was overgrown (this happened a lot), or just wanted to learn more about my immediate surroundings (such as the route of the dismantled railway in Tewkesbury):

So, from 1:200 000 to 1:25 000 on paper, through to Maps Online on both laptop and phone, all these different OS products played a key part in planning and executing the walk.

So Ordnance Survey was critical to “52 in Britain” in several different ways.  Thank you OS.  I had great fun both planning and walking “52 in Britain”, doing my own thing with the maps, making my own route, and finding heaps of hope and positivity for the future in Britain.

There are highlights videos and lots of photos of all the amazing places lying on 52 degrees north at 52inBritain.co.uk, as well as details of the three environmental charities I supported.

Thanks once again.  Cheers, Richard.

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