Map Reading

Before going walking on your own, you should learn to read a map. Most walk leaders will be prepared to help you with this skill. It is worth trying to follow a walk on your map, cross checking with the leader every so often. You should learn what the symbols mean on your map - there will be a key which explains what they mean.

You can imagine a map as a scaled down bird's-eye view of the terrain. Most maps used by walkers are 1:25000 which means 1cm on the map represents 250m on the ground (2.5 inches represents 1 mile). Try lining up your map with features that you can see. Check with a friend to see if they agree with you.

The following features can be useful to determine your location but you need to be aware that they may have changed:

  • Hedges - these may have been removed by the landowner.
  • Woodland - this may have been cut down or newly planted. Stumps or young trees will give you a clue if this has happened.
  • Power lines - these are unlikely to have changed. Only power lines on pylons are included on OS maps.
  • Remote buildings - these may be new builds or demolished
  • Contour lines - these will show the height above sea level and can show you which way the ground slopes
  • Roads & paths - these are unlikely to change but you can check the definitive maps before setting out to make sure your map is accurate.