Sunday, 25 January 2015

Ordnance Survey 1" Tourist Maps: Cartography Works of Art



Maps are wonderful gateways into imagining adventures and travels. I can spend hours looking at maps and tracing endless journeys, most of which I will never undertake. Over the years I’ve built up a large collection of maps, many of them replete with memories of the places they took me to. Pulling out one of these maps and I can follow the routes I took many years ago, images of the mountains and forests, the lakes and rivers, springing to life from the lines on the paper.

Recently @Ordnance Survey posted an image of an old Tourist Map cover on Twitter and a few people @PhoebeRSmith, @FellBound @blgpackinglight), including myself, expressed praise for this long-gone I inch to the mile map series. This led me to look out some of my old ones. 

Back in the 1970s and early 80s I used these maps regularly, as I was reminded by the tatty covers and split seams, held together with now yellowing sticky tape. These maps were published in the mid-1970s from surveys made twenty years earlier – revision was much less frequent in those pre-digital days. They covered many popular walking areas and national parks and were much more useful than the standard 1 inch maps as they had extra information and one map covered a whole area. 

They were also much more attractive, works of art in fact. Each one had a colourful painting on the cover of a landmark – the Shelter Stone for the Cairngorms, with a stag posing in front of it (I’ve never seen deer there); the Three Sisters of Glencoe for the Ben Nevis and Glen Coe; Trossachs Pier for Loch Lomond and the Trossachs. The maps inside were quite colourful too with shading used to indicate topography. The colours weren’t the same from map to map. Of the ones I have the Cairngorms is particularly bright with shading varying from fawn through red to purple. The other maps are a little duller but still very pleasing to look at.

These maps disappeared with metrication and the Ordnance Survey doesn’t do anything similar today. The nearest to them are Harvey’s excellent Mountain Maps, which also use shading, though somewhat more subtle, and cover useful areas.

 

4 comments:

  1. They are things of beauty to any hill goer. What amazes me now is that I used to use the Lakes map for vall my eatly walking there. It is no wonder I would get lost as the scale is so small. But as something for planning and inspiration back at home they were, and still are, wonderful. The relief shading is masterful and makes the topography leap out.

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  2. Somehow I just can't see a GPX file invoking the same feelings of nostalgia as laying out an old paper map on the dining room table and running your fingers along routes you marked out in fading pencil decades before. My tourist map of the Lakes is littered with boyhood plans, some yet to realise.

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  3. I bought an OS 1" Lake District tourist map from an antique map shop in Hay-on-Wye dated from the 1920s and it is a work of art with the relief shading. It's a bit grubby, and well used - I wonder what stories it could tell? It will eventually be framed and hung on the wall. The BMC Harveys maps are also beautiful.

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  4. I bought an OS 1" Lake District tourist map from an antique map shop in Hay-on-Wye dated from the 1920s and it is a work of art with the relief shading. It's a bit grubby, and well used - I wonder what stories it could tell? It will eventually be framed and hung on the wall. The BMC Harveys maps are also beautiful.

    ReplyDelete