As expert map readers will know, when you’re out and about navigating with a compass, there is a difference between magnetic north (where the compass points) and grid north (the vertical blue grid lines shown on OS maps). And if you’re exploring in the west of Great Britain, there is a change to be aware of…
The difference between magnetic north and grid north is often referred to as grid magnetic angle and it not only varies from place to place, but changes with time too, and needs to be taken into account when navigating with a map and compass.
In 2014 there was a significant event in the changing direction of magnetic north relative to grid north on OS maps. For the first time in Great Britain since the 1660s, magnetic north moved from being to the west of grid north to the east. The change started in the very south west corner of Britain, currently affects the areas to the west of the line on our map, and will slowly progress across the whole country over the next 12 to 13 years.
Hands up if you’d like a chance to top up your navigation skills! For the first time we’re holding a National Map Reading Week to help you stay safe when you #GetOutside. From 17-23 October, there will be map reading workshops and a host of fantastic resources, from videos to handy guides, readily available on our site.
Why are we holding a National Map Reading Week?
We always want you to stay safe when you’re out and about exploring Britain, but news stories over the summer talking about an increase in Mountain Rescue callouts started us thinking. While we still sell 1.9 million paper maps each year, we know more and more people rely on GPS devices and apps to navigate, we even have our own app, OS Maps. But – for safety reasons, we would always recommend carrying a paper map, a compass, and knowing how to navigate. It really could be a life-saver.
If the onset of Spring, or even the Easter holidays are making you want to #GetOutside more, make sure you brush up on your map reading skills first.
Map reading is an essential skill for any explorer or outdoor enthusiast, but can seem really daunting if you haven’t looked at an OS map since your Geography GCSE. To help you to get the most out of your map, and to explore the British countryside, we teamed up with Steve Backshall for a series of videos. They take you through the basics of map reading step by step to help you feel confident with your map.
Watch the full video playlist on map reading skills here:
More map reading advice
Ordnance Survey maps use contour lines to join points of equal height together. Understanding contours is a very useful navigation skill because you can identify the lay of the land and landscape features as they appear on the ground. They tell you whether the ground is flat, hilly, undulating, or steep, and whether a route will be a gentle easy walk or a hard uphill slog, so you can plan your route more easily.
Contours are shown on Ordnance Survey maps as thin orange or brown lines with numbers on them that show you the height above sea level of any point on the line. The closer the contour lines are together, the steeper the slope. Contour lines very close together indicate a steep slope and contours further apart show a gentle slope.
We’ve teamed up with world-renowned outdoor accessories brand Silva for the new version of our OS Locate app – and it’s now available for Android and iOS. We’ve had fantastic feedback from people across Britain since the iOS version launched in February – and had an amazing 10,000+ downloads so far. Our free to download app is a fast and highly accurate means of pinpointing your exact location – and now you can see your latitude, longitude and altitude as well as your grid reference –meaning you can now use OS Locate all around the world.
For our new version, available in Android for the first time, we’ve partnered with leading compass manufacture Silva to feature their iconic Silva Expedition 4 as the compass display in the app, complete with a moving bezel to take bearings. Better yet, OS Locate does not need a mobile signal to function, so the inbuilt GPS system can be relied upon, even in the most remote areas – you have no excuse for losing your place on the map now!
Guest post by Andrew of Outdoor Look.
For hundreds, if not thousands of years man has explored his surroundings with a compass and maps. Now we see GPS units and apps for smart phones available a plenty, so has the humble compass had its day? Both have their fans with some seeing the GPS as just the latest ‘boys toy’ with lots of buttons and flashing lights and those who see it as a valuable aid to navigating your route that anyone who is serious about walking and hiking must have with them at all times. I lean towards the compass and map, simply because that is how I was taught, but I can see how technology changes and obviously a GPS unit doesn’t take up as much space, but is one better than the other? Let’s see.
Have you tried out our latest iOS app, OS Locate? It’s perfect for pinpointing your exact location when you’re exploring Great Britain. It’s designed to be used alongside an Ordnance Survey map, and the app converts GPS location readings from a mobile phone to Ordnance Survey National Grid references, helping you determine precisely where you are on one of our maps.
OS Locate is free to download and, importantly, it doesn’t need a mobile signal to function, so the inbuilt GPS system can be relied upon, even in the most remote areas. It can be used as a useful tool for walkers, cyclists, runner, canoeists, horse riders and many more people.
Today’s guest blog was written by Richard Cardy of the Snows Isle of Wight Balloon Challenge 2014.
My involvement with the sport of Hot-Air ballooning goes back some 27 years or so to 1987, starting at the Great Southern Balloon race on Southampton Common, this was the forerunner to the latterly named Southampton Balloon and Flower Festival.
It was a couple of years or so after I’d settled into lighter than air as a hobby and finally finding a regular use for my trusty Zenith 12XP SLR camera, that I became aware of the importance of OS Landranger Maps in ballooning, for both plotting and marking flight progress.
Many of us have fond memories of exciting treasure hunts as children, with Easter eggs and other small treats often the subjects of our searches. These days, though, it’s much more normal to find youngsters glued to their television screens, completing quests of a more virtual nature. Technology has certainly affected the ways in which people explore the world and enjoy themselves, but it’d be wrong to assume that old and new can’t be combined to great effect. Geocaching is a fantastic example of this.
Today’s guest blog was written by John Warren of Wimborne Orienteers, about the sport that combines navigation skills with cross country running or walking.
We are all good at navigating. You know your way to work, you know where the sugar is in the local supermarket or if you are at school you know where your classroom is.
It’s a matter of knowing what to look for, which way to go and how far it is. These are the skills needed for the sport of Orienteering, ‘Competitive navigation on foot in unknown terrain using a map and compass’.