British walkers define the perfect formula for a walk

National Map Reading Week 2024

4 minute read
A circular route in the countryside, during sunny spring, that’s under four miles long - according to a new study.

So just what are the ingredients you need for a perfect walk?

According to the public, it must be a circular route, between one and four miles long, with lovely weather, a beautiful view, and nice and flat to walk.

A poll commissioned by Ordnance Survey to mark National Map Reading Week, taking place between Monday 3 June to Sunday 9 June, revealed the habits of British walkers and exactly what they look for when out on a stroll.

Two people consulting a map with a compass.
National Map Reading Week aims to reinvigorate map reading among the British public.

21% of people go for a walk at least once a day, while only 7% admitted to never going on walks for leisure at all.

And when it comes to location, half of respondents said they preferred to go for a walk in the countryside (50%), followed by coastal walks (31%), and strolls in a park, city, or town (20%).

The majority of walkers preferred walks in the first days of spring, closely followed by the beautiful mid-summer sunshine.

Unsurprisingly, only 4% enjoyed a walk in an autumn rainstorm, with 50% believing weather is the most important factor in planning a successful walk.

Further ingredients to walking success include knowing where you are and not getting lost (21%), exploring somewhere you’ve never been before (18%), and walking with friends (12%).

Interestingly, only 7% said they found car parking important. A further 7% needed a pub to cool down and only 5% needed the route to be child-friendly.

The survey also revealed the biggest factors that ruin walks for people, which were getting soaked, or the route taking much longer than expected. Inappropriate footwear and running out of water were also common problems.

Popular comedic YouTubers The Map Men are supporting National Map Reading Week this year.

Map Men’s Jay Foreman said: “I’ve been reading maps as if they were entertaining books since I was a kid, but it’s very important for people who don’t particularly love maps the way I do to learn how to use them and enjoy them as well.

“There are many benefits to having a good old fashioned folded paper map instead of just using a sat-nav that tells you to go left and right.”

Map Men’s Mark Cooper-Jones added: “Learning that half of people never use a map while walking and only 19% of people feel confident using one has told us that because we have a map on our phone in our pocket at all times, we have lost some of that skill to orientate ourselves, and figure out where we are in the world.

“We are using maps more than ever, but we’re not having to think because they tell us exactly where we are and which way we need to go.

“National Map Reading Week is all about reminding us that map reading is an important skill to encourage us all to navigate the great outdoors and explore.”

OS’s Managing Director for Leisure, Nick Giles, said: “These survey results suggest how much people love getting out in the countryside and making the most of great weather when it arises.

“But to maximise that enjoyment, it is vital to be able to avoid getting lost or taking much longer than you need to do to finish off a walk.

“National Map Reading Week is about educating people on the importance of map reading, so they get to enjoy the outdoors in a safe and accessible way.

“That’s why we have advice, tutorials, quizzes, and resources about map reading on our GetOutside website throughout National Map Reading Week, to help people brush up on their skills and knowledge for when they next venture outside.”

Without map reading skills, how do you get to the best pub or that lovely beauty spot? More than half of UK adults are in danger of never finding out.

54% of the British public say they don’t ever or very rarely take a map with them when going out on a walk.

And despite the popularity of walking, around a third of us (30%) confess they’re still nervous of using a map to guide them, with only 19% saying they’re confident at map reading.

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