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  • Writer's pictureGemma Bailey

The Joy of Maps


I've always loved maps. For some, I think maps represent adventure and the excitement of planning a new route to explore a new area, but when I unravel a map I'm much more likely to spend hours pouring over the lines and features without ever actually leaving the house. It started when I was much younger and I'd delight at finding the most charming and often absurd names on the map; Cuckoo Hill, Cat Moss, Little Ding, Snoddle Hill. As I got older I spent plenty of time wandering around and I became quite good at noticing and remembering environmental cues. I almost always take an OS map with me when I walk, ever when I know the area well. In fact, especially when i know the area well, because then I can follow my route along as I go and point out the features and match the markings on the map to the things around me in the physical world, which I find comforting.
I also love to draw maps. Another throwback to my younger years, I could most probably be found outside creating a treasure map with my own invented absurd names this time. When I walk these days, I usually take my sketchbook along to document my route and capture the things that inspire me. Then when I return home, I can follow the journey back through my mind and illustrate the most important parts for me. My maps would be useless to most people, but when I look at them, I can remember each particular walk perfectly, transporting myself back in my mind.
My good sense of direction has kept me safe for many years but as I plan more ambitious walks, I wanted to ensure that my skills are up to scratch. I spent a weekend in Marsden, a village in West Yorkshire, near to the Peak District, brushing up on my map reading and navigation skills. As a group we rambled around the moors for two days with our maps and compasses and I learn some great new tips to keep me safe when solo walking. Spending the night in nearby Slaithwaite, I also managed to squeeze some painting in to this busy weekend. By Sunday evening, I'd passed my Silver navigation Award and I was feeling inspired to explore more than ever.

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