Almost 5,000 maps handed in as Ordnance Survey trades old for new

Ordnance Survey Snowdonia Maps

Old Ordnance Survey maps

An Ordnance Survey scheme encouraging people to trade in old maps for new has been hugely successful, with almost 4,500 maps, some nearly a century old, returned so far.

The topography of our green and pleasant land changes slowly and gently as the years roll by, but the locations of amenities like car parks and the status of paths change much more quickly, and can have a great impact on our enjoyment of the outdoors.

If you’re using a decades-old Ordnance Survey map, you may have already come a cropper in this respect as befell our Senior Policy Officer Eugene Suggett nearly 25 years ago.

“There are untold dangers from using out-of-date maps,” says Eugene. “Walking in Wiltshire on a sweltering summer Sunday, I had planned a midday quart at a place called Bowerchalke, since it had P.H. marked on the OS. (“P.H.” meant pub before the unappetising pint-of-blue-beer symbol).”

“Nobody carried water in those days,” adds Eugene. “It was with a raging and enthusiastic thirst that I descended into the village and bemusedly walked up and down the village street looking for the P.H., only to find that it had shut its doors, and was now “The Old Bell”, a private house, and not “The Bell” of yore.”

To help walkers on their way, Ordnance Survey are asking people to trade in their old paper maps until the end of April. Depending on the number of maps returned they will be exchanged for vouchers up to the value of £20 which can be spent on new maps in the Ordnance Survey online shop.

“We have a team of 250 surveyors who make around 10,000 changes to our mapping database every single day,” says Nick Giles, Managing Director of Ordnance Survey Leisure. “Our OS Explorer Maps and OS Landranger Maps are updated with new versions every 2 to 5 years depending on the area and a lot can change.”

“Places alter, and so do paths,” agrees Eugene. “Councils have extensive powers to divert rights of way, the trouble is, there is no requirement for any long-lasting notice to be placed on the site, so people can, and sometimes do, quite unwittingly end up losing their way and inadvertently trespassing as a result of the diversions.”

“Happily, there is a requirement that such changes be notified to the OS, so they’ll be shown on the next edition of that sheet,” explains Eugene. “That’s an important reason for having the latest map.”

The oldest map traded in so far dates from 1919, and in addition to a few from the interwar period, a fair number from the 1950s and 60s have also been returned. The returned maps will be recycled, and used – where possible – to help teach young people navigation skills.

Although very old maps are acceptable as part of the trade in scheme, Eugene points out that actually they’re quite lovely things to hang on to.

“Old maps are great for armchair reading and they have an immensely important role as a social and historical record,” he says. “But for the walker, cyclist and horse rider, the latest map is essential. Full marks to the OS for this initiative.”

Magazine of the Ramblers