OS Maps Online

Some use ViewRanger but I prefer to stick to one system. I use OS Explorer maps on the fells when I walk so I use the OS Maps Online by Ordnance Survey Maps UK to plan my routes.

Ordnance Survey History

Silva Expedition 4 Compass
Silva Expedition 4 Compass

Modern companies don’t need years to establish themselves as the best at what they do, all they need is a good marketer. Ordnance Survey is not one of these businesses.

Detailed mapping of Scotland and the South East coast of England were started in the mid 18th century. These were the first projects by the Board of Ordnance (Britain’s then defense ministry), instructed by the Government, that would lead to Ordnance Survey’s formation in the summer of 1791.

This excellent video on YouTube tells the whole history of Ordnance Survey, how they helped win World War 1 and how they were ripped off while doing so.

Ordnance Survey Maps UK

The first Ordnance Survey map went on sale in 1801. However, the OS brand didn’t appear on a map until 1810. For the first time, land owners had an aerial view, something they could only previously get from a hot air balloon!

The first maps took three years to survey, draw up and publish. Old OS maps were surveyed by measuring triangles with a theodolite sitting on purpose-built trig points. They were reverse engraved on copper plates for printing. It wasn’t until 1870 that a full series of maps of England were available.

Old OS maps

Ordnance Survey Historical Maps

You can buy Ordnance Survey historical maps here.

They show surveys from the 19th century as well as trench maps in France from World War 1.

Now, we order a Lake District map on Amazon for about ten quid and think nothing of the 220 years it took to get it to that point.

Mountain navigation

Hiking in the British mountains, you MUST know how to navigate. Lots of mountain walkers think that an app on the phone does the job but we hear, only too often, how people get into trouble because of failing batteries in their devices. The iPhone battery is notorious for this because it’s water based. Water’s viscosity increases when it’s cold; the molecules get lazy and the phone switches itself off. It’s happened to us all.

Navigation in the mountains
Navigation in the mountains

I use nothing but 1:25k OS maps in the mountains. The detail is magnificent, and invaluable when you need to micro-nav a section of terrain, getting from one known point to another, then another, until you reach your desired destination.

Why not test yourself with this printable version of OS Map Symbols.

OS Maps Online

It seems crazy to my to use anything but the Ordnance Survey Premium App on my PC for planning my routes. This means I can plot my routes on the laptop, print them or even download them to a device. Personally, I prefer the reliability of the paper map so I transfer the route with a Sharpie marker. The app works out some stats for me and I can save the route for use later, even on the fells.

Extended Coledale Horseshoe route
Extended Coledale Horseshoe route

You can plan all of your walks in the comfort of your sofa. Looking at routes online for a walk you intend to do is very handy, then plot the route onto the app.

Take a look at all the features you get for £24 per year – OS Maps Online

Walking the Wainwrights

I like to add some icons on Photoshop before posting on the Walking The Wainwrights Facebook group. For me, it’s worth it just for this and being able to view any OS map online.

Best route to Haystacks
Best route to Haystacks

You also get access to all maps and the ability to plot routes on OS maps on your phone. If you want to download maps to your phone for when you have no signal you can do this with the subscription. Saving the route to a GPX file gives you the ability to upload it to any other mapping software like the one on a GPS like the Satmap Active 20.

Satmap Active 12 on the Coledale Horseshoe
Satmap Active 12 on the Coledale Horseshoe

When you plot a route the app works out the distance, ascent and time (you choose you’re walking speed).

Test your navigation skills

Batteries run out of course, especially if you’re new to navigating and have the phone on a lot. I wouldn’t recommend you go very far without learning to navigate properly using a paper map and a compass. Being a Mountain Leader, I am qualified to teach navigation and read a map, how to plot a route and what to take into consideration, even night navigation.

Night navigation
Night navigation

At the end of the day, a map is invaluable. Try it out, try ViewRanger or buy a map. Do what you need to do to make sure your navigation works for you when the shit hits the fan. Nice sunny days are not the ultimate testing ground for navigation. If you can micro-nav over a few miles in heavy cloud, driving rain and in the dark then you’re good to go in my book.

Book on a navigation course

Why not come out with me for a weekend and learn navigation skills that will not only help you plan your routes better but will give you confidence that you can get off the fells to safety when the cloud comes in or it ‘suddenly’ goes dark?

Navigation and map reading course in the Lake District
Navigation and map reading course in the Lake District

Navigation Workshops

If you have any questions at all about OS Maps Online or navigation in general please don’t hesitate to comment below or message me direct.

Keep Learning…

Ordnance Survey Cover
Ordnance Survey Cover

Ordnance Survey

The history of Ordnance Survey, from the beginning through three wars and on to the digital online app.