TAC 27 May-Jul96

TAC 27 Index

OS maps: a series business

MJ Smith

In TACs past there has been much discussion of the Ordnance Survey, notably concerning the ever-rising price of Landranger maps, their propensity to turn to mush when confronted by typical Scottish weather, and conspiracy theories concerning the overlaps. Is it not time to broaden the debate to other maps?

Back in the beginning (well, the 1960s and 1970s), we had the One-inch Seventh Series, beautiful maps with such endearing features as unmarked crags, unmarked summits (eg Beinn a'Chlaidheimh, south of An Teallach), numerous inaccuracies, and heights in sensible feet. (As in sensible shoes? - Ed.) Importantly, they were also of a convenient size - not too large, not too many folds - and printed on tougher paper than the subsequent 1:50000 series which replaced them in the mid-1970s. We also had Tourist maps, embellished versions of the standard One-inch with extra features including hill-shading, which covered such useful and extensive tracts of country as the Cairngorms (from Glen Shee to Grantown-on-Spey), Ben Nevis and Glen Coe (née Lorn and Lochaber, extending from Tyndrum to Glenfinnan), and Loch Lomond and the Trossachs (from Milngavie to Killin and Dalmally). These excellent specimens of cartography died a lingering death in Scotland during the 1970s and 1980s - although updated metricated versions are readily available even yet for several areas south of the Border, even the Cotswolds (and who would want to go there?)

Meanwhile, during the late 1970s, the OS started producing so-called Outdoor Leisure maps - fascinating cartography, although the large size of the sheets often make them unwieldy on the hill. These maps have proliferated in England, but in Scotland all we have had is the useful back-to-back Cuillin and Torridon Hills and one of the high Cairngorms (which does not even extend to the Linn of Dee, and which in 1996 is still not in full colour, unlike every other Outdoor Leisure map). We did have a short-lived experimental waterproof version of the Ben Nevis area, the target of much criticism when first published in 1988 due to the footpaths being illegible among the crags and boulders (which at least seems highly representative of the ground). Then suddenly in 1995 we had two new Outdoor Leisure maps - of the Isle of Arran and of the Cheviot Hills (mainly in England, but extending in Scotland past Jedburgh.) In 1996 we are promised an Explorer map of the Trossachs - an Explorer appearing to be exactly the same as an Outdoor Leisure map (1:25000) except that the cover is orange instead of yellow, the significance of this being a mystery.

Does this prove anything? Maybe not in itself, but note the following:

These figures lead the mind to wander over yet more conspiracy theories concerning sheet overlaps. And apart from the Landranger and Pathfinder series which cover everything, Scotland seems woefully under-represented on other large-scale OS maps (but congratulations are due to Harveys for their heroic efforts to correct the imbalance).

Some final points to ponder:

TAC 27 Index