Planning a walk using an Ordnance Survey map

Dog walking in the woodsWalking is undoubtedly the ideal way to explore your local area, find new routes, and discover places you haven’t come across during your day-to-day routines, or to experience a new place when you’re on holiday.

A walk engages all five senses and enables you to gain a much deeper understanding than passing through in a car, especially if you meet people to chat to en route. Getting outside in nature has been proved to have a beneficial effect on both mind and body. If you want to do more than a quick stroll round the block, taking time to plan a walk will make the experience much more rewarding.

Type of Ordnance Survey (OS) map to use

Dennis Maps print many OS maps – which is going to be your best option? The Explorer series has orange covers and a scale of 1:25,000. 4 cm on the map represents 1 km on the ground, so you can see lots of detail about the landscape and local amenities.

(The Landranger maps have a pink cover and 2 cm shows 1 km on the ground, so they are better for activities where you cover more ground, such as cycling or driving).

You can also access the maps online on your mobile, tablet or desktop – just visit the OS Maps site for a 7-day free trial of online access.

Walk planning

Walk Planning - little boy holding an os mapOS maps cover urban areas as well as the countryside, so if you live in a town you can use them to plan a walk right from your front door out into the countryside and back again. Alternatively you can drive or get public transport to your chosen starting point.

A circular route means there are constantly new points of interest along the way, but it’s surprising how many different things you will see coming home if you just go ‘there and back’!

Check the key on the map to make sure you spot the available footpaths and bridleways, and understand all the map symbols. Features like viewpoints, picnic sites, pubs, and ancient monuments will help you plan a walk of interest to all of your party.

Estimate how long it will take to complete your walk, remembering to take into account that you might stop regularly along the way to admire the view, the local architecture or to window shop. You may have a deadline, such as catching a bus home, or being back in familiar territory before it starts getting dark.

Average walking speed on level ground is about 5 km or 3 mph. Hills, stiles, and crossing busy roads will add to the time, as will older people or young children in the party. A break for refreshments always tends to take longer than estimated, especially at a popular cafe where you may have to wait for food or service.

Check the weather forecast for your intended walk date. Depending on your route you will need to know if rain or fog is likely, or if you will need some shade from the sun.

What to take on your walk

Group going for a walk in the country

    • Footwear – sturdy, waterproof shoes or boots (or walking sandals in the summer) are best for any but the most urban routes. They provide support for the feet, but do wear them in well first.
    • Clothes – thin layers of clothing are best so you can peel them off as you start to warm up. Walking can generate a surprising amount of heat, even in chillier months. A rainproof jacket you can roll up small is advisable.
    • Bag – a small rucksack with zipped pockets will hold all your bits and pieces safely, and accommodate discarded layers, without straining your back and shoulders.
    • Food and drink – even if you’re planning a pitstop, take a bottle of water and some fruit or other snack for energy. It can make all the difference to flagging spirits!
    • Phone – not just for calls (bearing in mind you might be out of range in some places), also for many other features, such as compass, camera, contactless payment for unexpected purchases, or torch.
    • Map –  either on your phone or a folded map. Don’t rely on your memory – a wrong turn could send you miles out of your way, and takes all the fun from the expedition.
    • Personal items – remember sun cream in the summer, and you might also want to carry tissues, plasters, and hand sanitiser.

We’ve found that walk planning, and looking at maps, can become quite an addictive activity in itself! It’s a useful skill to acquire, and one that will bring many benefits and a sense of achievement, both physical and psychological. Enjoy breaking away from the herd and following your own path.

You might also like our other posts on Map Reading:

Map Reading for Beginners

Ordnance Survey symbols


All photos by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Dennis Maps is one of the leading map printers in the world, producing more than two million maps and charts every year. We offer comprehensive pre-press services, large format print solutionsprint large scale using both large format litho printing and large format digital print technologies, plus specialised map folding and map finishing techniques.

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