adam munrosHARVEY Maps is an independent publisher of hundreds of outdoor recreational maps – the largest of its kind in the UK. We catch up with CEO Adam King to find out more about the Dennis Maps’ customer and its award-winning maps.

What do you personally find so incredible about maps?

I’m a long-time fan of maps, which comes from growing up in a family of outdoor enthusiasts. I used to see them as pieces of code you needed to crack. Once you knew the symbols it opened this whole world up.

Can you tell us about the maps you produce?

We produce a range of maps for outdoor pursuits, that are all tough, light and waterproof. They’re made from polyart and feel a bit like a banknote. You can scrunch them, drop them or get them wet, and they’ll survive – they’re built to last. They’re available at 1:25,000, 1:30,000 or 1:40,000 scale. We have different ranges of maps designed for walkers, cyclists, hikers and fell runners. Then we have our event maps and our custom maps. We can also license our data, so customers can put our maps on whatever they fancy!

Assynt coigach map

Which map have you been most excited to work on at HARVEY Maps?

The British Mountain Map Assynt & Coigach holds a special place. We mapped this area early on in my time at the company. I was able to go on the survey team to the far north-west of Scotland. As a cartographer, it was an interesting map to work on. Because of the type of rock there, mountains pop out of nowhere. And there are no trees either, so it’s a really weird landscape. I fell in love with that part of the world.

What makes your maps so special?

Our maps are designed and made by people who love the outdoors, so they’re fit for purpose. Customers tell us they really like the level of detail we put on them too. Our maps are detailed but without the noise. Our data is all drawn and created in house as well.

You mentioned HARVEY Maps uses its own data to create maps. Why is this?

It’s our history and our philosophy. It’s why we exist as a company. Our founders, Susan and Robin Harvey, set the business up in 1977, after having successfully created mapping for the World Orienteering Championships. They wanted to draw everything for the event themselves, so they could control what it looked like and decide on the level of detail needed. The reviews were so good they decided to further develop their mapping into a business.


How do you make your maps from start to finish?

Every map involves everyone in the company. We start with research and planning. We don’t map everywhere in the UK; we look at areas we think people will go to. Early on, we work out where maps should start and finish and make sure a car park is on there, so access is easy. We buy in aerial photography, load it into computers and our photogrammetrists get to work. It takes them five to six months to trace and draw everything. They spend a long time gathering all the information they can, but you can’t see everything from aerial photos.

Next, the cartographic team turns the photogrammetrists’ lines into something you’d recognise on a map and apply colours, symbols, text, etc. The survey team then goes to the area of the new mapping and spends about a week walking the key routes. We cover everywhere on foot, looking for new features that we couldn’t see from the aerial photos. When everything is ready, we send the map to Dennis Maps for printing.

What’s the best part of creating a map?

I’m always interested in watching maps slowly grow. It takes so long, and you have this ownership of them. You invest so much time and effort. When you get it back from the printers you hold it in your hands and there’s a huge satisfaction that you’ve contributed to something other people will use.

What challenges do you come up against in the map making process?

A lot of the challenges happen in the photogrammetry stage. If you’re looking at something from an aerial point of view things get in the way. Because of the height of the camera, you can’t always see clearly. There are stories of photogrammetrists marking sheep down as boulders, as navigable features. You have to be careful of that sort of thing! Luckily, we’ve got a very experienced team. There are challenges in terms of cartography too. Where the land gets very steep, it’s a skill to know how to best represent the terrain, so when you pick up a map you can clearly see what’s happening.

How can you help customers who aren’t sure which map is right for them?

We’ve got tons of info on our website and we’re constantly trying to add to it. We’ve got a map search function for Scotland, where you type in the name of the mountain you want to walk, and the website will return a list of maps. You can also pick up the phone or send an email – we’ve got plenty of people who are happy to talk about maps!

Can you tell us a bit about your digital mapping?

We supply our data to select third party companies and they manage it on our behalf, giving us a digital presence. We use Avenza Maps, HiiKER, Outdooractive and Satmap.

Do you think digital and paper maps both have their place in the future of mapping?

We definitely think so and our customers tell us the same. It’s about finding a balance between the two. Digital devices can give an instant location, but the screen is so small. A combination of digital and paper maps can give you a safe route. We’d always recommend carrying a paper map, they don’t run out of battery and so on. The two really complement each other. I don’t see the relationship changing anytime soon.

harvey maps products available

HARVEY Maps offers a range of products alongside its maps. With Christmas around the corner, are there any items you’d recommend as gifts?

It has to be the MAZZLE and our Map-Measure-Go! laces. The MAZZLES are map jigsaw puzzles and are very popular. They were one of the company’s first creations, so they’re almost as old as the business. The laces look great too and we like that you can use them as a compass lanyard, because they’ve already got the scale on them. Then there’s our XT Headwear, that features contours of famous mountains, like Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike and Snowdon. We’ve got our North Pole Christmas Cards that are good fun too.

Have you got any new maps in the pipeline for 2023?

We’ve got some new trail maps coming out next year, for the Wales Coast Path, that will be covered in four maps. They should be coming around Easter for the full set. We’re working on maps of other parts of the UK too – watch this space!

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 solutions using both large format litho printing and large format digital print technologies, plus specialised map folding and map finishing techniques.

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