The Road goes ever on and on; Down from the door where it began;
Now far ahead the Road has gone; And I must follow, if I can;
Pursuing it with eager feet; Until it joins some larger way;
Where many paths and errands met; And whither then? I cannot say.

[JRR Tolkien, Lord of the Rings]

Monday 24 November 2008

Walking Across Scotland – on paper – in a warm room

Yesterday, with Scottish Hill Tracks sitting on one side of me and a Munro guide on the other, I cursored back and forth up and down trying to forge a route across Scotland using Anquet mapping.

As wonderful as digital mapping is (except when it has one of its spurious waypoint moments), I do find it a bit limiting to try to plan a route when viewing a small section of map on a computer screen. Many times on our LEJOG jaunt, I looked at the printed map the day before we walked it and found that the route I had plotted wasn’t the most sensible. On that walk it was no issue; we simply walked a route other than the one I’d plotted, but then no-one was vetting that route so I didn’t have to share my silly oversights.

What I wanted to do on this route planning mission was to surround myself with proper full size OS maps and pore over them at length.

My map library being somewhat limited, a trip to a library was called for and so this morning (after a two and a half hours of a public transport extravaganza) I found myself in the blissfully warm reference section at Wolverhampton Central Library.

I started by being restrained with just one map half open in front of me, trying to stick to my quarter of the table-for-four.

An hour later the woman who had been in-situ when I sat down decamped to a different table and I found myself with three OS maps open, plus the Scottish Hill Tracks map, plus two reference books, plus my draft print-outs.

I’m sure that there was bemusement amongst the newspaper readers, cross-worders and staff (I caught a few of them staring) as I examined for prolonged periods individual sections of map, scratching my head and wrinkling my nose in concentration.

By the time I dragged myself away and ventured back out into the cold (ready for a two mile march across town; it would have been a stroll had I managed to drag myself away sooner), I had a plan for three-quarters of the route.

I’m not entirely happy with all parts of the plan, but much poring did not lead to any more appealing alternatives to leap off the page at me, so provided that Mick’s agreeable it is the plan with which I will stick.

A pretty good way to spend a few hours of the day, I’d say.


  1. Nice post. That's how it feels like to me! The planning is definitely more difficult than the walking.

    I appreciate there is a cost involved but I find that - once the basic route is sorted - it is a good investment to buy all of the relevant 1 50,000 maps. I've seen Challngers, on the hills, working from library photocopied OS maps that were dangerously out of date.

    And they are nice things to have. My maps of Scotland are permanently laid out on a large coffee table, so that they can be consulted instantly!

  2. Maps on the floor a cookie and coffee in the hand and see the routes open before me. Great fun planning. I try to take it more serious these days. Hope your planning a epic walk?

  3. Andy - I was really surprised to find that the maps in Wolverhampton were not only up to date, but also seemed never before to have been opened (in fact, two of them had the 'new library stock cards' fall out of them when I opened them). However, that was in the Reference Library. The ones downstairs were more heavily used, and not so up to date. It was only the lack of tables in the lending library that had me find that they have a secret stash of brand new maps carefully guarded in a filing cabinet in the Reference Library.

    Alas, as much as I'd like to add to my OS map collection (because you really can't beat spreading a map out across the floor and poring over it, can you?), the current depth of my pockets will mean that real maps are viewed in the library and we will set out across Scotland with Anquet print outs. However, unlike our LEJOG, I will be printing out pages other than the ones across which our route goes, just in case circumstances cause us to vary our route.

  4. Martin - what counts as an epic walk?

    Current planning is of the TGOC. However, even Mick is now asking where we're going to be going for a 'medium length' walk next year (a month or so), so at some point in the next few months even more planning will be afoot.

    Next real epic won't be before 2010 - which means that if I stick to my usual level of planning, I'd best start thinking about that one in a few months' time.

  5. I know a man who wants people to go with him to Alaska!

    What's the TGO route idea then?

  6. Epic is defined mostly as: "very imposing, impressive, surpassing the ordinary, beyond normal".

    Suppose it does demand a lot to have an epic route. Ten highest Summits as part of the route, 40 summits, Most western summit to furthest summit east from there. Who knows what would count in truth. Be fun to try and come up with one.

  7. Hi you two

    Lord Elpus & I are currently 1 & 2 on the standby list!

    I too shall be poring over maps this weekend.

  8. We must confer on Saturday (I assume you're still going) over Anquet which I've now got to get to grips with for LEJOG planning. My head's beginning to hurt.

  9. We must confer on Saturday (I assume you're still going) over Anquet which I've now got to get to grips with for LEJOG planning. My head's beginning to hurt.

  10. Gayle I have quite a few Scottish OS maps. If you want to peruse a particular area I would be happy to loan you maps if I have them. Dawn

  11. Andy - Current plan is an Oban start, via a couple of munros (weather permitting) and (perhaps scandalously) omitting Braemar. I've not quite plotted to the end yet, but it will no doubt be St. Cyrus.

    Martin - Sorry to disappoint, but it will be far from an epic. Perhaps a bit challenging in places (by my standards, at least), but otherwise quite an ordinary route.

  12. Geoff - We will be there on Saturday. I've got the Pocketmail out to bring, so that we can compare models. See you Saturday.

    Dawn - Thank you very much for the offer. At the moment, I'm happy to go to the library (which has the advantage of giving me a warm room to sit in for hours at a time!).

  13. Alan - Really pleased to see your numbers on the stand-by list. You must have been chuffed-to-bits (hmm, is that a bit of a Midlands expression?) to hear that.

    See you tomorrow!