The Forgotten Art of Map Reading

IMG_7945.JPG

Way back when in 1997 mobile phones were just becoming part of my everyday life and it was a handy gadget to have especially as I had just bought my first 7.5 tonner at the age of 17 and I had started subbing for DFDS at Coggeshall, Essex. The one thing I would never have believed back then was that now a days there would be a gadget in in the cab that would have saved me from learning  what felt like every street across Essex, Suffolk, Norfolk, Cambridgeshire, Northamptonshire, Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire, Berkshire, Hampshire, Surrey, West Sussex, East Sussex, Kent and last but definitely not least, Greater London. In my first week I was given a day in London with something like 15 drops across the Greater London area, nice. Oh for those who aren’t sure, Greater London is probably easier described as everywhere inside the M25 circle. So age 17, 1st week of owning and driving my first Tonka toy and 15 drops across one of the worlds busiest cities, where do I start???! One of the other DFDS subbies said “Don’t worry son, just get yourself a hard back copy of the Master Atlas of Greater London and you’ll be fine.” – I couldn’t have had any better advice than that. So on the way down the A12 I stopped at a garage and found a copy of the London bible.

IMG_7950.JPG

So just take this in for a minute, its 1997, I had X amount of drops (& collections) across the capital, a list of addresses, not many with postcodes and TWAT SAT NAV was no where to be seen. How did we ever cope I hear you ask. Pull up a sand bag and I’ll tell you a story. Once upon a time you could stop at a garage and buy these little paper paged books called road maps. You could buy them for counties or towns depending on what you required and basically they had pages full of the layout of your selected area. At the back was an index with a full list of roads and estates and these were listed with a page number and grid reference so you could find the road on the page in the map, amazing huh?? Using one of these town maps along side a bigger road Atlas you could pretty well find any where you wanted to go, all on your own without 22 satellite’s guiding you down an unsuitable one way street! Or even better than using the road map you’ve just bought you could use what we used to call common sense, most people had a bit of common sense as it was gained from parents and the school of hard knocks and tough luck. For example your honour; Station Road, Anytown. First up have a look on your map (if you have one of that area/town) and look for station road in the index or just for the station. If there is no visible station have a look to find the closest road to a railway line, simple. Again using a bit of common sense and a good map you can even work out where an old railway might have been. If you haven’t got a map you could always head towards the town and see if you could pick up the sign posts for the station. Or last but not least you could ask the local and they’d send you right round the town and back to where started and in the mean time with a bit of luck you’d stumble across Station road.

Now in London the streets are a plenty and the traffic lights and junctions are even more. So having to keep an eye on your hard back atlas was very easy or convenient so I found it best to tear the A4 page out. See the photo above. Still an A4 page isn’t so easy to hold, so when you are close enough you can fold the page to A5 size. Then finally when I was really close to where I needed to be I would fold again so its small enough to hold in finger and thumb. Please see my thumb below. I have to say that in day to day driving it was very much find your own way to your destination, no typing in a postcode and follow the arrows on your dash-mounted screen. All drivers back in these prehistoric times had to have a sound knowledge of the UK’s road network and most industrial towns and somehow we managed. In a previous life as a transport manager I watched a driver heading from Ipswich to Leamington Spa take the A14, M6, M42, M40 to his destination. When I quizzed him to why he went this long way round, I got the response “That’s what sat nav said”. Now call me an old stick in the mud but I asked if he had looked at his road atlas to check where he was going and I got a short silence and then the response “I haven’t got one”. Not impressed I confiscated the drivers twat sat nav for the following week. Now I hope he has a slight knowledge of the road network. Anyway I digress.

IMG_7947.JPG

The beauty of a paper map over a twat sat nav is that I find I can always see more than I need to, which can only ever help you know where you are and what your surroundings are. For example heading into London the other Saturday as a passenger I decided we would have a Map-Off. This was fine and a good contest and we both arrived at the right place with no major dramas, but along the way I could check each street I passed and I could see how far ahead the next turning was, without having to wait for the 200 metre warning or what ever it is. Also looking at the map you can get some idea of what the road you are turning into is like or which way it goes, something which twat sat nav can’t do very well. The one downside I found to the paper map is that it doesn’t light up when you enter a tunnel!!

I challenge any driver who isn’t a map reader to take up the challenge and try and get yourself across the country with no twat sat nav. At the end of the day you might just find that you have some sort of new found satisfaction in your day to day job. Twat Sat navs do have their uses and I for one do like that fact they can tell you how far you are from your destination and I can never argue against the fact that some one shouting directions at you is far safer than reading a map while driving along or each time you stop. My biggest fear is that the beauty of a good map is lost on all new drivers. Where’s the sense of direction that you all had to find the nearest sweet shop when you were a kid? Does anyone else agree that all drivers should have an understanding of where about’s they are in the country and what other roads are available to the one your on with no help from the NASA convention on your dashboard?? In the worst case we know that at 12 o’clock the sun is in the west and we want to be just to the right of that, so we best take that tangent………………..

IMG_7946.JPG

Advertisements

6 thoughts on “The Forgotten Art of Map Reading

  1. Brilliant article. I seldom use sat nav as like you said I gave a tongue in my head. I also still have a box of town maps in my loft from my days as a HGV driver.

    Like

  2. Pingback: All About Me | www.truckblog.co.uk

  3. Spending many years driving the Western United States, and Canada. Paper maps, or book maps are still the best way to go. There are details on paper maps that you’ll never see on a satnav. I still amaze the younger folks when it comes to naviging around the country side.

    Like

Before you truck off, why not leave a comment....

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s