Here’s the first in our two part series on the iconic OS Explorer map.
OS Explorer Maps – the beginning
The iconic OS Explorer Map, used daily by thousands of people from ramblers to rock climbers and named by the Design Council as an official millennium product, has a fascinating history. Did you know, for example, that it wasn’t until 2005 that the whole of Great Britain was covered, including remote areas of the Scottish Highlands?
1:25 000 was born
Amazingly, it has now been nearly a century since the famous walking map was born. The first time maps were produced at the familiar 1:25 000 scale (2½ inches on the map being equivalent to 1 mile on the ground or 4 cm to 1 km) was in the early 20th century, but back then, in 1914, only the military had access to this level of detail on a paper map and used them to plan and execute their operations. The first military map from Ordnance Survey covered East Anglia.
Mapping was extremely important during the two world wars but it wasn’t until 1938 that it was suggested that a series of public maps was produced. At this time, it was felt that it would be useful for schools to have access to detailed maps. Students could learn much more about geography with a detailed Ordnance Survey map to hand.
It was decided that if the idea took off in schools, then the mapping might eventually cover the whole of the country to give outdoors enthusiasts unrivalled access to the great British countryside! The first experimental (or Provisional) maps at this scale appeared after the Second World War ended in 1945.
Outdoor Leisure maps
Interest in outdoor pursuits and leisure time spent in the countryside began to grow over time and consideration was given to boosting interest in 1:25 000 scale mapping. In 1972 the first Outdoor Leisure map was published of the Dark Peak area of the Peak District. OL1 can still be purchased today in the map shop. Subsequently other OL maps were published concentrating on the national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty.
As a result of the success of the first 1:25 000 scale maps of national parks, many of the maps were redesigned to broaden their appeal further. They now covered twice the land area and were given green covers to distinguish them. The new maps were given the name Pathfinder. Those Pathfinders covering England and Wales showed all public rights of way. It was now possible to plan walking routes and ramble freely without trespassing!
Read part two next week.