002 - Map Skills

Factual Question

How can traditional maps be interpreted?

Key Terminology

            • Ordnance Survey Map

Useful Links

Activity One - Describe

On a first glance maps can look quite completed to read but once you 'crack the code' then what they show can suddenly come to life. Your starting point should always be to look at the key which is often placed on one side of the map and on occasion it can be on the back. Each country has created its own symbols for features but there are some commonalities between them. Contour lines are often orange-brown lines on a map that show the height of the land. The same heights are joined together to create a ring. There can be a 'spot height' which is often represented as a black dot at the highest point of the hill or mountain. Contours not only show the height of the land but they can also help you to identify specific natural landforms such as glacial valleys, cirques or cliffs. You will be given two different types of maps - one showing an area of Switzerland and one for the UK (possibly a random one).

      1. Draw out the symbols for the following features:
                    • Camp site
                    • Religious site
                    • Road - small
                    • Bridge

Activity Two - Describe

We don't often think about the scale of a map when we look at our phones to see how long it will take to get somewhere, but scale is an important feature to understand. The smaller the scale on a map the more detailed it is. If you have completed the International Award scale would have been vital to estimate how long it would take to get to certain key check points or paths along your route. Scale can be represented in different ways.

      1. Watch the YouTube clip and write down the three ways that scale can be represented on a map.
      2. Go back to your maps and write down the scale for which they have been drawn and explain what that means.

Activity Three - Describe

Grid references are used to pinpoint places that you may want to get to. Four-figure grid references get you to the square that you want the point of interest is in and the six-figure will get you to the more precise point, but how do we read them?

      1. Watch the two YouTube clips below and explain how you take a four and six figure grid reference.
      2. Take the Peak District map out again and find what feature or point of interest can be found at the following grid references:
                    1. 235045
                    2. 236044
                    3. 233002
                    4. 112955
                    5. 139826

Activity Four

You now know how some basic map skills so what I would now like you to do is to create a route of your choice from one of your chosen maps. You are going to describe how to travel along the route using compass point directions (to turn in specific directions), grid references (to get from specific points or to say where to turn), scale (to show distance) and the symbols so we know what to look out for. The key requirements are below and you need to write your routes on paper.


      1. Your route needs to be 5km long.
      2. It needs to go past something of interest.
      3. You need to include at least six grid references.


      1. You will be buddied up with someone else in the group.
      2. Give them your route and they will 'walk' along it using the map.
      3. Did the route go where the designer thought it was going? Where you able to follow their route? - Class discussion.