Does sat nav spell the death of maps?

Thanks to our over reliance on sat navs, I’m willing to guess that most of you will have had an encounter with a hopelessly misdirected lorry driver.

Sat Nav on top of a mapListening to our navigation systems instead of our common sense is becoming increasingly common, causing jams and accidents on our roads.

Just a few months back, I was stuck in a line of cars that had come face to face with a heavy goods lorry which was trying to negotiate a narrow country lane near my home in Derbyshire.

The result was rush hour chaos and a very sheepish lorry driver, who had obviously failed to read the road signs or the landscape.

But it’s not just incidents like these that make me despair of the sat nav. I fear for the health of the map.

Road sign saying unsuitable for heavy goods vehiclesI’ve always had a penchant for them. While other children searched dictionaries for dirty words, I pored over Ordnance Survey sheets looking for place names to make me giggle.

The UK is blessed with hundreds of small villages bearing a barmy name.

Dorset is my favourite county for this pursuit, having rather more than its fair share. John Betjeman was moved to write a poem containing many of them.  Entitled simply ‘Dorset’, it refers to places such as Rime Instrinsica and Plush.

It’s hard to choose a favourite place name, but if you push me I might say Piddletrenthide.

My preference is for older maps. They make fantastic historical documents, giving a glimpse into how Britain used to be.

I inherited a collection from my grandparents, who grasped the new freedom of movement that developed during their lifetimes.

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First on cycle, then motorbike and then car, they explored the Peak District and beyond. They bought a new map for each adventure, which ended up covered in pencil marks and folded this way and that.

Those maps now give me a ragged snapshot of the country before the Beeching axe – named after Dr Richard Beeching, who made the recommendations – killed the village railway and made way for endless motorways.

I have never used a sat nav and have no desire to.  If I am driving to a new location, I will study a map beforehand.

Location signs against a blue skyColour coding and contours, if read properly, can tell you about the lie of the land. Not only do I know what to expect – which roads are country lanes and when the steep climb is approaching – I understand about the land around me and enjoy the journey all the more for it. I can look out for that ancient monument coming up on my left.

One argument against the physical map is perhaps that it soon goes out of date.  Reams of paper must be discarded in favour of a new edition. But in the spirit of reuse and recycling I am seeking new lives for old maps.

So I’ve been using my old cloth-bound maps to make sewing needle cases, lavender bags and to cover plain notebooks.

Paper maps, meanwhile, make lovely gift tags. Decorative paper cutting can make a picture denoting a place close to your heart.

Why not see what you can come up with and have a go? You might even find a fun place name in the process…

Sarah Walters

About Sarah Walters

My day job is writing grant applications for charities. In my spare time I write blogs, short stories and novellas set in the mid 20th century. I also sew and sell vintage haberdashery and hand sewn items in my Etsy shop, SewsAttic.