Now some people say they like nothing better than sitting down with a good book. For me there’s nothing better than poring over a good map.
Maybe it’s my background as a geologist that gives me such an interest. The world of a geologist is one that’s immersed in maps – basic geology maps, topographic maps, plans, drillhole sections, mine plans….maps, maps and more maps.
Let’s start with the map of the world. A map that we are all familiar with. But did you know that most of the published maps of the world we see are wrong? Wrong in that the size of the countries of the world are usually incorrect relative to each other. Funny enough, it’s usually the good old USA that’s proportionally too big. Fancy that. But of course the problem with producing accurate world maps is a complex one, and the complexity lies in the fact that the world is essentially round, so how do you represent it on a flat 2D map? With difficulty. That’s why most common maps are really just a cartoon. Like this one below. Is North America really bigger than Africa! Don’t be silly.
So along came Dr Arno Peters. A German historian/cartographer, who in 1974 produced an area-correct map of the world. Take a look below – you’ll be amazed how different it looks. I have one on my wall and I often just stand there admiring it. Africa is a mighty big continent! Of course poor old Dr Peters was told he was wrong and caused a storm in the world of cartography; the debate still rages about the accuracy of his map.
But the maps I really like looking at are of my local area. The Ordnance Survey of Ireland have done a great job with their Discovery series, as have East-West Mapping in Clonegal, who produce beautifully detailed maps of the Wicklow Way and South Leinster Way amongst other things. The OSI’s online viewer is a fabulous resource, where you can look at various vintages of maps and aerial photographs, or orthophotos to use the correct term. Locate your local area and flick between the orthophotos from 1995-2000-2005 to visually see the roar of the Celtic Tiger. Then go back in time to the 6” and 25” maps of old. The detail is fabulous. Once you get your eye in spot the townsland boundaries. These maps were produced as a result of a mammoth survey of Ireland between 1825 and 1846, and the detail is phenomenal. Of course many of the features mapped such as field boundaries, are still accurate today. The layout of my own town, Bunclody (formerly Newtownbarry) hasn't really changed at all since these maps were produced.
Of course viewing online is one thing, but there’s no substitute for paper. Unfortunately these days paper maps are quite expensive to buy, but if you’re lucky like me and have acquired some over the years then you’re in luck.
Above all else, the map – just like cycling – is a great way to get to know and learn about your local area. You’d be amazed at what you don’t know about your local spot! Get your map out and start exploring!