Peak & Northern Footpaths Society (est.1894)

Out and About with Digital Maps

Mel Bale, Membership Secretary and Webmaster

This article is from Signpost 56, February 2018

Like many PNFS members my love of maps goes back to my school days. I can remember a geography lesson where a group of us were handed the Ordnance Survey One-Inch Map of Manchester. The classroom task is long forgotten but the look and feel of the map has stayed with me to this day; it was Sheet 101 and I still have a cloth backed copy.

The advent of computers, satellites and worldwide communications has had a massive impact on mapping since then. The last 20 years has seen a mapping revolution and digital maps are now ubiquitous. We all still love our paper maps, but some of our members may be unaware of some of the potential benefits of digital mapping.

The Ordnance Survey now packages a ‘free’ digital copy of its maps with the paper versions of its LandRanger and Explorer maps. Each map comes with a unique 12 letter code which can be used to register your ‘ownership’ of the map with the OS. An OS account is required to carry out the registration, there are Free and Premium versions. Once registered the digital map can be accessed on a ‘smart’ phone via a free app, OS Maps, which includes basic GPS features.

The OS has a clear advantage over other competitors in the digital mapping market. However it does licence its maps to other suppliers, so there are other options to the OS products. ViewRanger provide a good alternative smart phone app. A range of free UK maps can be downloaded and OS maps can be purchased online. It’s probably fair to say that the app is more comprehensive than the OS offering. Unlike the OS, ViewRanger also covers the rest of the world. Wherever you are, a digital map of where you are is only a click away. More comprehensive GPS phone apps are also available and are inexpensive.

A favourite of mine is EasyTrails. It’s great for use when carrying out footpath inspections. Not only can you do the basics like recording your route, but you can also add waypoints, including photographs. Ideal for a dodgy stile or an overgrown path! The data collected can then be viewed in a variety ways. Some members will be familiar with Google Earth, but ArcGIS Earth is a good alternative and allows easy viewing of EasyTrails files.

By all means take full advantage of what digital mapping has to offer, but NEVER forget to take a paper map with you. After all it will never run out of battery and it doesn’t need a GPS signal!

If anyone wants more details about any of the above or related issues please feel free to contact me at

Next: Brian Morrison – An Appreciation

Page title:Out and About with Digital Maps
If you'd like a reply, please include your contact details.
Your message is being sent.
Your message has been sent. Thank you.
Message sending failed - sorry. As an alternative you might like to try the Contact the webmaster form.