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Turn around when possible - and pick up a map to find your next Suffolk destination

PUBLISHED: 06:00 05 April 2017

Why not navigate with a road map? Picture: GETTY IMAGES/ISTOCKPHOTO

Why not navigate with a road map? Picture: GETTY IMAGES/ISTOCKPHOTO

pamela hodson

In a age where people use in-car navigation systems, GPS and map apps, have we completely lost the ability to read a road map?

It is useful to know where north is... Picture: GETTY IMAGES It is useful to know where north is... Picture: GETTY IMAGES

Today is Read a Road Map Day and we are being encouraged to rediscover the joy of grid references.

Lynne Mortimer agrees it is a skill we should all possess - at least a road map is not a husky-voiced woman, entreating the man in one’s life to take the next available left turn, she writes.

One of the first things I did when I discovered our new car had a satellite navigation system was to turn off the vocals. Assuming it isn’t something you rustled up from a spoof website that sends you via the Slough of Despond to Kingdom Come, a road map is a known entity.

As long as you keep it up to date (ditch the one that doesn’t have the M25 on it), you can rely on it to take you from A to B... I should here add the proviso that this assumes the map-reader is reasonably proficient.

A sign in Suffolk telling drivers not to follow their SatNav to avoid getting stuck under a low bridge.

 Picture: WARREN PAGE A sign in Suffolk telling drivers not to follow their SatNav to avoid getting stuck under a low bridge. Picture: WARREN PAGE

On one visit to the Norfolk Broads (Filby Bridge) when we used the satnav to get us to our destination, the final picture on the screen was of a pulsating arrow in the middle of the broad.

Visiting our son, when we lived in Canterbury, we could not track down his residential street in the city. For some reason, the navigation kept on directing us towards the nearest Channel port. An investigation revealed the satnav believed us to be in Belgium.

While women have an undeserved reputation for turning the map to point the same way as the road, men do not escape scot free. It is often observed that men, when lost on the road, will refuse to stop and buy a map, frequently alleging they know the way because they once drove this way before.

It turns out this was in 1972, shortly before the local council revamped the original Roman route.

When I worked for a car concession in the late 70s, my boss would drive into London and navigate by the sun. On a sunny day this usually brought us up against the River Thames or a no-through road and on a cloudy day, we got nowhere.

Has the road map had its day? Absolutely not. There is so much more to a road map than a road. Locations are in context. If you’re in no hurry, a road map will show you all the exciting things you can do within a five mile radius of your current position. What a boon if you have no wish to stop off at the next roadside hostelry.

The Turin Papyrus is thought to be the oldest recorded road map in the world. Historians believe that it was created around 1160 BCE (who knew there were roads?). The earliest road map here, Britania Atlas, was drawn by cartographer John Ogilby in 1675. Yes, we have the driver of the coach-and-four sitting aloft with a map blown against his face as his companion attempts to find the turning to Sotterly as they gallop along the blustery north Suffolk coast.

Maps and transport have come a long way since then. For sheer beauty, you cannot beat a map so why not treat yourself to a short journey using a traditional paper road map. If you don’t have a navigator, remember you must only look at the map when the car is at a complete stop.

When was the last time you picked up a map and used it for directions? No, not a GPS or a map app, but an actual paper map? Don’t remember? One website points out map-reading could be a life-saver in the event of a zombie apocalypse.

Skills needed for map reading:

• Good eyesight or reliable specs - small print can be tiny

• Numeracy skills – the ability to count the number of exits on a roundabout

• Knowing the difference between a road, a railway, a river and a county boundary

• Being able to convey the driver’s next crucial manoeuvre before travelling past the exit required

• Working in a confined space. Do not unfold a map across the steering wheel

• Keeping the driver’s confidence in the event of a diversion

• Knowing right from left

• An idea of north, south, east and west

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