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Map work

imageMap work

Maps show what the world looks like from above. They are very useful because they give information and show where places are. There are many different types of maps. These include street maps, road maps, atlases and ordnance survey (OS) maps. A map is simply a drawing or picture (in 2-D) of a landscape or area of a country (in 3-D). It could be anything from a sketch map for a visitor to find your school to a detailed map of a town centre or mountain range.

From maps we can gather quite a lot of information about an area, particularly from an OS map. Within this section you will learn the following:
Map symbols
Grid references (four and six figure)
Representing height


The best way to show direction is to use the points of the compass. There are four main points – these are north, east, South and west.
Between these four main points there are another four points. These are north-east, south-east, south west and north-west.

Most maps have a sign to show the north direction. If there is no sign the top edge of the map should be north.

Measuring distance

The scale of a map allows a reader to calculate the size, height and dimensions of the features shown on the map, as well as distances between different points. The scale on a map is the ratio between real life sizes and how many times it has been shrunk to fit it on the map.
The scale below is for a 1:50,000 scale map. At this scale, 1 cm on the map represents 50,000 cm on the ground (= 500 m or 0.5 km).

Straight line distances are easy to work out if you use the scale line. The scale line gives the real distance between places on the map.

Scale on an OS map

The scale of a map shows how much you would have to enlarge your map to get the actual size of the piece of land you are looking at. For example, your map has a scale of 1:25 000, which means that every 1 cm on the map represents 25 000 of those same units of measurement on the ground (for example, 25 000 cm = 250 metres). That imagemight sound a bit complicated, but Ordnance Survey maps have been designed to make understanding scale easy. Look at the front of a 1:25 000 scale map and you will see that the scale has been written out for you like this:
4 cm to 1 km
This means that every 4 cm on a map = 1 km in real life. To make it even easier, the grid lines are exactly 4 cm apart, so every square is 1 km by 1 km.image

How do we measure distance?



You can measure between two points by using a piece of thin string. If you are measuring the distance in a straight line, then simply stretch the string between the two points. If you are following a road or track that is not straight, bend the string to follow the exact shape until you reach the second point.

Map symbols


Maps usually have a key that explains the symbols and their meanings. If you find a symbol on the map that you don’t know, simply look it up in the key. The key on a map helps you to unlock the information stored in the colours and symbols on a map. You must understand how the key relates to the map before you can unlock the information it contains. The key will help you to identify types of boundaries, roads, buildings, agriculture, industry, places of interest and geographical features. A map must be clear and easy to read. There is always a lot to put on a map and it can easily become crowded therefore the symbols are very important for our understanding.

How do grid references help me to find places?

You might have noticed by now that a 1:25 000 scale Ordnance Survey map is covered in a series of blue grid lines. These grid lines help you to pinpoint an exact location anywhere on the map by giving a unique number known as a grid reference. The vertical lines are called eastings, since they increase in value as you travel east on the map. The horizontal lines are called northings, since they increase in value as you travel north on the map.

Four-figure grid references

A four-figure grid reference is a handy way of identifying any square on a map. Grid references are easy if you can remember that you always have to go along the corridor before you go up the stairs. To find the number of a square first use the eastings to go along the corridor until you come to the bottom left-hand corner of the square you want. Write this two-figure number down. Then use the northing to go up the stairs until you find the same corner. Put this two-figure number after your first one and you now have the four-figure grid reference, which looks like this: 2951


Six-figure grid references

If you want to pinpoint an exact place on a map, such as your own house, you will need to use a six-figure grid reference. First find the four-figure grid reference for the square and write it down with a space after each set of numbers, like this: 62_ 33_image
Now imagine this square is divided up into 100 tiny squares with 10 squares along each side. Still remembering to go along the corridor and up the stairs, work out the extra numbers you need and put them into your four-figure grid reference like this: 625 333

How are hills and mountains shown on a map?


The ability to understand the shape of the ground from a map is a useful skill to learn, particularly in mountainous landscapes. The height and shape of the ground is shown on 1:25 000 scale maps by brown contour lines. A contour is a line drawn on a map that joins points of equal height above sea level. For 1:25 000 scale maps the interval between contours is usually 5 metres, although in mountainous regions it may well be 10 metres.

Remember contour numbering reads up hill – in other words the top of the number is uphill and the bottom is downhill.

imageAlso remember the closer contour lines are together, the steeper the slope. The examples below illustrate this:


Spot heights and triangulation pillars

A spot height shows exact heights by a black dot with a number next to it. The number is the height above sea level in metres.

Trig points or Triangulation Pillars are another way of spotting the top of a mountain on a map.
The symbol for a trig point is a small triangle. The number beside it shows the height above sea level.image


Triangulation pillars are used by map makers. They are real concrete pillars that are placed at particular places which are usually the tops of hills or mountains.

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