Category Archives: Planning

Free maps for exploring London

Trail talk: A brief history of FREE maps for walking in London

London is pretty big. While the City of London is just 1.12 square miles in area, Greater London today covers over 600 square miles. Local learnt geographical knowledge is great for residents or frequent visitors, but what of the individual who historically has wanted to explore the unfamiliar streets and parks or wished to visit a particular destination?

Anyone who has used an Ordnance Survey map will appreciate that they are probably the finest aid to country walking, however try and use one in a city and it is just about impossible to follow a route on their maps. An alternative would be sought. There have been a number of commercial London maps produced, there have also been quite a number of free maps that have frequently been all that is required. Three Points of the Compass takes a glance at some of the useful paper maps for London that those in the know could, and can, be obtained for FREE. Clicking on any image will enlarge it.

Map showing the streets within the South Eastern Postal District. From 'Post Office Principle Streets and Places. London and its environs as divided into Postal Districts with maps'. Printed by George E. Eyre and William Sottiswoode in April 1857, the public could view this publication in Head Post Offices

Map showing the streets within London’s South Eastern Postal District. From ‘Post Office Principle Streets and Places. London and its environs as divided into Postal Districts with maps’. Printed by George E. Eyre and William Spottiswoode in April 1857. In the nineteenth century the public could view this publication in Head Post Offices

The production of a map costs money, to produce a good map costs a lot of money. However over the decades visitors to London have been able to pick up or consult, free of charge, paper maps to aid in walking the streets of the largest city in the United Kingdom. Such maps would often only show more central districts and environs are traditionally poorly served. Free paper maps for the public have usually been produced with a particular purpose in mind. That is- advertising particular products, services or to encourage tourism.

Paper maps were also provided for members of clubs and associations where a membership fee had already been paid, that subscription going toward the cost of producing or licencing maps. The public could for many years also view maps at Head Post Offices and Libraries for free. When Three Points of the Compass was a young man, Ordnance Survey maps could be borrowed with a library ticket just as any book from the shelves could. The public also had the opportunity to examine, free of charge, specimen maps produced by the Ordnance Survey at over 700 Head Post Office across the UK. Sadly, this is no longer the case.

Small folding map of London given out in post offices in the city

Small folding map of London given out in post offices in the city

In the 1990s and 2000s, it was possible to pick up a small, but free, folding map in larger post offices in London. Normally, these maps were distributed to tourists exchanging money at the Post Office Bureau de Change. However, ask nicely, and it was invariably possible to receive a free map without exchanging currency. Other UK cities had similar maps available from their larger post offices with similar detail of their neighbouring streets. The detail on these maps is minimal with few street names included. However tourist spots are named and paths are shown across larger parks. So successful was this product that they are now widely available, with a different cover, focusing on differing city features, now with a cover price, in many shops and are aimed at overseas tourists.

Folding map produced for the Post Office and published by thinkmaps. Copyright Trailzoom Ltd. 1996-2007, touristmaps.uk.net 2007

Folding map produced for Post Office distribution and published by thinkmaps. Copyright Trailzoom Ltd. 1996-2007, touristmaps.uk.net 2007

The history of walking London by foot for leisure isn’t a particularly old one. For London residents, the idea of actually exploring it’s streets didn’t extend beyond the Georgian penchant for promenading. This was when the upper class walked the safer streets and green spaces in the late afternoon with the aim of being seen by others in the social elite. None of these well-dressed, and well-heeled, pedestrians were interested in free maps so there was no market for them. Later, at the end of the 19th century this same social class indulged in flâneur- a more strict definition of which was to wander or stroll without purpose other than observation, however this was still mostly an exercise in vanity. Again, there was little commercial point in the production of free maps.

Section from a 1968 map prepared by Kellys.

Section from a London districts map prepared by Kelly’s in 1968. The Post Office produced accurate directories and maps from 1800. One of their officials, Frederic Kelly, began producing his Post Office Directory of London from 1836, albeit without official sanction. The Kelly maps were especially detailed and accurate and could be viewed by the public in larger post offices and libraries as well as being available for purchase

1851 saw a massive influx of visitors to London, many for the first time. The majority of these visitors were from the middle and lower classes. They were visiting to view the first ever World Fair taking place in the nation’s capital. This was an exhibition of culture and industry organised by Henry Cole and Prince Albert, husband to Queen Victoria. It took place In Hyde Park, London from 1 May to 15 October 1851 and was a direct response to the successful fairs that France had mounted in Paris since 1798. Over six million people, equivalent to a third of the entire population of Britain at the time, visited including Charles Darwin and Charles Dickens. Though in reality some visitors went two or more times. For this event, new time visitors to London could, quite literally, follow the crowd, and an intimate knowledge of the streets was not necessarily required.

Map of London for visitors to the Great Exhibition, 1851. Prepared by J. Reynolds, 174 The Strand

Map of London (part) for visitors to the Great Exhibition, 1851. Drawn by H. Martin, published by James Reynolds

An excellent map of both London and the park itself, together with helpful information was drawn and engraved by Henry Martin, 8 Dyers Buildings, Holborn, and published by James Reynolds but, like the exhibition itself, this was intended to turn a profit. It cost 1 shilling, a fifth of the cheapest cost of entry to the newly built Crystal Palace itself. While most members of a party taking advantage of the special rates provided by the railway companies would not have purchased such a thing, they would no doubt have consulted a copy held by their group leader, frequently the local town vicar. Beyond viewing such a map purchased by someone else, there was very little, if anything, available for free for someone to use when walking in central London or it’s fringes. Beyond a visit to the exhibition itself, within the map’s accompanying booklet was good advice on the best way to explore London:

“the best way for a stranger to ascertain the plans of London is first to explore what may be termed its arteries- the main thoroughfares and lines of street which divide it longitudinally. Starting from Hyde-park along Piccadilly, turn down St. James’s street and continue along Pall-mall, by Charing-cross, the Strand, St. Paul’s and Lombard-street, to Whitechapel Church,; and return by Leadenhall-street and Holborn, and along Oxford-street to Hyde-park. This will be a walk or a ride of about nine miles through the heart of the metropolis. He may afterwards make another circuit by passing from Charing-cross southward, crossing Westminster-bridge, passing the obelisk, and reaching London-bridge by the Borough, Gracechurch-street and Bishopsgate-street, will conduct him to Shoreditch Church, and, turning short to the left, he may return to Charing-cross, by the City-road, Kings-cross, New-road, Edgeware-road, Park-lane, Grosvenor-place, Pimlico and Westminster Abbey. This will be a route of about eleven miles”

London transport maps

Probably the earliest free paper maps that anyone could practically use for walking to a destination in London were those produced in the late nineteenth century by the London transport companies. These companies needed to show where their routes lay and encourage workers and travellers to use their services. Such maps continued to be produced into the 20th century in ever increasing numbers and formats and production continues to this day. Maps showing tram, omnibus/bus and coach routes would overlay lines and stations over a street map. Some would also show the route of the London Tube system that lay mostly underground. Available for free, they were often perfectly adequate for anyone who chose to walk rather than ride. However every now and and then, quite terrible maps have been produced.

The first map of the London Underground showed the lines, few that they were at the time, overlain on a street plan. However the map was not particularly helpful to those travelling above ground, not those underground. 1908

The first public map of the London Underground showed the lines overlain on a street plan. However the map was not particularly helpful to those travelling above ground, nor those underground. 1908

Harry Beck, the map responsible for the radical redesign of the London Tube map

Harry Beck, the man responsible for the radical redesign of the London Tube map

The first maps of the London Underground system had normal street maps and the lines of the underground railways superimposed. This was replaced in 1921 with a tube network map with above ground detail other than stations and the River Thames omitted. This was more than adequate for underground rail travellers but obviously of no use to those walking above ground.

The central area of the tube map was squashed and Harry Beck’s idea of expanding the central area, distorting above ground geography and making the map diagrammatic rather than geographic, was a step change in map design.

Map of the General Omnibus Routes provided free to the public by the London General Omnibus Co. Ltd. 1928

Map of the General Omnibus Routes provided free to the public by the London General Omnibus Co. Ltd. 1928

A striking step-change it may have been, but of limited help to those walking London streets. Despite mirroring the success of the Beck Underground maps, some bus maps have occasionally fallen victim to producing similar diagrammatic maps that failed miserably to support anyone attempting to navigate London’s complex streets.

Where bus maps have worked best for the pedestrian is, fairly obviously, when a geographical style has been retained. All the better both for a passenger to themselves in relation to the streets being passed through, but also for onward journey by foot. One of the best features of these maps, both bus and tube, is their pocket sized dimensions. The folded 1928 Omnibus map shown below measures just 75mm x 144mm when folded. These are almost the same dimensions as a 2019 tube map I have on my desk in front of me- 75mm x 150mm.

Drawn by the accomplished artist, illustrator and cartographer Alfred Edward Taylor, the Map of the General Omnibus Routes is both attractive and practical, if a little small scale for those hoping to use it for navigation by foot, as it covers all of Greater London.

Map of the General Omnibus Routes, issued free by the London General Omnibus Co. Ltd. Drawn by Alfred E. Taylor, the map is an ideal size for use in the hand. Printed by Waterlow & Sons, 1928

Map of the General Omnibus Routes, issued free by the London General Omnibus Co. Ltd. Drawn by Alfred E. Taylor, the map is an ideal size for use in the hand. Printed by Waterlow & Sons, 1928, however map design is dated 1927

Bus map to the central London area. Published by London Transport and issued free. 1946

Bus map to the central London area. Published by London Transport and issued free. 1946

The bus and tube companies seem to have hit on the optimum size for their free maps almost from the outset. The map above, held by Three Points of the Compass, measures 445mm x 577mm when open.

The rear of the map, in common with almost all others likewise produced, is stuffed with information for the traveller. On these earlier maps almost all information relates to routes, destinations, days of operation etc. It was only later, when attempting to attract the tourist and non-commuter that more general information of places of interest was included.

In contrast to the attractive and intuitive map design above, the bus map below follows a diagrammatic style, even altering the gentle flowing curves of the River Thames to something more akin to that found in an electrician’s manual. I don’t like it and many who used it didn’t either and a return to more practical freely issued maps for bus routes was not long following.

Bus map drawn by J.H. Elston and printed by Waterlow & Sons. More like a wiring diagram than a street map, it would take the most determined of map reading bus goers to navigate London successfully with it. 1946

Bus map drawn by J.H. Elston and printed by Waterlow & Sons. More like a wiring diagram than a street map, it would take the most determined of map reading bus goers to navigate London successfully with it. 1946

Compare the above diagrammatic style with the 1959 example below. Though simple and omitting streets, it is nonetheless easy to follow on the ground and more than sufficient for the pedestrian to find their way across the part of London shown.

Small free street map showing fifteen bus routes taking passengers to places of interest in central London, with sufficient information to walk between them. Published by London Transport, 1959

Small free street map showing fifteen bus routes taking passengers to places of interest in central London, with sufficient information to walk between them. Map measures 228mm x 152mm. Published by London Transport, 1959

Small pocket map with Hop on a Bus character that first appeared on posters in 1958. Published by London Transport in 1959

Small pocket map with Hop on a Bus character that first appeared on posters in 1958. Published by London Transport in 1959

London Transport 'Welcome' map produced by London Transport detailing fifteen bus routes taking in 'places of interest'. 1960s

London Transport ‘Welcome’ map produced by London Transport detailing fifteen bus routes taking in ‘places of interest’. 1964

Following the Second World War there was a push to reinvigorate the tourist and general visitor presence in London. Some beautiful and detailed maps were produced but all, perhaps unsurprisingly, appear to usually have a purchase price associated with them. For someone looking to simply walk the streets of London with the minimum of outlay, the maps produced by the bus companies were probably their best option.

London Transport began to produce bus maps specifically targeting both the generally inquisitive and the tourist. In the 1960’s, a range of maps was produced that included a potted history of London buses on one side and and selected routes, by bus, across the capital on the other. These are well produced but omitted considerable surface detail. For anyone sticking to major routes and streets however, they were, and are, clear and simple to read.

My usual benchmark to how useful a free map is to pedestrians is how Hyde Park is shown, or even if it is shown. Most maps will show West Carriage Drive crossing the park, but how do they depict the many paths crossing the extensive grounds, if at all.

Though attractive in design, this 1964 bus map of London has simplified it to only show major streets, bus routes and places of interest

Though attractive in design, this 1964 bus map has simplified London to only show major streets, bus routes and places of interest

Free map of London showing maps and routes across both Greater and Central London. April 1976

Free map of London showing maps and routes across both Greater and Central London. April 1976

Bus maps did not improve much in the 1970s. Only essential detail was added, enough for the bus traveller for whom the maps were intended of course, but little use for anyone hoping to pick up a free map that would assist them in exploring London by foot.

The map shown immediately below was included on the back of a 1976 bus route map issued free by London Transport. Another map, also drawn in 1976 and shown below, was included on a free bus map issued in 1979. Slightly larger in format, a tad more detail is included. Using my yardstick of Hyde Park, the footpaths crossing that are included together with just some extra streets beyond the major routes.

The designer of both maps was David Penrose. In common with almost every other street map of the capital almost no detail of terrain is shown. It has close similarities to the A to Z maps produced by the Geographers’ Map Company founded in 1936.

Free bus map by London Transport. Detail from rear showing central London routes and minimal street detail. Cartographer was D. Penrose, April 1976

Free bus map by London Transport. Detail from rear showing central London routes and minimal street detail. Designer was David Penrose, April 1976

The 1979 bus map provided by London Transport includes a map drawn in 1976 by the Cartographic Department of Cook, Hammond and Kell Ltd. D. Penrose was again responsible for its design

The bus map provided by London Transport in 1979 includes a map drawn in 1976 by the Cartographic Department of Cook, Hammond and Kell Ltd. David Penrose was again responsible for its design

Bus maps have a difficult job. They need to not only give an indication of destination and routes, but also bus numbers and provide a modicum of additional information for the casual visitor and tourist.  Sadly, this efficiency is frequently at the cost of attractive design and moving through the 1980s and 1990s, there is little to commend them to either map reader or walker.

Selection of 1990s bus maps. Ruthlessly efficient and effective for the bus traveller, less so for those walking

Selection of free 1990s bus maps. Ruthlessly efficient and effective for the bus traveller, less so for those walking

Green Line coaches

Free Green Line coach map issued the London Passenger Transport Board, 1947

Free Green Line coach map issued the London Passenger Transport Board, 1947

Coach maps are seldom much use when walking in London. Coaches tend to have longer journeys than buses and subsequently have smaller scale maps. Perhaps, at most, including a larger scale representation of streets immediately surrounding a termini.

The London General Omnibus Company registered the Green Line Coach service in 1930. The coaches linked central London with country towns within a 30 miles radius. It was this network that was shown on their maps.

Green Line became part of the London Passenger Transport Board in 1933 and it is a map from this era shown below. Anyone using this map to walk around London would struggle, however it could just about be managed if sticking to coach routes!

Green Line coach map. Small scale map on the other side can be folded to join up with upper section of map shown here. Central London is shown to a larger scale. Crown Copyright, the map was prepared by J. Weiner Ltd. 1947

Green Line coach map. Small scale map on the other side can be folded to join up with upper section of map shown here. Central London is shown to a larger scale. Crown Copyright, the map was prepared by J. Weiner Ltd. 1947

Free London map from Green Line Coaches, 1974

Free London map from Green Line Coaches, 1974

Free London map from Green Line Coaches produced for French visitors, 1972

French language map from Green Line Coaches, 1972

The London Transport Board transferred their country coach and bus division to the National Bus Company in 1970. The coach map below was produced by the newly created subsidiary- the London Country Bus Services Ltd. The coach service was by now a pale imitation of its 1950s excellence. Battling to modernise an aged fleet and modernise their image and improve profits, maps were also produced to encourage and assist overseas visitors.

I say maps. They are amongst the worst maps illustrated here and show almost zero artistic flair and very little information beyond the actual roads utilised by one coach or another.

Small map on 1974 Green Line leaflet shows little more than a minimum of streets in central London

Small map on 1974 Green Line leaflet shows little more than a minimum of streets in central London

Free leaflet detailing a walk through just a part of 'Royal London'. Printed June 1965

Free leaflet detailing a walk through just a part of ‘Royal London’. Printed June 1965

Free leaflet detailing a walk in London and advertising a guide book 'Visitor's London', price five shillings. Printed March 1965

Free leaflet detailing a walk in London and advertising a guide book ‘Visitor’s London’, price five shillings. Printed March 1965

In common with other transport companies, Green Line were also behind the production of leaflets aimed at the general tourist. With the specific aim of increasing use of their services outside general commuter traffic, a range of cheaply produced free leaflets were prepared detailing short walks through London. Accompanied by a modicum of accurate historical detail the maps include just enough information to follow by foot, but are insufficient to wander ‘off-piste’.

A further aim of the leaflets was to encourage people to buy London Transport’s official guide book for tourists- ‘Visitor’s London‘. Costing five shillings and written by Harold F. Hutchison, the guide was printed annually and was:

an alphabetic reference book for the visitor to London who wishes to also see something of London’s countryside’.

Part of the detail within the free walk leaflet 'Opera and Oranges'. Produced by London Transport, these leaflets were aimed at people living within a thirty mile radius of London and was intended to increase use of transport during quieter times of the day. Printed March 1965

Part of the detail within the free walk leaflet ‘Opera and Oranges’. Produced by London Transport, these leaflets were aimed at people living within a thirty mile radius of London and was intended to increase use of transport during quieter times of the day. Printed March 1965

Motoring Associations

Motoring associations also produced maps for their members. Some of these could be purchased while others were issued free with membership. Founded in 1897, the Automobile Club of Great Britain (and Ireland)- the second oldest motoring club in the World, had prepared a London map for its members prior to it receiving Royal Charter and being renamed the Royal Automobile Club (RAC) in 1907.

Map to central London produced by the Automobile Association, circa 1935

Map to central London produced by the Automobile Association, circa 1935

The road maps produced by the Automobile Association (AA) are not only of use to drivers, they contain good information for those on foot too. The AA produced ‘through routes’ for its motoring members but demand for these fell when wartime petrol rationing was introduced.

When petrol rationing ceased in 1950, demand for maps again rose and with a membership in excess of 700,000 clamouring for good maps, many excellent town maps were produced. Those for London were particularly useful, not only for the motorist but the pedestrian too.

“members are reminded that, in addition to this map, the Association issues a number of publications of service to the motoring visitor to the Metropolis. These booklets may be obtained free of charge at any A.A. Office”

In addition to the 1935 map shown below, members could be provided, free, with London Route Maps, a London Guide, a map showing garages adjacent to London Railway Stations and a map showing garage and parking places in the vicinity of the Olympia exhibition halls.

Map of Central London issued free to members of the Automobile Association, 1935

Map of Central London issued free to members of the Automobile Association, 1935

Map showing the London West End & routes into London. Printed by John Bartholomew & Son, Edinburgh, circa 1954

Map showing the London West End & routes into London. Printed by John Bartholomew & Son, Edinburgh, circa 1954

The small section of map shown below, and taken from a larger sheet, was produced by the Automobile Association (AA) in the years immediately following the Second World War and was not only intended to illustrate the best motoring routes into London and the West End, but also show garages, official parking places, parking places on bombed sites, ‘no waiting’ streets, theatres, cinemas and hotels.

Drawn and published by the AA, it is printed in three colours. Part of the map was based on aerial photography by Hunting Aerosurveys Ltd. Copyright by the Automobile Association and C. J. Cousland & Sons. The remainder of the map is based on Ordnance Survey Maps. Scale is 1/3 mile to the inch on one side and 1 mile to 13 inches on the other. A detail from the map above is highlighted below.

One of the bombsites in London shown on the AA map had been acquired by Ronald Hobson and Sir David Gosling in 1948 for private parking and this facility enabled them to form Central Car Parks. In 1959, they took over National Car Parks (NCP), who were the UK’s oldest private car park operator (founded 1931). NCP went on to produce free city maps, including London, showing the location of their car parks. Frequently these were produced in collaboration with a partner.

AA map, detail, circa 1954

Detail from centre of  AA map, circa 1954. Despite the large scale, Hyde Park is simply shown as a wooded area, ignoring any paths. Note the inclusion of bombed areas temporarily re purposed as parking spaces

And what of Hyde Park. The target audience- motorists, for this map is all too obvious. Compare this with the extra detail on the maps supplied by Hermetite and the London Co-op shown below.

Banks

Barclays map, Decimal coinage. designed by E.W. Fenton

Free map produced by Barclays Bank for visitors to London. Designed by E.W. Fenton, 1970

Many banks would encourage new savers and customers with free giveaways. For a period, these included useful street maps, which obviously included detail on where bank branches were situated.

While Hyde Park is shown on the Barclays Bank complimentary map produced in 1970, little is included beyond an un-named West Carriage Drive and the Serpentine. The map does show the locations of the bank’s branches in central London and also sought to explain the intricacies of the forthcoming ‘D Day’ on 15th February 1971, when Britain made the change to decimal currency. Written and prepared by the bank’s advertising department and designed by E.W. Fenton, A.R.C.A., it was printed by Davenport, Askew & Co. Ltd.

Quite simple in design, streets are over exaggerated and simplified. Major destinations and Underground Stations are shown, along with a Tube Map designed by Paul E. Garbutt. Another map with an enlargement of the central area was included.

Detail from map released by Barclays Bank in 1970. Scale is 5cm to the mile

Detail from map released by Barclays Bank in 1970. Scale is 5cm to the mile

Complimentary map booklet produced by Hermetite for it's customers in 1961

Complimentary map booklet produced by Hermetite for it’s customers in 1961

The booklet shown here was produced by Hermetite in 1961 and distributed free of charge to its favoured customers, mostly trade. No-doubt those ‘in the know’ would be able to obtain one of these expensivly produced booklets that contain twenty-three good street maps derived from Ordnance Survey maps, together with another four maps providing further detail for visitors.

Hermetite made automotive products and was acquired by Hammerite in 1985. In a day where tote bags, pencils, T-shirts and over-sized mugs are given away in their thousands to favoured customers and visitors to company trade stands and outlets, the earlier production of such a useful and accurate map is extraordinary.

This booklet has been further overprinted in 1962 with detail on where the Hermetite trade stand was located at the Motor Show taking place that year at the Earls Court exhibition buildings.

Maps 8 and 9 in the free London street atlas provided by Hermetite in 1961

Maps 8 and 9 in the free London street atlas provided by Hermetite in 1961

1962 overprint in Hermetite booklet provided for it's customers

1962 overprint in Hermetite booklet provided for it’s customers

Map given free of charge of shareholders in the London Co-operative Society

Map given free of charge to shareholders in the London Co-operative Society

Co-operative shareholders

Beside banks there were some unexpected  places where good street maps to London could be picked up. Anyone who was a shareholder in the London Co-operative Society, entrance fee one shilling in the 1950s plus another shilling for the first share, could expect a map showing the location of every Co-op service outlet. The map shown probably dates to the early 1960s and shows the society’s main department stores and centres.

Printed almost exclusively in black, the map was prepared by G.I. Barnett and is based upon Ordnance Survey maps. A great deal of information is provided for shareholders and anyone else to whom the map was distributed “with the compliments of the committee…”. Beside good street detail and an index to places of interest, also shown is the location of Co-op stores, cinemas, theatres, close up of the Oxford Street shopping area and the London Transport system.

Trading map of the London Co-operative Society. c1960

Trading map of the London Co-operative Society. c1960

While the main map provided by the co-op is of most help to motorists, the map on the reverse shows in far greater detail the street and parks on central London and would be ideal for the pedestrian. Click on the image and you will see how this map shows detail in Hyde Park that is barely covered on any alternative.

there is a lot of fine detail map provided on the map supplied by the London Co-operative Society, look at how much is included for those visiting Hyde Park- paths, statues, refreshments and bandstand are amongst the places shown

there is a lot of fine detail map provided on the map supplied by the London Co-operative Society, look at how much is included for those visiting Hyde Park- paths, statues, refreshments and bandstand are amongst the places shown

Travel agents and airlines

Small map produced by travel agent Thomas Cook for its customers. Production costs were largely met by carrying advertisements on its reverse. As an indication of the customer base, these included advertising for the Ivy Restaurant

Small map produced by travel agent Thomas Cook for its customers. Production costs were largely met from advertisements on its reverse which included advertising for the Ivy Restaurant. 1954

The travel company Thomas Cook was first formed in 1841 to carry temperance supporters between towns and cities by railway. Cook also arranged transport to the 1851 Great Exhibition, mentioned earlier. Travel tours to Europe followed in 1855 and to the US in 1866.

The map shown here was produced in 1954 and supplied to its customers exploring London. Though small (342mm x 221mm) the three colour map shows central London and its tourist highlights, together with addresses of the Thomas Cook London offices. Though sadly, paths across parks get short shrift.

Despite including little detail for walkers across green spaces, it is a simple and accurate map, as befits the cartographer- Geographia Ltd. This map publishing company was founded in the UK in the early 1900s by Hungarian Alexander Gross.

The Thomas Cook Group ceased trading in September 2019. Such was its suddenness, that some 150 000 UK customers were left stranded abroad resulting in the UK’s largest peacetime repatriation.

Small map of central London produced by Geographia Ltd and supplied free of charge to customers of travel agent Thomas Cook. 1954

Small map of central London produced by Geographia Ltd and supplied free of charge to customers of travel agent Thomas Cook. 1954

1971 Pan Am map and guide

1971 PanAm map and guide

Drawn to a scale of 1:11 000, the 1970 map supplied to its passengers shows west, central and eastern London on one side

Drawn to a scale of 1:11 000, the 1970 map supplied to its passengers shows west, central and eastern London on one side

In these days of budget airlines where almost any ‘extra’ has to be paid for, it can be hard to comprehend that travellers with some airlines were offered ‘free’ maps, though the cost of producing these would have been swallowed up as part of their ticket or excursion price.

I show a 1970 map supplied by Pan American Airways here. An international affair, it is copyright Falk-Verlag of Hamburg Germany, based upon UK Ordnance Survey maps and printed in the U.S.A.

Detail from 1971 PanAm map shows not only NW, W and SW London, but also the London Transport Underground network and road approaches to London

Detail- from 1971 PanAm map supplied to its passengers, shows NW, W and SW London on one side.

The map is a garish affair with bright pink blocks, interspersed with green areas depicting parks and gardens, criss-crossed by bright yellow roads. It is folded into the front cover of a small booklet. This supplies information to travellers on currency, taxi fares to be expected, tipping, weather, what to wear, where to visit, stay and eat, night life, theatre and music. However for the urban pedestrian, the map is the most helpful inclusion. Far more useful than the tiny maps included in most modern city guides.

Heathrow Express

Central London map and guide produced by Heathrow Express and available to the public free of charge

Central London map and guide produced by Heathrow Express and available to the public free of charge

Not to be outdone by the airlines, Heathrow Express, an airport rail link that operates between London Heathrow Airport and Paddington railway station has also offered London street maps to travellers in recent years.

The service has operated since 1998 however the map shown here dates from 2017. While it shows most streets to the south east of Paddington, few streets are actually named. One of its most useful features has not been included on any map so far shown, concentric rings give indications on walk distance for 12, 30 and 60 minutes. Heathrow Express ticket prices and a map of the TfL tube network, along with a minimum of information on tourist destinations is included on the reverse.

This map, for all its apparent detail, is almost impossible to use ‘on the ground’. Anonymous streets with no further detail result in a frustrating confusion if attempting to use it to navigate by foot through London. All gloss and no substance one might say.

Map of Central London produced by Heathrow Express, 2017

Map of Central London produced by Heathrow Express, 2017

Tourist maps

Experience London Tourist map, 2018

Experience London Tourist map, 2018

Every year, millions of tourists descend on London. The wide range of visitor attractions vie with each other to attract them. Other than actually having an attraction worth visiting, one of the simplest ways to achieve this is to become part of the ‘tourist trail’. Various bus companies provide hop-on-hop-off services around the capital, enabling the solo or family visitor to explore various destinations. For a price, a business could get their attraction added to the maps provided, free of charge, to tourists. These are also given out by street vendors, tourist information centres and other leaflet hubs.

Woe betide the place that is not included on the map, especially if they are located down one of the many un-named side streets depicted. The tourist dollar counts most with the production of these maps and competition and production subscribers are the over-riding factors in the map’s design.

Experience London Tourist map. Freely distributed, the majority of the sheet is taken up with advertising various attractions with just about sufficient information on the map itself to enable tourists to travel between them. 2018

Experience London Tourist map. Freely distributed, the majority of the sheet is taken up with advertising various attractions with just about sufficient information on the map itself to enable tourists to travel between them. 2018

'South of the River' free map, 2019

‘South of the River’ free map, 2019

Recognising this difficulty in attracting the tourist, some local councils in traditionally less visited parts of the Capital have backed production of free maps showing ‘their’ neck of the woods. Some designs of map have pushed at traditional design, again with the inherent problem of ending up with a product that looks pretty but is difficult to actually navigate with on the ground. Competing for the prize of worst map for walkers shown here, the South of the River map is a strong contender.

'South of the River' free map, 2019

‘South of the River’ free map, 2019

East London Visitors Guide, compiled 1998

East London Visitors Guide, compiled 1998

The free East of London Visitors Guide compiled in 1998 is not much better than the South of the River map produced a decade later. On the surface it appears to be quite informative, containing information on transport, including boat services, accommodation and a plethora of tourist locations. However the map is woeful. An indication of longer cross-London paths is indicated with dotted green lines however it would be impossible to follow any of these or find your way through the myriad  of streets that have been left off the map. The map includes the Millennium Dome, not scheduled to open for another two years after the production of this map.

“here’s where the traditional East End meets the new city of London Docklands, where the World Heritage Site of Greenwich meets the wonder of the Millennium Dome”

Detail from East of London Visitors Guide. Try finding your way around Greenwich with this map and you would find it impossible

Detail from East of London Visitors Guide. Try finding your way around Greenwich with this map and you would find it impossible without additional aid

Sculpture trails

London has possibly the greatest variety of history, architecture, culture, and social diversity to be found anywhere. Various maps have been produced that explore aspects of London though most have had a cover price. Today, online maps have made such a thing largely superfluous.

Cover to the 1968 Sculpture Trail in the City of London

Cover to the 1968 Sculpture Trail in the City of London

As part of the City of London Festival, in 1968 a wide ranging selection of sculptures were exhibited. A map was produced to enable those interested to walk the streets and visit over a hundred works of art, though some were located in private residences, only open at specific times. One might view London as a huge sale room at the time as most of the sculptures were for sale.

Featuring Henry Moore’s ‘Warrior With Shield’ sculpture on it’s cover, the leaflet and map was published by the City of London Festival Committee and printed by The Ranelagh Press. It initially had a cover price of one shilling though this was eventually waived and it was made available for free.

Map produced showing the sculpture exhibition to be seen in the City of London 8-20 July 1968

Map showing the City of London sculpture exhibition, 1968

Mrs Three Points of the Compass sits beside the bronze statue of Paddington Bear at Paddington Station, London. En route to the Two Moors Way, 2012

Mrs Three Points of the Compass sits beside the bronze statue of Paddington Bear at Paddington Station, London. This is the start point for the Pawprint Trail. Photographed en route to the Two Moors Way, 2012

Small leaflet with map produced by the Paddington Partnership for the Paddington Pawprint Trail in 2018. Just the right size for a child's hands

Small leaflet with map produced by the Paddington Partnership for the Paddington Pawprint Trail in 2018. Just the right size for a child’s hands

If the above could be regarded as high-brow, then other sculpture trails in London have been much more fun. There have been Cow and Elephant parades and a giant Easter Egg hunt in 2011. A family favourite was the NSPCC and Visit London created Paddington Bear trail in 2014. Beginning at the bronze statue of the bear (erected in 2000) in Paddington Station, this trail sought out fifty Paddington Bear statues. The three foot six inch high “life-size” bears on the trail proved a firm favourite with children especially.

The trail was revamped in 2018 and an online and paper Pawprint Trail was published. A Tusk Rhino Trail was also created in 2018 but maps for this trail were available online only.

The simple map provided for the 2018 Pawprint Trail is barely adequate, but it is a simple walk with few opportunities to get lost so just about suffices. With a family audience in mind, the designer has included toilets, parks, play areas and picnic spots

The simple map provided for the 2018 Pawprint Trail is barely adequate, but it is an undemanding walk with few opportunities to get lost so just about suffices. With a family audience in mind, the designer has included toilets, parks, play areas and picnic spots

Shaun in the City sculpture trail map, produced and issued free in 2015

Shaun in the City sculpture trail map, produced and issued free in 2015

Another popular walking trail was the 2015 route created for fifty fibreglass (a trade name for glass fibre) Shaun the Sheep statues erected across the City of London for ‘Shaun in the City‘. Based on the character from a stop-motion animated TV series, each large sculpture had been decorated by artists and celebrities. An accompanying book and paper trail map were produced. Proceeds went to support children in hospitals. The map was created from contributors to OpenStreetMap data. However actual street detail is woeful.

In common with many of the similar sculpture trails, they were subsequently repeated in other UK cities, together with maps, online assistance and participants were urged to contribute to the charities supported. No doubt we will continue to see many more of these fun sculpture trails. They are very popular. However it is the online provision of maps for these that appears to be the way forward.

2015 map produced for families to track down the fifty Shaun the Sheep sculptures placed across London. Four different trails are shown, measuring 3km, 3km, 3km and 5km. Very little in the way of street names is included and Three Points of the Compass wonders how many people got lost without the assistance of the accompanying App

2015 map produced for families to track down the fifty Shaun the Sheep sculptures placed across London. Four different trails are shown, measuring 3km, 3km, 3km and 5km. Very little in the way of street names is included and Three Points of the Compass wonders how many people got lost without the assistance of the accompanying App

Brewers and pub owners

As mentioned previously, there are few reasons to give a reasonably accurate and expensive map to the general public free of charge. One straight forward commercial reason would be to encourage visitors to your establishments, be they theatres, restaurants, clubs or as shown here, public houses. But how do you get the public to visit more than one of your establishments? Perhaps in areas of London unknown to them or infrequently visited. By leaning heavily both on the unique features of your various venues and on the very history of London itself.

In March 2019 Kent brewers released a free map depicting a trail through London that visited eight of their pubs en route. Drawn by Peter Gander, it is an attractive product but not that suited to following on the ground. Three Points of the Compass walked the route in November 2019

In March 2019 Kent brewers Shepherd Neame released a free map depicting a trail through London that visited eight of their pubs en route. Drawn by Peter Gander, it is an attractive product but not suited to actually following on the ground. Three Points of the Compass walked the route in November 2019

Three Points of the Compass walked one such route in November and covered the Shepherd Neame City of London Walk in a previous blog. While Shepherd Neame, who supplied the free map for that wander through London, relied most heavily on the history of their pubs, other brewers and pub owning companies have also incorporated history and mythology into their ‘pub trails’. The small Maidenhead brewer Nicholson’s was bought out in the 1950s and their brand is now used by Mitchells and Butlers for an enviable selection of historic pubs in London and other cities. A free map taking in many of the London pubs was developed and distributed free of charge to thirsty drinkers.

Dick Whittington Ale Trail, released 2006. Copyright Harper Collins

Dick Whittington Ale Trail, released 2006. Copyright Harper Collins

Nicholson's London Ale Trail, 2012

Nicholson’s London Ale Trail, 2012. Unknown map maker

The Dick Whittington Ale Trail produced in 2006 was aimed firmly at the tourist and expounded on the folklore story of his becoming Lord Mayor of London three times. The story could have been adopted by just about anyone however the excellent maps do provide six pretty goods trails taking in: Soho, Westminster to Piccadilly, Covent Garden, Blackfriars, London Bridge to Tower Bridge, and the Financial heartland.

So successful was this map and the extra turn-over created that it was rebranded as the Nicholson’s London Ale Trail and repeated, with a different map and tweaked trails, in 2012. Presumably it was felt that the original map had pushed the brand insufficiently as the 2012 version carries more detail on the company’s pubs, their food and beers and which Nicholson’s pubs could be found in close vicinity to London.

One side of the Nicholson's pub trail released in 2006. This shows three trails taking in both sides of the River Thames

One side of the Nicholson’s pub trail released in 2006. This shows three trails taking in seventeen pubs on both sides of the River Thames

Second side of the Dick Whittington Ale Trail. While this does take in 29 pubs across the three trails shown, the attractive map also provides lots of accurate street detail for those simply exploring

Second side of the Dick Whittington Ale Trail. While this does take in 29 pubs across the three trails shown, the attractive map also provides lots of accurate street detail for those simply exploring and is amongst the best of free maps ever produced for London walkers

The Nicholson's Ale Trail map produced in 2012 demonstrates a total refocu from their earlier offering. This map concentrates on the pubs and provides far less detail of Lodnon's streets and parks. Compare how Green Park is depicted against that in the map above

The Nicholson’s Ale Trail map produced in 2012 demonstrates a total refocus from their earlier offering. This map concentrates on the pubs and provides far less detail of London’s streets and parks. Compare how little detail in Green Park is depicted against that on the earlier Dick Whittington Ale Trail map.

I have shown just one side of the 2012 offering from Mitchells and Butlers here as it is a much poorer map. The pedestrian is completely abandoned in some parts of the City. To the east of the Thames, the area around Waterloo station has been largely ignored in favour of advertising of venue hire.

City of London Visitor Trail

City of London Visitor Trail is adequate for visiting many of London's tourist spots by foot. Each square represents approximately 400m, taking roughly five minutes to walk. Printed September 2016

Map of the City of London Visitor Trail. A joint initiative between The City of London Corporation and the Diocese of London. Printed September 2016

Demonstrating that there is still a demand for paper maps for walkers, alongside suggested routes and things to see in London, a City of London Visitor Trail was quietly launched in April 2013. Having ironed out the kinks a marketing campaign kicked in August 2014. Over 130 thousand maps were distributed showing tourist routes that walkers could follow through the City of London.

Six themed routes: The trails, Law and Literature, London Stories, London People, Culture vultures, Skyscrapers ad sculpture, and Market mile enable people to experience much of the best on offer. The trail received funding from Tower Bridge, The Monument and Guildhall Art Gallery, it was sponsored initially by The Diocese of London. Needless to say an app, map and supporting information was made available online.

It is refreshing that it was still thought practical to include a physical map. Not only that, but a well planned, clear and informative one at that. It may have lacked some distinctive flair but was efficient if impersonal. More recently the trail branding has become more ‘child friendly’ but the opportunity remains for those merely curious to indulge in independent wandering of the streets of London.

Map of the City of London Visitor Trail. A joint initiative between The City of London Corporation and the Diocese of London. Printed September 2016

City of London Visitor Trail is adequate for visiting many of London’s tourist spots by foot. Each square represents approximately 400m, taking roughly five minutes to walk. Printed September 2016

A huge number of free maps to aid a visitor in walking around London were produced as part of the 2012 Olympics

A huge number of free maps to aid a visitor in walking around London were produced as part of the 2012 Olympics

This brief glance at some of the free paper maps available to London pedestrians has omitted a large group of material and a couple of themes in particular. Three Points of the Compass will take a closer look at these in the final three parts of this short series- the plethora of material released by Transport for London, also those produced in association with the 2012 London Olympics.

To end with, later in the year, we shall take a glance at the commemorative maps produced free for the public in connection with some of the Royal events in London.

My much used German made map measurer

Map measurers

Map measurer, opisometer, curvimetre, mile-o-graph, meilograph, chartometer, call them what you will, in the era of digital mapping, who uses such an antique analogue object today? Well, Three Points of the Compass still does. I have used a simple little map measure for decades. The  cheaply made one shown above, made in Western Germany,  has been pulled down off the bookshelf hundreds of times over the past twenty years when planning routes. It replaced another that gave equally lengthy service but had eventually died the death.

It never goes on actual walks with me. Though I am one of a seemingly dying breed who still likes, appreciates and takes hard copy maps with me on trail. If I want to measure a distance on the map while sitting in a tent, pub or hostel lounge, I either guesstimate, infrequently use a roamer scale on my compass baseplate, a strip of paper which is then measured against the scale at the bottom of my map, or, most frequently, I use a length of thin cordage. The small hank of 2mm yellow cord in the image below is one of the two I carry for attaching my Katabatic Palisade quilt to my sleeping pad.

Assortment of map measurers from Three Points of the Compasses collection. Some cheap and nasty, some peculiar, one or two beautiful and uncommon

Assortment of map measurers from my collection. Some cheap and nasty, some peculiar, one or two beautifully made and uncommon

Plastic map measures sold to readers of a popular motoring magazine

Plastic map measures sold to readers of a popular motoring magazine

Map measurers can be sweet little pocket watch style affairs that were tucked into the waistcoats of the gentry, or simple little wheeled opisometers, like the one below,  sold in the likes of Stanfords map shop in the mid-twentieth century.

They could be made of plastic, bakelite or metal. Have handles incorporating bone or ivory. Cheap versions were given away at petrol stations, or combined into all-singing all-dancing measurer/compass/thermometers made in China by the thousand. That said, they still work. The cheapest will do the same job as the most expensive gold plated measurer ever made. They even make incredibly expensive digital versions today. I look on them with dismay, much preferring my little analogue measurers.

Simple opisometer

Simple opisometer

Newspaper advertisement for Morris's 'Wealemefna', a 'new design of map measurer'

Newspaper advertisement for Morris’s ‘Wealemefna’, a ‘bijou’ map measurer. The Graphic, 1880

The idea of map measurers is an old one, probably as old as ‘to scale’ maps themselves. Beyond simple calipers, early map measurers, or opisometers were very simple affairs indeed, little wheels on a threaded bar that could be pushed along a line. More expensive designs that incorporated a dial scale didn’t really appear in any great numbers until the later nineteenth century.

Anyone that required a map was also using a map measurer. The military use them, sailors use them, motorists use them, town planners and draughtsmen use them, and still, just a few walkers use them. You run a little wheel along a route, a path, a road, a river, a line on a drawing, then either read off the result or measure against a standard.

 

Box for 'Self-Registering Rotameter', giving detail on how to use

Box for ‘Self-Registering Rotameter’, provides detail on scale and how to use

While a piece of cord or length of paper will simply measure a length, more complicated versions can measure in many units- multiples or sub-units of inches or feet, centimetres or metres, versts, miles or kilometres. Also to different scales- The two-faced French made measurer below has scales for 1:20 000, 1:25 000, 1:40 000, 1:50 000, 1:75 000, 1:80 000, 1:100 000 and 1:200 000. Made almost a century ago, it is still an effective and useful piece of kit that cost me less than a tenner. Not that I ever use it of course, I still pull down the old favourite from the bookshelf.

Map measurer by Henri Chatelain, with Quarter-Inch Ordnance Survey map to The Border, 1935

Map measurer by Henri Chatelain, with “Quarter-Inch” Ordnance Survey map to The Border, 1935

Along with thousands of other hikers I rely very much on my online O.S. Maps when planning my routes. This will give me not only distance but also daily elevation. However I still like to use a map measurer on my paper maps when I can. It forces me to look at the terrain, the twists and turns, the type of country being crossed- across bogs, through woods, traversing moorland, traipsing through the backstreets of towns.

I won’t go in to any great detail on map measurers here. There is an expanding page on my website that gives more information. Over the years I seem to have built a bit of a collection of these little devices, just a small handful of which are shown above. There seems to be a dearth of information on these online or in print form. Perhaps it is because they aren’t that interesting, just to the likes of me and one or two other like-minded souls. So I have decided to share just a few from my collection with you- good reader, over the next year. Twelve, one a month, beginning January. I bet you cannot wait…

The ditty bag/repair kit that Three Points of the Compass carried on the Cape Wrath Trail in 2018. A Leatherman keychain multi-tool formed a vital component of this

The ditty bag/repair kit that Three Points of the Compass carried on the Cape Wrath Trail in 2018. The hank of 2mm cord was often pulled into use as a simple map measurer when considering alternative routes due to weather or resupply necessity.

Three Points of the Compass on the GR223

Trail talk: Hiking in Menorca: the GR 223

The Camí de Cavalls, or Horse’s Path

Menorca is a fairly small island in the western Mediterranean Sea. It is one of the Balearic Islands, an archipelago of Spain, near the east coast of the Iberian Peninsula. It offers a fantastic opportunity to walk an ancient and beautiful track.

Mr and Mrs Three Points of the Compass, and daughter when she was younger, have for many years tried to get away to one of the many islands in Europe each year. I have blogged on a few of them in the past. Menorca, smaller than nearby Mallorca, is a terrific holiday destination. It is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and almost half of the island is protected, with two nature reserves: The Nature Park of Albufera des Grau and the Marine Reserve Nord de Menorca. There can be just a small minority of holidaymakers to that lovely island that bother to explore far beyond the resorts, large towns and the usual organised bus and jeep excursions.

Three Points of the Compass on the GR223

Three Points of the Compass enjoying native pine forests on the GR223

Along with some one million annual visitors I have enjoyed my time immensely on Menorca. Some may wonder how as my family and I took a package holiday to a busy hotel district in one of the busiest parts of the island- Son Bou, on the south coast. Many readers would regard such a holiday as anathema. I explored the island by car and bus with my family, we ate too much, we drank too much, and we enjoyed comfortable hotel facilities and weather that us Brits see far too infrequently. However, that was never going to be enough for Three Points of the Compass. This island has a special prize. It is encircled by a path that has uncertain historic roots. The coastal path was probably first built to allow access for the island inhabitants to guard against pirate attacks in the 16th century. Whatever its origin, it is now the GR 223 of the Senderos de Gran Recorrido network in Spain.  Not only did this path get me away from people for much of the day most days. But it also enables access to some of the most beautiful and lonely parts of the island.

I am never going to criticise the majority of holidaymakers who enjoy frequent, affordable holidays in hotels at hundreds of locations across the globe, I am one of them on many an occasion. However, such holidays should be looked on by the hiker as a springboard to walking destinations far from home. Everyone must find their own balance, how much time their spouse is happy with them disappearing from pool side and family duties. I found that the Cami de Cavalls could be accessed pretty well by public transport, buses mostly, and taxis to the most distant and difficult to access points of the island. With careful planning and a couple of early starts, I was able to complete the entire trail during a fortnights holiday. No mean feat as it is 185 km (116 miles). With an understanding partner (unless they are joining you), you could do similar over a ten day or two week break on the island. It would be a push to fit it into a week’s break.

Classic island walking

Classic island walking

The benefits of staying at a popular central resort is that there are good bus links to the centre of the island- Alaior mostly, for onward movement to the start and finish points of each days hike. Two hiking partners with a couple of hire cars could handle the logistics much easier, but that would be damned expensive.

Or there are some holiday providers who can arrange minibus transport to and from. But then you are subject to their itineraries, other passenger requirements, and again, far more expensive. But, it does make the logistics much easier. Three Points of the Compass hasn’t used any of these companies so it is up to you to do the research and see if it suits your needs.

Three Points of the Compass visited Menorca in July, it was mostly hot and dry, as expected. However there is much green vegetation on the dry soils. It gets much drier and browner as the year progresses

Three Points of the Compass visited Menorca in July, it was mostly hot and dry, as expected. However there is much green vegetation on the dry soils. It gets much drier and browner as the year progresses

Fairly typical section of the GR 223 away from the wooded sections. Here between Binisafuller and Son Bou the trail passes between roughly cultivated and walled fields

Fairly typical section of the GR 223 away from the wooded sections. Here between Binisafuller and Son Bou the trail passes between roughly cultivated and walled fields. Bini.. in a name harks back to the Moorish occupation, meaning ‘belonging to the son of…’ from Ben, Arabic for son.

The island measures some 50km from west to east- Ciutadella to Maó and is no more than 20km north to south. But it takes time to travel around, especially by bus. Services away from the resorts are infrequent and very careful planning is required to ensure that connections will be there, especially at the end of the day. I checked online for bus timetables before I left and checked with my hotel for printed timetables when I arrived. A glance at the bus route map online reveals how some parts of the coastline are quite poorly served.

My first two days were simply the first two sections of coast nearest to my hotel, travelling out and walking back to the hotel. On the third day my family were rested and in need of exploration so we all went to Maó for the day. The British moved the capital there from Ciutadella because of its sheltered harbour and it is a lovely seaside town to explore. It was important to also find time to visit Tourist Information and bus station, for more timetables, check out how taxis work and what were reasonable costs, and get a general feel for how reliable the transport network is. Within the confines of the timetables, buses are cheap, clean and pretty reliable. However I made the mistake and found that any advertised buses on Sundays are a tad unreliable. It is best not to rely on buses on Sundays.

It is wise to pick up any bus timetable you can find when in foreign climes. You can discover practical and useful alternatives that aren't always obvious from scant web-based pages

It is wise to pick up any bus timetable you can find when in foreign climes. You can discover practical and useful alternatives that aren’t always obvious from scant web-based pages. Some buses are purely local and it can be hard to find out up to date, seasonal timings

I was unadventurous for lunch on trail. Rolls and excellent local meats and cheese, bags of nuts, supplemented with occasional bananas spread with peanut butter

My trail lunches were unadventurous. Bread rolls and excellent local meats and cheese, bags of nuts, supplemented with occasional bananas spread with peanut butter. Hydration was far more important

After my first two sections, and now having established transport links and more aware of what I could comfortably manage in a (part) days walk, accepting that many hours were going to be spent travelling to and from my start/finish points, either by a series of buses or a handful of taxis. I was better armed to arrange my subsequent days. I never completed the GR 223 as a continuous linear trek. Instead, I did sections that suited my and my family’s holiday. I had short days occasionally and was back at the hotel by midday so that we could do something together in the afternoon, or longer days with sections joined together and not arriving back at the hotel until early evening. I was working toward the more distant parts of the island and familiarising myself with the logistics for the following day. What worked for me, based at Son Bou, was as below.

Day Stage
From To Distance Ascent Difficulty
One Cala Galdana Son Bou 17.2 km (10.7 mile) 350m Medium-easy-low
Two Binisafúller Son Bou 19.8 km (12.3 mile) 390m Medium-low
Three Binisafúller Maó 21.4 km (13.3 mile) 220m Low-medium
Four Cala Morell Ciutadella 17.5 km (10.8 mile) 300m medium
Five Ciutadella Son Xoriguer 14.7 km (9.1 mile) 50m medium
Six Arenal d’en Castell Es Grau 22.2 km (13.8 mile) 550m Medium-low-becoming easy
Seven Son Xoriguer Cala Galdana 18.2 km (11.3 mile) 320m Medium-low
Eight Binimel·là Arenal d’en Castell 20.4 km (12.7 mile) 170m Medium-low
Nine Binimel·là Cala Morell 24 km (14.9 mile) 850m High-then medium-low
Ten Es Grau Maó 10 km (6.2 mile) 250m Medium-low
185.4 km

(115.1 miles)

Note that difficulty grading by the authorities tends to err on the side of caution
The section between Es Grau and Favàritx leads the hiker into wetlands and the lunar landscape of Cap de Favàritx

The section between Es Grau and Favàritx leads the hiker into wetlands and the lunar landscape of Cap de Favàritx

Triangle Postals produce a very useful publication. This is a full guide to the trail that includes a brief history of Menorca, the Talayotic culture, wildlife and a little detail on the island’s horses themselves. Also, how to complete the trail(ish) by cycle and helpful but, almost invariably out of date, information on transport. The trail profile maps are useful too to give an idea on the forthcoming day’s expected exertion. It breaks the trail down into 10 day sections with 20 1:35,000 maps and a folding 1:75,000 map in the rear. Note that the book and map are not lightweight- weighing 366g together. However- recommended.

Triangle Postals guide book and map to the GR223. also published in Catalan, Spanish, Italian, French and German

Well-used Triangle Postals guide book and map to the GR223. also published in Catalan, Spanish, Italian, French and German

There is a very useful website offering great info on the trail in a number of languages. This will also point you at the most current map, official guidebook and, not that I used them, GPS tracks. I suppose it would be possible to hike the trail without guidebook or map as the trail is mostly quite well signposted, however I found them indispensable for planning purposes. The official guidebook only weighs 156g and the map, to a 1;50000 scale, another 60g. There is a handy interactive map online that also has some helpful information on what to expect on the different sections.

Purchased in Mahon (Maó), Three Points of the Compass found the official guide book and map incredibly useful for planning each day's hike

Purchased in Mahon (Maó), Three Points of the Compass found the official guide book and map incredibly useful for planning each day’s hike. Detailed town plans are included on the reverse of the map

The north west corner of the island is known as 'Dry Menorca' for good reason. There is little rainfall and the trail is hard underfoot

The north west corner of the island is known as ‘Dry Menorca’ for good reason. There is little rainfall and the trail is hard underfoot

I didn’t spend time on trail looking out for cafes, they simply aren’t there when you want one, other than while waiting for a bus on occasion. Lunches were simply a roll or two, meats (Ses Tanques) and cheeses (Queso de Mahon) from a local supermarket plus a few nuts. Hydration is another matter. This is a dry island with no rivers and it is very unlikely you will find water should you run out. I carried a minimum of two to three litres with me each day, occasionally more, and still ended up purchasing water in town shops toward the end of a day’s hike.

Obviously a hat and sunscreen are important too. Shorts and trail runners are fine for hiking. It is a hot and dusty trail mostly. Especially in the north west corner of the island between Cala Morell and Ciutadella. There is only scrubby sparse vegetation here and the going is rocky.

Elsewhere, I had a little rain on a couple of days, I carry a light waterproof when hiking anyway so threw that on for an hour or so.

 

19th century Barraca de bestiar. A tiered stone shelter for animals

19th century Barraca de bestiar passed in the north of the island. A tiered stone shelter for animals

One thing I was pleased to have with me was my little monocular. Europe’s only sedentary population of Egyptian Vulture lives on Menorca and I enjoyed fantastic views of them in the north. Other raptors included Booted Eagle, Kestrel, Red Kite and Eleonora’s Falcon. Hoopoo flew along the trail as I approached, Ravens kronked. Shrikes and Pied Flycatchers flitted in the sparse pines. Dartford Warbler perched obligingly in the scrub. Around the abandoned salt evaporation ponds at Salines de Mongofra, complete with wading Egrets, the call of Bee Eaters surrounded me as parties swooped around. Individual birds looking as though they had been dipped in multiple paint pots. 

For much of the GR 223, you will have the paths to yourself, not seeing anyone for hours despite the island teeming with tens of thousands of tourists- elsewhere

For much of the GR 223, you will have the paths to yourself, not seeing anyone for hours despite the island teeming with tens of thousands of tourists- elsewhere

I saw few terrestrial animals, Hermanns Tortoise were often seen on the paths, occasional rabbits, the only Pine Martin was road kill. Butterflies and dragonflies aplenty but sadly none I.D’d.

A welcome cerveza in a cool cafe prior to catching by bus back after a days hiking. The simple pleasures...

A welcome cerveza in a cool cafe prior to catching my bus back after a days hiking. The simple pleasures…

Few people shared the trail with me- one cyclist, a few trail runners, I saw just one small party of horse riders. Obviously when I was around some of the beautiful sandy coves, I was often sharing these with hundreds of holidaymakers. At other coves, remote from any habitation or road, I had them all to myself.

Two pages from my Menorca journal

Two pages from my Menorca journal

Read the book, spread the map, walked the trail, now wear the T-shirt...

Read the book, spread the map, walked the trail, now wear the T-shirt…

You may have gathered by now that Three Points of the Compass joined together a few of the sections. It is divided into twenty stages with some form of access being available at start and end points. It would definitely be possible to hike it that way but it would take more time than most holidaymakers would enjoy. I completed the trail in ten days. My longest days were  on the ‘harder’, more distant, sections, but any mildly capable hiker could easily do similar and that does cut down considerably the need to keep accessing more distant parts of the island subsequently.

Would I recommend the GR 223? Absolutely, it is not particularly difficult. It takes you to some stunning parts of the Menorcan coastline that few see. The island countryside and coastline is surprisingly varied with much of interest. The GR 223 passes ancient stone watchtowers and fortresses and provides a welcome escape from the confines of a holiday resort should you require respite.

If you were do just do parts of it, then Three Points of the Compass would definitely recommend the north west and west, however that would miss out the entirely different limestone cliffs and gorges of the south.

Beautiful dusty trails

The GR 223- Beautiful dusty trails

Lone Peak Altras

Gear talk: What gear wears out on a long hike?

 The South West Coast Path is 630 miles long and a challenge in itself. When Three Points of the Compass finished this in 2018 there was still another 1400 miles of trail. Gear had to be carefully selected and be suitable for a wide range of terrain and conditions

The South West Coast Path is 630 miles long and a challenge in itself. When Three Points of the Compass finished this in 2018 there was still another 1400 miles of walking. Gear had to be carefully selected and be suitable for a wide range of terrain and conditions

Lightweight modern gear can be surprisingly tough. With care much of it will last many thousands of trail miles. My 900ml Evernew pan is titanium and flexes with ease. Yet other than being blackened and scratched, with scorched silicon covered handles, it is still in good working order and I expect it to last me many more years. It wasn’t cheap when new but has more than paid for itself. I like it and feel no need to replace it with shinier, newer cook wear.

The heel cups always seem to wear out in my trail shoes. I expected this to happen with my Lone Peaks around the 450 mile point

The heel cups always seem to wear out in my trail shoes. I expected this to happen with my Lone Peaks around the 450 mile point. When they began to fray I would line them with a piece of duct tape

Lone Peak Altras were light, breathable and comfortable. However I knew that I would be lucky to get more than 500-600 miles out of a pair

I find the toes on my trail shoes tend to come unstuck and flap around after a couple of hundred miles. Sometimes I would glue them back with a 1 gm tube of superglue from my ditty bag. Frequently I couldn’t be bothered

Lone Peak Altra trail shoes are light, breathable and comfortable. However I know that I am lucky to get more than 500-600 miles out of a pair. I had purchased four pairs prior to my 2018 hike as they aren’t the easiest to source. I expected my feet to spread and I used pairs a size larger than normal. Just as well, as they did.

The trail was often muddy, especially in the first few weeks in the Spring. Fine silt would work its way through the mesh of the trail shoes and this would build up in the thick pile of my Darn Tuff socks

The trail was often muddy, especially in the first few weeks in the Spring. Fine silt would work its way through the mesh of the trail shoes and this would build up in the thick pile of my Darn Tuff socks

Despite being washed, or at least rinsed, on a daily basis. Socks wore out. I carried tow pairs for walking and alternated them. Both pairs were replaced during the walk.

Despite being washed, or at least rinsed, on a daily basis. Socks wore out as a result of silt. I carried two pairs for walking and alternated them each day. Both pairs were replaced with new during the walk

Needless to say, footwear- socks and trail shoes get a battering. I had the option of wearing boots but have been using lightweight trail runners for years. I prepared spares in advance of my walk for Mrs Three Points of the Compass to send on to me as required. I don’t think a long hike is the time to be changing out to unfamiliar footwear and it made sense to have reserves ‘back-home’. Particularly as I would no doubt be using them on future hikes if they were not required for this trail.

It is pure miles and miles of hiking, washing gear in streams, sinks and shower trays. Sun, rain, hot and cold. Brambles, thorns, heather, gorse, barbed wire and rocks, that all combine to wear down the daily trekking clothing. Wear good quality gear from reputable manufacturers that have tested their gear over tens of thousands of miles. Clothing will wear out, of course it will, but I found that Champion 365 shorts or Montane Terra pants, Rohan merino polo shirt and synthetic ExOfficio baselayers lasted fine months of hiking. Black Mountains, Offa's Dyke, Jun 2018

It is pure miles and miles of hiking, washing gear in streams, sinks and shower trays. Sun, rain, hot and cold. Brambles, thorns, heather, gorse, barbed wire and rocks, that all combine to wear down the daily trekking clothing and other items carried. Wear good quality gear from reputable manufacturers that have tested this over tens of thousands of miles. Clothing will wear out, of course it will, but I found that Champion 365 shorts or Montane Terra pants, Rohan merino polo shirt and synthetic ExOfficio baselayers lasted fine months of hiking. Black Mountains, Offa’s Dyke, Jun 2018

It is pure miles and miles of hiking, washing gear in streams, sinks and shower trays. Sun, rain, hot and cold, brambles, thorns, heather, gorse, barbed wire and rocks, that all combine to wear down the daily trekking clothing. Wear good quality gear from reputable manufacturers that have tested their gear over tens of thousands of miles. Clothing will wear out, of course it will, but I found that Montane Terra pants, Rohan merino polo shirt and synthetic baselayers lasted the fine months

My pack of choice was the Gossamer Gear Mariposa. I found it a comfortable pack if a little ‘saggy’ if not carrying much food. There were tears and abrasions and the hip belt began slipping in the final two hundred miles. It put up with much abuse and I will be buying another exactly like it. Caithness

The curved Kylesku bridge was crossed in Sutherland. Wind was extraordinary and resulted in one particular unexpected gear failure

The curved Kylesku bridge was crossed in Sutherland. Wind was extraordinary as I crossed the Loch a’ Chàirn Bhàin and resulted in one particular unexpected gear failure

Three Points of the Compass has been a fan of the Montane Lite-Speed wind jacket for many years of hiking. The intense winds crossing the Kylesku bridge ripped out the sticthing in the back of the neck

Three Points of the Compass has been a fan of the Montane Lite-Speed wind jacket for many years of hiking. The intense winds crossing the Kylesku bridge ripped out the stitching in the back of the neck

I carried a small selection of repair materials. The aforementioned mini tube of superglue, a carefully thought out sewing kit, patches for Thermarest sleeping mat and self adhesive tenacious tape and cuben dyneema. Everything was put to use at some point and tape was replenished twice.

A more extensive repair kit was carried than on my normal one or two weeks hikes

A more extensive repair kit was carried than on my normal one or two weeks hikes

Sewing the crotch of my trekking shorts on a zero day

Sewing the crotch of my Champion 365 training- 9 inch inseam trekking shorts on a zero day

It is a wise hiker that stays on top of repairs on a long hike. Gear has to be working in order to put in the miles

It is a wise hiker that stays on top of repairs on a long hike. Gear has to be working well in order to put in the miles

Three Points of the Compass invariably uses a BeFree water filter for purifying water. However thought it prudent to pack along a few Chlorine Dioxide tabs in case of failure or filter freezing. As it was, due to carelessness, I lost my entire hydration kit at one point- bottle, bladders and filter. Fortunate that I was able to switch to tablets with a couple of half litre bottles purchased two days later.

Filtering water on trail. My walk coincided with one of the hottest UK summers on record

Filtering water on trail. My walk coincided with one of the hottest UK summers on record

A change from filtration to chemical purification was made in Scotland. But not due to gear failure

A change from filtration to chemical purification was made in Scotland. But not due to gear failure

MSR Pocket Rocket and Torjet lighter were part of my cook kit. Both tried and trusted items

MSR Pocket Rocket2 and Torjet lighter were part of my cook kit. Both tried and trusted items. However the lighter did rust badly

I never expected to have problems with the reliable stove however found the windshield trivet kept falling off. I always had to keep an eye on this to ensure it wasn't lost

I never expected to have problems with the previously reliable MSR stove however found the windshield trivet kept falling off from half way through my hike. I always had to keep an eye on this to ensure it wasn’t lost

Possibly the only piece of gear that I had selected for my hike that properly failed was a bespoke pack liner that I had commissioned. It simply wasn't up to handling the deluges in Scotland and at Fort William I swapped out to a heavier but watertight Sea to Summit roll top liner

Possibly the only piece of gear that I had selected for my hike that properly failed was a bespoke pack liner that I had commissioned. It simply wasn’t up to handling the deluges in Scotland and at Fort William I swapped out to a heavier but watertight Sea to Summit roll top liner

One of the most exciting materials that has found its way into hiking gear in recent years is cuben fibre, more recently known as dyneema composite fabric. Very strong, very light. Also very expensive. I carry a few items made of this but was well aware of this materials biggest drawback. It doesn’t suffer abrasion well. The only cuben items I used were a few stuff sacks (a big fan of these as I like to compartmentalise) and my shelter.

cuben stuffsacks wore badly if they abraded

cuben stuffsacks wore badly if they abraded

My Z packs chest pouch was one of my favourite pieces of gear and took a lot of hammering. It leaked like a sieve by the end however purely as a result of wear to the cuben

My Z packs chest pouch was one of my favourite pieces of gear and took a lot of hammering. It leaked like a sieve by the end however purely as a result of wear to the cuben

My shelter was the Z Packs Duplex. I loved this tent. Huge interior and only weighed 637 grams. However it will never see another hike with me

My shelter was the Z Packs Duplex. I loved this tent. Huge interior and only weighed 637 grams. However it will never see another hike with me. Strath na Sealga, Scotland

Strong winds saw a guy tie out ripped off a side wall. A cuben repair patch sorted things out

Strong winds saw a guy tie out ripped off a side wall. A cuben repair patch sorted things out

I put cuben 'stitches' across some seams that appeared to be under strain but there was never any actual failure

I put cuben ‘stitches’ across some seams that appeared to be under strain but there was never any actual failure

Some points of particular strain, such as the tent door tie outs, suffered badly over the miles but never failed entirely

Some points of particular strain, such as the tent door tie outs, suffered badly over the miles but never failed entirely

Three Points of the Compass used Pacer Poles not only for trekking but also as supports for my shelter. I like their raked, moulded grips and find them comfortable to use. I am not a fan of their twist locks though and found these bound up over time and frequently couldn’t loosen them Rocky steep paths on the Cape Wrath Trail put a bend in one of them. Unable to separate the sections I was unable to fly home with them at the end of my trail and, reluctantly, I was forced to leave them at John O’Groats. Despite their faults, I have bought another pair since my return.

2018 08 29_5990

It is doubtful that I could have completed my 2000 mile Three Points of the Compass hike without my Pacer Poles. At the end they were missing much of the paint on their shafts, one tip had been replaced mid-trail, the sections couldn’t be separated and one pole was bent like a banana. Nonetheless I was saddened to leave them behind

Duncansby Head- the end of my trail

Duncansby Head- the end of my trail. August 2018

Three Points of the Compass enjoys a lentil curry as the sun sets over Sandwood Bay. Cape Wrath Trail. August 2018

Trail food- lentil curry

South Downs Way in winter. A hot meal of lentil curry being prepared

Three Points of the Compass on the South Downs Way in winter. A hot meal of lentil curry being prepared. The zip lock freezer bag containing this is sitting beneath my down beenie

Three Points of the Compass was talking to another long distance hiker a couple of days ago and I was asked what I favoured as an evening meal on trail. That was easy to answer. Lightweight, easy to prepare, plenty of flavour, cheap and loads of carbs and protein- Lentil curry. A perfect backpacker’s meal. That is what I am eating above as I watch the sun setting over Sandwood Bay on the Cape Wrath Trail in 2018.

Resupply at Fort William prior to setting off on the Cape Wrath Trail.. Included are the makings of six-eight lentil curries with a variety of carbs- instant mash, couscous and noodles. July 2018

Resupply at Fort William prior to setting off on the Cape Wrath Trail. Included are the makings of six-eight lentil curries with a variety of carbs- instant mash, couscous and noodles. July 2018

Boiling up beside Loch Shiel. Cape Wrath Trail, August 2018

I make most meals on trail in ‘pour ‘n’ store’ freezer bags. These will take boiling water, will sit flat with a gusset base and can be simply sealed up after a meal until reused if there is no opportunity to wash out, or water is limited.

After a days hiking I want a good filling meal with the least amount of hassle. Also, to use the minimum amount of fuel in preparing it.

Tubes of tomato and garlic puree are easily found in most supermarkets. Garlic puree is 55% garlic and remainder mostly sunflower oil. Tomato puree is 65% tomatoes and the remainder different oils and flavourings

Tubes of tomato and garlic puree are easily found in most supermarkets. Garlic puree is 55% garlic and remainder mostly sunflower oil. Tomato puree is 65% tomatoes and the remainder different oils and flavourings

Lentil curry with noodles. Cashel. West Highland Way. July 2018

Lentil curry with noodles. Cashel. West Highland Way. July 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All I do is heat an almost full 900ml Evernew pan of water, Once boiled, pour over four handfuls of split red lentils in a freezer bag and seal the top. This then sits in my reflectex cozy with either a hat over it or wrapped in a puffy jacket or something else. The remainder of the water goes to making a tea or oxo. Then I simply rest and wait for around twenty-five minutes. I might munch on a block of cheese or something while waiting.

We can never say that fried onions are a healthy choice, but they add flavour, crunch and calories to a meal

We can never say that fried onions are a healthy choice, but they add flavour, crunch and calories to a meal

Once the lentils have continued cooking in the boiled water, I test them, almost always soft though I will tolerate al dente if in a hurry. A quick squirt of garlic puree and rather more of tomato puree along with two or three good spoonfuls of madras curry powder. A brief stir then I add a carb to the water. This is either a couscous or instant mashed potato (my favourite), less frequently, I drain a little water and add scrunched noodles. I don’t like doing the latter as it wastes precious water. I have sometimes added both noodles and potato. Another stir and, if I have them, a handful of dried fried onions. I have found that these are not the easiest of foodstuffs to be found in lonelier spots of the country but if it is just a week’s hike then a small ziplock containing a few handfuls weighs very little, and that, is that…

Lentils curry with couscous, Sandwood Bay. Cape Wrath Trail. August 2018

Lentil curry with couscous, Sandwood Bay. Cape Wrath Trail. August 2018

Another resupply. This time at Ullapool on the Cape Wrath Trail. Again, the makings of lentil curry's for the evening meals are the preferred option. August 2018

Another resupply. This time at Ullapool on the Cape Wrath Trail. Again, the makings of lentil curries for the evening meals are the preferred option. There are around four to five days supplies here. August 2018

South Downs Way

Trail talk: The South Downs Way in winter- water sources

Three Points of the Compass walked the South Downs Way in winter 2018. I wrote a brief blog on that walk soon after. This piece covers my water sources on that five day trip of a tad over a hundred miles. I carried clean and dirty water bladders and a water filter, also a 0.85lt. bottle for drinking from during the day.

Three Points of the Compass travelled to the start of the South Downs Way at Winchester by train. The blue cuben bag in the side pocket of my Mariposa is my hydration kit comprising 2lt Evernew bladder for clean water, 2lt HydraPak Seeker bladder for unfiltered and a Katadyn BeFree filter. I also carried an 850ml Smartwater bottle for drinking 'on the go'

Three Points of the Compass travelled to the start of the South Downs Way at Winchester by train. The blue cuben bag in the side pocket of my Mariposa is my hydration kit comprising 2lt Evernew bladder for clean water, 2lt HydraPak Seeker bladder for unfiltered and a Katadyn BeFree filter. I also carried an 850ml Smartwater bottle for drinking ‘on the go’.

I was fortunate to enjoy fairly good weather for most of the walk. It was often simply cool and bright. However, it was a late in the year walk and I also experienced occasional thick mist, driving rain and sleet on the final day and cold frosty nights. Snow blanketed the hills two days after I finished. Some of the water taps provided along the trail are turned off for the winter months and I did find a couple that were not working. Other than that, I had absolutely no problem in keeping myself well hydrated both during the day and for night halts.

I set off early morning from a Winchester hotel where I had spent the night. I had a couple of mugs of tea prior to leaving and carried one and a half litres of water from the get go. My first halt to refill was at a tap near Keepers Cottage, SU 537 288. This is immediately beside the path and was specifically installed with cyclists in mind and also has a pump etc. This is a popular trail for cyclists and some times of the year can see as many cyclists as walkers. However, at this time of year I saw few hikers and only a handful of cyclists and horse riders.

My first halt on Day One for water was near Keepers Cottage in the Temple Valley

My first halt on Day One for water was near Keepers Cottage in the Temple Valley

If I had not replenished with water at Keepers Cottage my next halt would have been at Lomer Farm where, despite this notice stating that repair would be made in Spring 2018, it still hadn't taken place

Lomer Farm. Despite this notice stating that repair would be made in Spring 2018, it still hadn’t taken place

Tap at Lomer Farm- out of use (SU 601237)

If I had not replenished with water at Keepers Cottage my next halt would have been at Lomer Farm- however the tap was out of use (SU 601237)

It is advisable to take any opportunity to replenish with at least a bottle of water if a tap is passed as some sources are not only seasonal but could be vandalised, under repair or simply no longer in commission.

My first day was a little over twenty miles so I felt I had earned yet another halt in the afternoon when I passed the fly fishing ponds at Meon Springs. The fishing lodge (SU 655 215) at Whitewool Farm is often open as the fishery offices are situated inside, alongside a tackle store and ‘help yourself’ to hot drinks facility. Snacks were also available but I didn’t need anything as I was carrying just about all the food supplies I required for the whole trail. Instead, a mug of tea (£1) was very welcome. A tap was available here if it had been simply water I was after.

Fishing Lodge at Meon Springs, Whitewool Farm

Fishing Lodge at Meon Springs, Whitewool Farm

My first nights halt was at the Sustainability Centre, Wetherdown Lodge (SU 676 190). This is a Friends of Nature Eco centre and due to my early away from Winchester in the morning, I arrived around 14.40, so not only had time to get the tent up in the lower fields, but also managed to get to the onsite Beech Cafe five minutes before it closed for a welcome pint. At this time of the year, night comes early and my evening meal of lentil curry was obviously eaten in the dark.

Day One on the South Downs Way saw me camping at the Sustainability Centre where water is readily available. Even if not staying there, a water tap is only a hundred metres off the main route

Day One on the South Downs Way saw me camping at the Sustainability Centre where water is readily available. Even if not staying there, a water tap is only a hundred metres off the main route

There is a cafe at the Queen Elizabeth Country Park however no water outside of opening times

There is a cafe at the Queen Elizabeth Country Park however no water outside of opening times

Day Two was a twenty four mile hike, so I rose early and simple breakfast and 500ml mug of tea saw me on my way while it was still dark. I had hoped for second breakfast at the Queen Elizabeth Country Park visitor centre (SU 718 185) but arrived to early and wasn’t prepared to sit around for a couple of hours waiting for it to open.

I was carrying just under a litre of water with me and this was sufficient until a water tap opposite Manor Farm at a minor crossroads of tracks at Cocking (SU 879 166).

A number of cattle troughs are passed on the South Downs Way, mostly on Days two and three, any water from these sources requires purifying or filtering. I had no need to use these sources as there were plenty of others

A number of cattle troughs are passed on the South Downs Way, mostly on days two and three out of Winchester. Any water from these sources requires purifying or filtering. I had no need to use these sources as there were plenty of others

Some of the taps on the South Downs Way have been placed there by cycling or walking organisations, others have been sited in memory of a much loved individual. The tap at Cocking was sited in memory of 14 year old Peter Wren.

“He loved the English Countryside and walked the South Downs Way in the summer of 1978”

Any wise hiker not only tops up with water at these sources but also drinks as much as he can before moving on. I had doubts on finding another source before this day’s halt so took opportunity to carry another two litres away from here in addition to my 850ml bottle.

Tap directly beside the path at Cocking. A notice beside the tap records that the next available sources are at Amberley, 11 miles east, or Buriton Farm, 4 miles west

Tap directly beside the path at Cocking. A notice beside the tap records that the next available sources are at Amberley, 11 miles east, or Buriton Farm, 4 miles west

I wild camped at the end of Day Two and it was a cold evening and even colder night so plenty of hot drinks with my evening lentil curry followed by the usual mug of tea in the morning took just about all the water I had with me. It was a cold and bright day with deer in the frosty fields and red kites overhead. Soon after crossing the River Adur, prior to reaching the B2139, south of Amberley, there is a tap and trough (203 124) provided by the Rotary Clubs of Arundel, Steyning & Henfield, and Storrington in the hope that…

“…those who drink here will remember those elsewhere who have nowhere to drink”

Tap provided by the local Rotary Clubs soon after crossing over the River Arun at Houghton

Tap provided by the local Rotary Clubs soon after crossing over the River Arun at Houghton

I reached this tap a little after nine in the morning and this refill saw me well until another, six miles on, in Glazeby Lane, near a road crossing south of Washington (118 119). As I mentioned earlier, there are quite a few water sources on this trail and if one if unavailable for one reason or another, it is usually not too far to another. It is only if wild camping that a little care is required to ensure that enough is available for a nights halt.

Another tap directly beside the path south of Washington. Many of these are suposed to be turned off once the weather turns colder from October, but I found many were still operating at the end of November

Another water tap directly beside the path south of Washington. Many of these are supposed to be turned off in October once the weather turns colder and there is a danger of freezing, but Three Points of the Compass found many were still operating at the end of November

I didn't require it but there was also a working tap between the River Adur and the road crossing of the A283

I didn’t require it but there was also a working tap between the River Adur and the road crossing of the A283

While I had plenty of water with me and it was only a relatively short hike to my days end, I also drank a litre at the tap provided by the Society of Sussex Downsmen at Botolphs (TQ 197 093).

Day Three was a 19.5 mile trek to the YHA at Truleigh Hill. I knew that I couldn’t stay in the hostel at it was on exclusive hire however the warden had kindly agreed to my camping in a field opposite. Not only did I also have use of the campers w/c adjacent to the building, but there is also a tap outside for passing hikers (TQ 220 106).

Brewing up at Truleigh Hill

Brewing up at Truleigh Hill

It was another cold night and I was pleased to have ready access to unlimited water as I rehydrated and kept myself warm with a succession of oxo, tea and hot chocolate drinks.

Hikers tap outside entrance to the Youth Hostel at Truleigh Hill

Hikers water tap outside entrance to the Youth Hostel at Truleigh Hill

There is a small cafe, the Hikers Rest, at Saddlescombe Farm, but that was closed as I passed through. However the tap in the wall was still working

There is a small cafe, the Hikers Rest, at Saddlescombe Farm, but that was closed as I passed through. However the tap in the wall was still working

Day Four was just over twenty one miles to the South Downs YHA just three miles from Lewes. Not only did I have a dorm room booked for the night, but I knew I also had a couple of decent halts on this section. Setting off with a full water bottle, the first halt was at the tap in a wall at Saddlescombe Farm (TQ 271 114).

I had no real need to stop here as it was only another fifty minutes walk to the ‘Pilgrims Church’ at Pyecombe. With the aid of grant money, the parishioners here have provided an excellent extension to the church with not only w/c, but also tea and coffee making facilities for walkers. Just be sure to leave a donation.

I spent some time at the church wandering around and looking at items of interest, there is much to see here and it makes a great rest point.

Really good facilities are available at Pyecombe Church. Open 10.00 - 18.00 in the summer, until 16.00 in the winter

Really good facilities are available at the Downland Church of the Transfiguration at Pyecombe. Open 10.00 – 18.00 in the summer, until 16.00 in the winter

There are a number of dew ponds situated on the top of the rolling South Downs. All are contaminated with animal faeces and filtering and purification is an absolute necessity

There are a number of dew ponds situated on the top of the rolling South Downs. All are contaminated with animal faeces and filtering and purification is an absolute necessity if using as a water source

Tap in wall of Housedean Farm, A27

Tap in wall of Housedean Farm, A27

Walking on, I took time to explore the slightly off trail Jack and Jill windmills but my next halt for sustenance was a late lunch once I reached the A27. The trail turns right here to pass Housedean Farm prior to crossing the road via a bridge. In the wall of the farm is a walkers tap (TQ 368 092). However, a more favourable option is to turn left instead and walk down to the truckers stop where there is often a sandwich wagon.

It is only a hundred metres or so to the busy and noisy lay-by to ‘Oscars mobile catering’, where I chomped my way through two huge bacon and egg baguettes alongside a couple of mugs of tea. Never look a gift horse in the face…

Snack wagon beside the A27 on day four

Snack wagon beside the A27 on day four. Only a hundred metres off trail

Only a kilometre away from my days halt at YHA South Downs, I had no need to avail myself of the working tap in the wall of Southease Church. The uncommon tower is one of only three round towers found in Sussex

The uncommon tower of Southease Church is one of only three round towers found in Sussex. There is a walkers water tap in the wall here

Back on trail, I crossed the road and carried on, in deteriorating weather, back up on to the Downs. This is an arid stretch, with a lot of large agricultural fields however it was only a three hour walk to my nights halt at the relatively new and quite large hostel of YHA South Downs. Only a kilometre before my days end, I took time out to explore the fascinating interior of Southease Church. I had no need to avail myself of the working tap in the wall of the church ( TQ 423 052).

Reaching the YHA around 16.30, I booked in and was shown to my shared dormitory room.

Having showered, changed into clean clothes and rested, I declined from cooking yet another lentil curry in their campers kitchen and chose instead to eat in the hostel’s Courtyard Cafe. Hydration here in the form of a few decent beers alongside my evening meal of pizza.

Opened by HM The Queen in 2013, YHA South Downs is situated in a Sussex farmhouse

Opened by HM The Queen in 2013, YHA South Downs is situated in a Sussex farmhouse

After a nights decent snoring on the part of the two other room occupants, I rose at an early hour ready for my final day on trail. I had the usual mug of tea in the campers kitchen alongside a simple breakfast as second breakfast was only a few miles away. It was just under 22 miles to my day’s end halt at YHA Eastbourne, via the walk into town and back out again, finishing at the town pier rather than the official halt at the towns western edge. I don’t think that the sad little start/finish post is a fitting end and was to happily continue past it further down the coast to the impressive Victorian Pier. Prior to that I had a day’s walk to complete however.

Second breakfast in the Singing Kettle Tearoom in Alfriston

Second breakfast in the Singing Kettle Tearoom in Alfriston

It was raining hard when I set off from YHA South Downs and a halt at the Singing Kettle Tearoom (519 031) in Alfriston three hours later proffered an opportunity to dry out on the outside while I put a pot of tea and a sausage sandwich on the inside. The proprietor filled my water bottle prior to my leaving and this did me until I pulled into the Seven Sisters visitor centre (TV 518 995) overlooking the spectacular Cuckmere River meanders.

There was little open at the Seven Sisters visitor centre, however there was a working tap outside the open public w/c

There was little open at the Seven Sisters visitor centre, however there was a working tap outside the open public w/c

Most visitor centres have a working tap somewhere outside. While many are intended to provide water for dogs, a tap is just as welcome to the thirsty hiker. It had only taken me around an hour and a half to reach here after leaving Alfriston and it was another ninety minutes jaunt along the lovely rolling Seven Sisters before I reached my final tap (TV 553 960) on the South Downs Way. This was at Birling Gap, adjacent to the Coach Park.

Easily missed, there is a tap at Birling Gap. Again, with an open w/c alongside

Easily missed, there is a tap at Birling Gap. Again, with an open w/c alongside

I was on the home stretch now and I had no need to refill my bottle for the rest of my walk as it was only another two hours walk to Eastbourne Pier. After which it was the long haul back out of town where, rather than travel home that night, I was stopping for the night at Eastbourne YHA. And that was it. 108.11 miles since I left Winchester. I had absolutely no problem in finding plenty of water or alternative drinks along its entire distance. There are a lot more options than I have shown above. There are other farms and pubs that can also provide water either directly on the trail, or close by.

The above was correct for the dates of my walk- 16th – 20th November 2018. As it turned out, I had no need to use my water filter, not the emergency sterilisation tablets that I carry in my ditty bag. There was good potable water readily available on every day.

There is a downloadable guide to water sources on the South Downs Way via the National Trails website. But it doesn’t appear to have been updated in some time and fails to list quite a few points. Their mapping system is useful as you can list the points of most interest to you which can include water points. An online cyclists’ guide has a similar list, equally wanting in places. However it includes some useful images.

Three Points of the Compass walked the South Downs Way in November 2018

Three Points of the Compass walked the South Downs Way in November 2018

Duncansby Head, the most north easterly point of mainland Great Britain

Three Points of the Compass- I’ve done it!

Atop Pen-y-Ghent, Pennine Way, June 2018

Atop Pen-y-Ghent, Pennine Way, June 2018

It took a month longer than I thought it would, but Three Points of the Compass is now home after completing my hike across mainland Britain. I reached Duncansby Head, the most north easterly point of mainland Great Britain, on 29th August 2018.

I have yet to tot up the total mileage, but it is around the 2000 miles mark. I was on trail for one hundred and fifty two days (around five months) of which eleven were zeros, or rest days. Though a handful of these were forced upon me due to weather. So one hundred and forty one days actual hiking.

Approaching the Peak District, 21st June 2018

Approaching the Peak District, 21st June 2018

It is some time since my last blog. At that time I was still in Wales on the Offa’s Dyke Path. I completed that when I reached Prestatyn around mid-June. From there I followed the Wales Coast Path round to Chester for a couple of days rest, where I was able to briefly meet up with Mission Control for the second and final time of the entire hike. I then crossed the less interesting part of England to enter the beautiful Peak District.

A major element of my hike was to experience many of the local customs and my arrival at Youlgreave was timed to coincide with the Well Dressing. Here, the local community and visitors were making frantic and last minute preparations for the dressing that took place late that night and following morning

An important element of my hike was to experience local customs where possible and my arrival at Youlgreave coincided with the Well Dressing. Here, the local community and visitors were making frantic and last minute preparations for the dressing that took place late that night and following morning

The gritstone walking led me to Edale where I joined the Pennine Way. It had originally been my intention to mix up my northward walking, switching around between paths, but as it was, I enjoyed the Pennine Way so much that I mostly stuck to the official route. The work carried out to restore the heather moors, repair damaged peatlands and lay flags across the worst of the denuded and damaged peat hags is remarkable. My arrival coincided with one of the hottest summers on record which bought its own challenge of hydration. Many small streams and springs were dried up as a result of the weather. I was also very aware of the moorland infernos, the one on Saddleworth threatening my onward progress. It was subsequently described as the largest English wildfire in living memory.

Three Points of the Compass on the Pennine Way, safely past the fire on Saddleworth moor, seen behind

Three Points of the Compass on the Pennine Way, safely past the fire on Saddleworth moor, seen behind

I found the Pennine Way a much more varied walk than originally anticipated. Only the northern part of the Peak District, the Dark Peak, is on the route. Moving on to the Yorkshire Dales and the North Pennines bought equally excellent walking, as did the Northumberland National Park where I crossed Hadrian’s Wall and began to encounter midges for the first time on this trek.

The Pennine Way isn't, by any means, simply flagstones across peat hags. 28th June, 2018

The Pennine Way isn’t, by any means, simply flagstones across peat hags. 28th June, 2018

Entering Scotland I then followed a mixture of routes- St. Cuthbert’s Way, the Roman Dere Street (giving opportunity to see the Lilliard memorial), the Cross Borders Drove Road, then the Union Canal, Forth and Clyde Canal, pausing to admire the Falkirk Wheel and the best preserved section of the Antonine Wall, eventually joining up with the West Highland Way.

Lilliard Memorial

Lilliard Memorial

Fair Maiden Lilliard

Lies under this Stane

Little was her stature

But muckle was her fame

Upon the English loons

She laid monie thumps

An’ when her legs were cuttit off

She fought upon her stumps

A.D. 1544

 

Gargoyle at Melrose Abbey

Gargoyle at Melrose Abbey

I enjoyed being back on the West Highland Way. I walked this path with Mrs Three Points of the Compass (now promoted to Mission Control) and our daughter in 2013. This is a very well known and popular route, especially with international hikers and I met, chatted and frequently briefly hiked with people of a wide variety of nationalities.

It can't all be hard work- a stop for important carbohydrates in Kinlochleven, West Highland Way. 27th July 2018

It can’t all be hard work- a stop for important carbohydrates in Kinlochleven, West Highland Way. 27th July 2018

Resupply of new maps and some essential equipment was sent on as required by Mission Control. Here, my worn out Altra Lone Peak 3.5 were sent home to have the last few miles left inthem used up at some point in the future, while replacements stand ready for another five to seven hundred miles on this particular expedition

Resupply of new maps and some essential equipment was sent on as required by Mission Control. Here, my almost worn out Altra Lone Peak 3.5’s were sent home to have the last few miles left in them used up at some point in the future, while replacements stand ready for a further five to seven hundred miles on this particular expedition

After a short pause in Fort William for food resupply and send maps off and receive replacements, I moved onto and into the roughest and hardest terrain of my entire Three Points of the Compass hike- Ardnamurchan, Morar, Knoydart, Torridon and Assynt. I joined the Cape Wrath Trail for a single day before branching off for six days to reach my Second Point of the Compass- Corrachadh Mòr.

I can certainly see why this particular point is not more heavily marketed and most visitors settle for the more accessible Ardnamurchan Point, complete with lighthouse, cafe and road for access. The walk out to the correct place is a splash through bogs and gives scant reward for the more casual enquirer. But still, I was delighted to finally reach this place as my First Point, Lizard Point, in Cornwall, had been reached many weeks before.

Three Points of the Compass reached Corrachadh Mòr on 3rd August 2018 and celebrated the occasion with a good swig of two year old warehouse release maturing spirit from the new Ardnamurchan Whisky Distillery, at 53.8%, a few more bogs were wandered into on the return journey

Three Points of the Compass reached Corrachadh Mòr on 3rd August 2018 and celebrated the occasion with a good few swigs of two year old warehouse release maturing spirit from the new Ardnamurchan Whisky Distillery. At 53.8%, a few more bogs were wandered into on the return journey as a result

This is a pretty wild part of Scotland and I enjoyed great views of some rather special wildlife- Otters, Porpoises and Golden Eagle were seen well, and I put to flight more Red Deer than you can shake a trekking pole at, by chancing across them unexpectedly and suddenly as I crossed trackless moors.

Yet another crossing, Cape Wrath Trail

Yet another crossing, Cape Wrath Trail

Having returned to where I left the Cape Wrath Trail, I continued northward on this. The weather had deteriorated dramatically from the fine days of earlier in the summer and burns were in spate, feet wet all day while hiking and fierce winds encountered on exposed hills and wildcamps. My foot care regime was good though and I experienced no problems health wise.

Lunchtime halt at Soulies bothy. Cape Wrath Trail, 7th August 2018

Lunchtime halt at Sourlies bothy. Cape Wrath Trail, 7th August 2018

Fraying, strained and worn tie out points on tent vestibule

Fraying, strained and worn tie out points on tent vestibule

My Z Packs Duplex tent was used throughout my five month hike however whenever I could, I would take advantage of Youth Hostels or bothies if on my route. The Duplex is no mountain tent though and in Scotland it began to show a number of points of wear, fraying tie outs and strained seams.

Cuben fibre repair tape 'stitch' across strained seams at apex of tent

Cuben fibre repair tape ‘stitch’ across strained seams at apex of tent

I kept on top of repairs where I could with cuben or tenacious repair tape and less frequently with gaffer tape. But site selection for wild camps had to be made with care whenever possible, but on just a couple of occasions, late in the evening etc. there was little choice.

All that said, while this particular shelter is now worn out, and I wouldn’t use it on any further hike of any distance, I would not hesitate to purchase another of the same make and model.

A fairly high wild camp on a more exposed ridge than I would have wished. A rare fine evening detrioted into strong wind and rain for much of the night and following day. 8th August 2018, Cape Wrath Trail

A fairly high wild camp on a more exposed ridge than I would have wished. A rare fine evening deteriorated into strong wind and rain for much of the night and following day. Meallan Odhar, Cape Wrath Trail, 8th August 2018

Evening at Maol Bhuidhe bothy with Ken Maclean, a hiker out to bag a few hills and fish in the lochans. Good chocolate, good whisky and good conversation made for a convivial time

A night was spent at Maol Bhuidhe bothy with Ken Maclean, a hiker out to bag a few hills and fish in the lochans. Good chocolate, good whisky and good conversation made for a convivial evening

A midgy evening. I met hikers who complained that the little beasties were able to crawl through the mesh of either their shelters or their head nets. This is simply poor choice of equipment

A midgey evening. I met hikers who complained that the little beasties were able to crawl through the mesh of either their shelters or their head nets. This is simply poor choice of equipment

While the often poor weather meant less midges, when the rain dropped to a drizzle or infrequently ceased and the wind dropped, needless to say, I had arrived in the heartland of midge territory and the worst possible time in the year, some evenings were ‘interesting’ to say the least. The bug netting on the Duplex is superb and the roomy two-man interior made for comfortable living space for a single occupant.

I don’t use DEET, but found Smidge was enough to put them off, slightly, from me. It also worked brilliantly in killing them off if sprayed into the apex and corners of the tent, where any midges that had followed me into my tent would eventually land.

Beside these, I left horseflies behind in England and only had to remove two embedded ticks. A nightly ‘tick check’ was an essential task to be carried out.

 

Food supply was not, perhaps surprisingly, a problem. Here is around a weeks worth of food- Centered around a reinforced oat based breakfast, flapjacks, cheese, the makings for a simply lentil curry each night with added carbs etc. Plus various brew kit items and sundries. I also carried one emegency dehydrated meal that made a 'last supper' eventually

Food supply was not, perhaps surprisingly, a problem in Scotland. Here is around five days worth of food- Centred around a reinforced oat based breakfast, flapjacks, cheese, the makings for a simply lentil curry each night with added carbs etc. Plus various brew kit items and sundries such as Tablet. I also carried one emergency dehydrated meal that made a ‘last supper’ eventually. I would also, wherever possible, make use of infrequent cafes etc. to supplement what I carried

I reached Sandwood Bay on 20th August. In keeping with what seems to be a rite of passage, I wildcamped atop the dunes at Sandwood Bay on a rare quiet, calm evening. My journal entry for that evening describes it thus:

”Evening meal of lentil curry with couscous, mug of tea and packet of peanuts with three mini cheeses. Went and stood on the large rock outcrop behind me to eat it and watch the sunset. Quite magical. Feel privileged to be here”

Three Points of the Compass on reaching Sandwood Bay, Am Buachaille beyond

Three Points of the Compass on reaching Sandwood Bay, the Torridonian Sandstone sea stack of Am Buachaille is beyond

The following day was another fairly strenuous hike, this time round to Cape Wrath where the Cape Wrath Trail ends. I spent the night in the new, if basic,  bunkhouse that the owner of the Ozone Cafe has built inside one of the buildings he now owns there. Despite this having been the toughest walking of my entire trail, and my feeling pretty pleased with myself, it wasn’t the end for me. Though the walking became far easier. I was now walking into the Flow Country of eastern Sutherland and Caithness.

A final stay in a bothy. Strabeg, a short distance up the glen from Loch Eriboll

A final stay in a bothy on my Three Points trail. Strabeg is a short distance up the glen from Loch Eriboll

I was both surprised and delighted to see White Tailed Eagle here. This is the largest bird of prey in Britain. I had just about given up hope of seeing one of these birds as I had moved away from their widest favoured distribution. It was actually while viewing the Dounreay Nuclear Development Establishment through my monocular that I carried, that I picked up this raptor. Dounreay itself is now being decommissioned, originally built here purely because of its remoteness.

Three Points of the Compass reached Dunnet Head, the most northerly point on mainland Great Britain on 28th August 2018

Three Points of the Compass reached Dunnet Head, the most northerly point on mainland Great Britain on 28th August 2018

Despite my having reached Dunnet Head, my final point of the compass, I had just a little more hiking to do. I wildcamped on the sheltered eastern side of the peninsula and the following day walked a little further round the coast to John o’Groats, thereby also completing a Land’s End-John o’Groats hike, then the very short jaunt further along the coast to Duncansby Head. This is the most north-easterly point of mainland Britain and it was here that my Long Walk finished.

I stayed in the Seaview Hotel that night and the following day set about getting home. I had planned and booked nothing in advance. As it was, it was simple. I walked down to the John o’Groats jetty, booked myself onto the Orkney Coach which left there at 10.30, This took me to Inverness in three hours, a short wait until the bus to Inverness airport where I had been able that morning to book myself onto an afternoon flight to London Gatwick. Once there it was a swift walk through to the Gatwick Express to London Victoria railway station, twenty minutes later my train was transporting me to north Kent, and home. I arrived home less than twelve hours after leaving John o’Groats. My only loss on the journey home was that my battered, slightly bent and very knackered Pacer Poles couldn’t be unscrewed and separated, so couldn’t join me on the plane. They were left leaning outside the hotel.

Three Points of the Compass reached John o'Groats on 29th August 2018. Having left Lands End on the 30th April, 31 days after I had set off from Poole

Three Points of the Compass reached John o’ Groats on 29th August 2018, having left Lands End on the 30th April  31 days after I had set off from Poole

I shall be chatting more about various gear choices, trails walked, logistics and food etc. on both website and blogs in the future. For now though, that’s it!