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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.

Trail talk: Solvitur ambulando

Self-isolating on the North Kent Marshes

Working from home, in strange times, Three Points of the Compass is heeding current advice from Public Health England. However the weekend calls for a break from the week’s work and to distance myself from these four walls if possible. Current online Government advice on ‘Social Distancing’ includes: “You can also go for a walk or exercise outdoors if you stay more than two metres from others“. So, looking for wide open spaces with few other visitors expected, I decided a return to a walk that has given me enormous pleasure in the past- the coastal section from Sittingbourne to Faversham on the North Kent Marshes.

“the saltings and the shore, with the slub, was No-man’s Land, as far as a man’s legs could carry him on a long day’s prowl. There were boards fixed on stout poles, here and there, which set forth in complicated legal terms the rights of certain individuals to the flotsam and jetsam of the foreshore, with all privileges thereunto belonging. But these were unheeded; no one stopped to read them. On a warm summer’s day the folks would have fallen asleep over so tough a job, and in wintry weather, with a gale from the nor’ard, fowl coming up off the sea, and the salt spindrift making your eyes smart, you would not care to spell the matter out”

My walk mostly follows the raised seawall with short, sheep or rabbit cropped, grass, though the tread through mud from any recent rain can make the going hard. If any mechanical works have been carried out to repair the battered seawalls after winter storms, ruts, stones, chalk, turves and clag can twist your ankle in an instant. However it is normally easy and pleasant going. It was Mothering Sunday and I was unable to visit my mum in her Care Home, closed from visitors by (hopefully) temporary decree. With a fine day forecast, Three Points of the Compass strode out at dawn to revisit a walk he last explored over a decade ago. It was time to put the concerns of today to the back of my mind and try and think about some future issues that have to be decided upon. Possibly problems solved by walking. A decent leg stretch was called for.

The North Kent Marshes is the combined area formed by the estuaries and the neighbouring countryside, especially marshes, of the Swale, Medway and Thames. The Swale is the tidal channel separating the Isle of Sheppey from mainland Kent and connects the Medway estuary in the west with the Thames estuary in the east. It was the southern shore of the Swale that formed today’s walk.

“It was a splendid prospect in the clear crisp air of winter; for, the trees being leafless, you could see all the sequestered homes and farmsteads to which those narrow drift-roads and lanes led, for miles round. Besides these, you saw the snug hop-gardens in the hollows, and the poles stacked up, looking from this distance like rows of tents. Orchards and fruit-gardens too, with the quaint farm-houses to which they belonged, were there; and the buildings where the hops were dried, locally termed “hopoasts,” topped by those curious cowls that look like inverted cones with a quarter cut out of them. Then you saw the river Thames and the Medway at their meeting-place with the tide. Those rivers were never called by their proper names in the days when Denzil wandered about over the marshlands. With the natives they went by the names of the London river and the Chatham river. Any one calling them by different titles would have been stared at by the marsh dwellers as a “furriner.”

Today's walk would follow the Saxon Shore Way on the seawall between two once thriving North Kent towns

Today’s walk would follow the Saxon Shore Way on the seawall between two once thriving North Kent towns

Almost all of the area is a Site of Special Scientific Interest and it is also designated a Ramsar internationally important wetland. Local and National nature reserves abound. There is something of interest year round but winter is special for the large numbers of over-wintering raptors, vast numbers of waders and wildfowl both over-winter and call in while on migration. The murmur of thousands of Brent Geese is pure joy. Large roosts of waders occur when the tide pushes them ashore. In spring and summer some rather special birds nest- Quartering Marsh Harriers and Barn Owls are a regular sight in the summer and waders feed on the mudflats, flitting between there and nest sites on the cropped grass of the coastal margins. In previous years I have even seen Osprey fishing for Dabs.

Much of the area is grazed by livestock and levels in the many dykes and reedbeds carefully managed. Views are extensive but much of the area could never be called pretty. Industry and the two Swale crossings can be seen from afar. The steadily mouldering evidence of past industry, works and long gone business is often evident. The spines of rotting Lighters and Barges poke from the mud. Flotsam and jetsam join the stinking seaweed where Dunlin, Turnstone and even Purple Sandpipers poke around. Bearded Tits have pinged over my head before posing on the reeds. I have seen Bittern in the shallow pools and once an Otter crossed the Murston pits without seeing me. I visited a flooded scrape on Sheppey once and unexpectedly saw Grey Phalarope bobbing its way around. The same flooded fields shocked me another year when two White Winged Black Terns dropped by. At times, with a careful eye and great luck, a Long-Eared Owl or two will be seen deep in the Blackthorn at Conyer. Spend some time on the North Kent Marshes and there is always something unexpected. Today, my first bird song encountered as I reached the marshes proper, was the explosive call of a Cetti’s Warbler. It is a special place.

After a long walk through abandoned Sittingbourne and its extensive Business Park, the first thing of any interest is Murston Old Church.

After a long walk through abandoned Sittingbourne and its extensive Business Park, the first thing of any interest is Murston Old Church. It was originally pretty large with three chancels and three aisles, square tower and wooden turret, sadly almost nothing remains. Built between 1375 and 1550 it is now mostly forgotten and unloved, despite several well-meaning plans over the years, it is now the victim of theft, vandalism and arson.

The mouldering remains of many vessels gradually sink into the stinking ooze wherever there was once a bust dock or wharf

The mouldering remains of many vessels gradually sink into the stinking ooze wherever there was once a busy dock or wharf

Outside the towns, the North Kent Marshes are sparsely populated today and few live adjoining the estuaries beyond the odd farm. It wasn’t always so. The small communities that used to live on the margins of the Swale suffered especially when cholera first came to Kent in 1832. It came via the ports, roads and newly built railway. The hop-pickers from London and those on the quarantined prison ships, including boys aged 8-15, also suffered terribly. Poor sanitation, lack of running water and a lack of understanding on how the disease was transmitted all paid a part.

Before the week was out news came that one had died suddenly, down in the
marsh, before medical aid could reach him. Then the plague was in the town, one here
and one there was taken, two or three a week. After that it came in full force…

There were outbreaks in 1832, 1849, 1853 and 1865. Each outbreak lasted years and from a population far less than it is today, cholera killed some 2684 in Kent alone.

… at last the cholera left Marshton, as suddenly, it seemed, as it had entered.
Business became brisk again; the fishing-boats were afloat once more; and the living
had time to visit the large graveyard and count their graves. The brown rough heaps of
earth showed conspicuously apart from the green turf. Healthy life began to stir and
throb in the place once more… but more than once did Den hear that terrible sound of a man
crying out in the agony of grief, ring through the Marshton burying-place.

Small roost of Black Headed Gulls on the grazing marsh below Tonge Corner Farm, one of the few habitations along this stretch of coast

Small roost of Black Headed Gulls on the grazing marsh below Tonge Corner Farm, one of the few habitations along this stretch of coast

There isn't a lot of shelter from the stiff cold wind along the seawall, so I made use of one of the concrete sluices to breakfast on hot chocolate and Quaker's Golden Syrup Porridge To Go

There isn’t a lot of shelter from the stiff cold wind along the seawall, so I made use of one of the concrete sluices to breakfast on hot chocolate and Quaker’s Golden Syrup Porridge To Go

I completely failed to notice the trail runner until he was past me, so engrossed with watching a Common Seal leisurely following the rising tide, and a group of restless Curlews on the marshes inland

I completely failed to notice the trail runner until he was past me, I was so engrossed with watching a Common Seal leisurely following the rising tide, and a group of restless Curlews on the marshes inland. To the west, the two road crossings from mainland Kent to the Isle of Sheppey can be seen

“From the crest of the Nor’ard hills the water was in some places only two or three
miles away, according to the way the land lay; in some places it was much nearer. If
you looked seawards, there was the Isle of Sheppy, with the man-of-war ships at anchor,
and then the open sea. Inland you had orchard after orchard, great fruit-gardens and
fields under the plough. A beautiful sight at any time; but when the fruit-trees were in
full blossom in those grand old Kent orchards, the view from the top of the Nor’ard hills
was simply glorious”

A short diversion inland to cross Conyer Creek. No-one about in the attractive village other than a handful of dog walkers

A short diversion inland to cross Conyer Creek. No-one about in the attractive village other than a handful of dog walkers. Half a dozen bright white Little Egrets explored the mud

Two wartime rifle ranges are passed on this walk. The crumbling concrete butts are simply part of the grazing marsh landscape today

Two wartime rifle ranges are passed on this walk. The crumbling concrete butts are simply part of the grazing marsh landscape today

“You may know a marshman – or a man of the “ma’shes,” as he is locally termed- wherever you chance to come across him, by the way he grasps his stick. In his native marshes it was rather a pole than a stick that he carried — one about as thick as your wrist and pointed at its stoutest end… with his long ash leaping-pole, having a circular piece fixed at its bottom, he would leap and clear all the dykes that came in his way,

The marshes are now well drained as a result of the dykes dug across their expanses. A century and more ago, locals would carry a leaping pole with them to cross the ditches. Land that was once impassable by no-one other than skilled marshmen that knew the hidden routes, is now mostly fertile land used for both agriculture and grazing, and has been for a hundred years. There are still hunters in just a few areas where it is permitted. An anachronism in my mind, so close to honeypot reserves. What bird knows which side of a field boundary is safe? Swans have been found carrying shotgun pellets, Harriers have been poisoned and years previous I even once witnessed a damn fool take a pot shot at a woodpecker looping across the fields.

“On and about the lagoon, all over the surface, fowl are swimming and paddling. One lot are coots, clicking and clanking. Over them, high up, a marsh-harrier, the duck-hawk of the marshes, is sailing. He comes lower — lower yet — he is near enough and pounces. The coots are as ready for him as he for them, and as he pounces, with a loud clank they flirt the water up, enough to swamp him, before they dive. The marsh folks have always a reason for their local names of the birds; they call him the coot-teaser. The fowl do not, however, always escape him so easily. Green plovers, pewits, are all round about, screaming and squeaking out their mournful pewit”

Sitting resting while I drank from my waterbottle, my attention was drawn to a large bird in the field opposite. A Marsh Harrier stood amongst the mole hills, occasionally making short forward flights into the stiff wind before dropping back down to the grass. Each time it rose sufficiently high enough that it could be seen from the tideline, the Avocets feeding there would set off in a wide arcing flight before returning to the waters edge.

“as a rule, a man’s companions were his gun and fishing net. Our longshore shooters had, many of them, to trudge three or four miles night and morning to get to their fishing or shooting grounds. A man living only a mile away was looked on as quite a near neighbour”

Freshly pillaged shells are frequently seen underfoot where some creature has bought them ashore to the short turf for better purchase

Freshly pillaged shells are frequently seen underfoot where some creature has bought them ashore to the short turf for better purchase

“None but those who have tried it know what dirty and dangerous work it is to get
at a good mussel-scalp, or to go after shell-fish of any kind in the old-fashioned days.
The finest mussels were as a rule in the most dangerous part of the ooze. As to clams,
they were worse to get at than mussels. You had to go into the gullies up to your waist
in foul ooze and water, and to dig them out of the banks like potatoes. This is all changed now, and shell-fish are cultivated on scientific principles.”

Dan's Dock is a disused Jetty near Oare. Difficult to appreciate that this was once used to load both bricks and explosives on to ships

The disused Dan’s Dock near Oare. Not used since 1919, it is difficult to appreciate that this was once used by local brickwork owner Sampson Dan to load bricks on to ships and, later, by the Cotton Powder Co. to load explosives. Just inland from here, more than 100 munition workers were killed on 2 April 1916 when the gunpowder, cordite and TNT exploded

“every man in each company of a dozen drainers- some of the shore-shooters even had been obliged to turn to that work as a means of living- carried a gun, or rather had one close at hand, to use as the chance offered. Denzil saw the stock part of some of these peeping outside the rough jackets that had been laid down on the dry flags, the long barrels being concealed inside the drain-pipes. ‘Many turns like this would give a fellow the blues’ said Larry, as they fired off their loads in the air before being ferried over the creek. ‘With all this draining we may just hang up the guns as fireside ornaments.’ And so it was; for as the railroads gave facility for placing product in the London markets and elsewhere, cement-works, wharves, and ship-yards appeared along the water-side, as though by magic it seemed to the slow thinking and acting graziers, and old marsh dwellers; and in the spots where at one time the silence had been broken only by the cry of the wild-fowl, rang out the clink and hum of machinery and the clang of hammers, the fowl having flitted for good.”

The Old Watch House at Oare Marshes

The Kent Wildlife Trust acquired Oare Marshes as a local nature reserve in 1984. The Old Watch House that used to function as their visitor centre is now closed due to vandalism

Lady Daphne, Oare Creek

Lady Daphne in Oare Creek, Faversham. Now derigged and covered, she is undergoing maintenance, cleaning, repair and repainting prior to sailing through Tower Bridge in London in 2021 to commemorate Sir Ernest Shackleton setting sail to the Antarctic 100 years previous. She is a Thames Barge built by Short Brothers in 1921, one of the few wooden barges built following the Great War

Shipwright's Arms, Hollowshore

My path passed the Shipwright’s Arms, Hollowshore. Recently closed due to nationwide Government restrictions. I proposed to Mrs Three Points of the Compass here over thirty years ago. She said no, that time

Oyster Bay House, Faversham Creek

Oyster Bay House. Approaching Faversham via the tidal Faversham Creek, the trail passes opposite the mid-nineteenth century warehouse. Locally known as the ‘Big Building’, it once stored hops from the hop gardens of Kent, destined to the London brewers, transported by sailing barge

Faversham Guildhall

Having completed my walk, it was only half a mile or so through town, past the fantastic Guildhall, built 1574, through almost empty streets, to the railway station

My day’s walk over, it was through town without stopping. Not that anything was open beyond a chippie hoping for business. Just a two minute wait at the station for my twelve minute train journey back to where I had started some seven hours earlier. It had been a grand days walk of around fourteen miles. I had seen perhaps two dozen people on the trail, mostly dog walkers at the Oare Nature Reserve. Back home, a quick shower and a welcome pint of tea. Though still concerned, my mind was now clearer- Solvitur ambulando.

Quotes above from:

Annals of a Fishing Village. Drawn from the notes of “A Son of the Marshes”. Blackwood & Sons, London 1891.

These are the recollections of Denham Jordan. Baptised in Milton Regis, in North Kent, the young teenager spent much of his childhood and adolescence exploring the North Kent Marshes and included many of his observations of life, people, habitat and experience into his ten books. He witnessed the draining of the marshes and the coming of the railway.

Marsh Scene, by Denham Jordan

Marsh Scene, by Denham Jordan

Map measurer of the month- The Pathfinder Three-in-One

The Pathfinder Three-in-One was a multiple attempt at bringing together a map measure with two other functions. Usually a compass and one other- either pencil, magnifier or plug tester. You will frequently come across examples on the second hand market which is either testament to their robust longevity, or that they were simply thrown in a drawer and forgotten about.

Standard Pathfinder map measure with short handle

Standard Pathfinder map measure with short handle

Purchasers pf the Pathfinder map measure could choose one of two dial options. This is the inch to mile/centimetre to kilometre choice

Purchasers pf the Pathfinder map measure could choose one of two paper dial options. This is the inch to mile/centimetre to kilometre choice

Made in Western Germany, probably mostly in the 1960s, the Three-in-One is based on the stock model Pathfinder map measurer. This is a single needle, dial measure with one of two paper dials inserted in the face. One choice was Statute miles/Kilometres/Nautical miles, the other dial face option was Inches to Miles/Centimetres to Kilometres. Once purchased, the owner could not change the paper dial to the other option. The choice had to be made when bought. There was also the option of purchasing a Pathfinder measure that had two measures, one on each side of the body, each with a different dial scale.

The metal bodied measure has two faces-front and reverse. Map measure on one and if not another measuring dial, then a simple magnetic compass on the reverse. The compass is not liquid filled and the needle fluctuates wildly before settling. However, it works. Cardinal and ordinal points are shown, incorporating 30° intervals, indicated with figures, around the outer edge. Between these, every 5° is included. And that is it. I wouldn’t like to rely on the compass as a primary navigational aid but if such a measure were carried in the glove box of a car then it probably sufficed reasonably well.

This is by no means a unique combination. There are a number of surviving examples of Victorian map measures that also include a compass, so common is the combination that many very cheap and cheerful Chinese made plastic bodied measurers produced today also have a tiny compass included.

Pathfinder with long handle. This has a compass in the reverse face

Pathfinder map measure with long handle. This has a compass in the reverse face and is capable of measuring statute miles, kilometres or nautical miles

Pathfinder Map Measure and compass. Any of the five options of handles could be fitted- short, long, magnifier, pencil or plug tester

Pathfinder map measure and compass. Any of the five handle options could be fitted- short, long, magnifier, pencil or plug tester

A second choice of standard Pathfinder map measure has a long handle. This is a far easier measure to manipulate when following a line on a map, spinning the handle between the finger tips while trundling the measuring wheel along a path or line on a map is a relatively simple task. The same two choices of dial face were available with this as it is only the handle length that has changed. Again, a compass is included on the other side of the measure.

Box and instructions for the basic Pathfinder map measure and compass

Box and instructions for the basic Pathfinder map measure and compass

Pathfinder Three-in-One map measure- with magnifying glass

Based on the basic model Pathfinder, there were three further ‘three-in-one’ options available. These were easy for the manufacturer to create, instead of including a short or long handle with the standard body, one of three alternative handles was attached. The first Three-in-One shown here has a combination that has also been produced by just a handful of other manufacturers. Three Points of the Compass has seen Victorian and later measurers that also offered a magnifying glass as an option however surviving examples of the Pathfinder Three-in-One with magnifying glass are testament to the relatively large numbers produced and sold.

Pathfinder Three-in-One map measure with compass and magnifying glass

Pathfinder Three-in-One map measure with compass and magnifying glass

Glass magnifier on map measure is perfectly functional

Glass magnifier on map measure is perfectly functional

Pathfinder Three-in-One map measure- with pencil

Compass on Pathfinder Three-in-One with pencil

Compass on Pathfinder Three-in-One with pencil

This is a pretty handy little combination. I would think more drivers utilising a map measure on a trip would want a pencil than magnifying glass. I doubt many cyclists or hikers would be using it much as they will not be carrying a map measure on trail.

Twisting the barrel reveals the propelling lead/graphite. Sadly this is not a particularly well made product as the barrels frequently split on this measure, indeed my example is also split toward the end as a result of internal pressure and most I have seen for sale also exhibit similar failure. It still works though and the lead is replaceable.

Pathfinder Three-in-One with propelling pencil

Pathfinder Three-in-One map measure with compass and propelling pencil

Pathfinder Three-in-one showing split barrel of propelling pencil. A frequent point of failure

Pathfinder Three-in-one showing split barrel of propelling pencil. A frequent point of failure

Pathfinder Three-in-One map measure- with plug tester

This final example of the Pathfinder Three-in-One is an oddity these days. I do wonder if it were ever actually popular or of much practical use beyond as a map measure or basic compass.

I confess to never having used the plug-tester. In fact I cannot even find instructions on how it should be used. Even the instructions that come with this model actually fail to give any instruction. Is this because everyone knew how to use these? Three Points of the Compass has quizzed a few ‘old boys’ who run classic cars and has yet to come across anyone either with actual experience in using one of these or able to give any indication on how effective this particular tool is.

Pathfinder map measure and compass with spark plug tester

Pathfinder map measure and compass with spark plug tester

Plug tester variant of the Pathfinder Three-in-One map measure showing the little oblong test window in the handle

Plug tester variant of the Pathfinder Three-in-One map measure showing the little oblong test window in the handle

I am guessing that you simply touch a spark plug or tip of a lead running to one while an engine is running and it lights the little oblong window in the black handle to indicate a proper electrical charge is being delivered to the spark plug. Though I could be very wrong in this. The label on the box says ‘for running order‘, but again, I am not at all sure how this can be achieved or checked with this tool.

The Pathfinder Three-in-One is an interesting range of map measures. The company has deliberately sought to diversify a pretty standard piece of kit. I am not sure that anyone would go and buy more than one of the variants and all are possibly more suited to the motorist rather than the hiker. The name Pathfinder has been used with other makes of map measurer, though none seem to be of any noticeable improvement over the examples shown here.

Electrical contact on Pathfinder Three-in-One map measure

Electrical contact on Pathfinder Three-in-One map measure

Enclosed instructions for Pathfinder Three-in-One map measure

Enclosed instructions for Pathfinder Three-in-One map measure

 

safari trooper poster, cropped

Knife chat: Victorinox 108mm German Army Knife and Safari derivatives

Victorinox German Army Knife and Safari Hunter

108mm Victorinox German Army Knife and slightly better equipped Safari Hunter

Three Points of the Compass has written before about his old British Army Knife found  languishing at the back of a drawer. Another knife provided to the armed forces offers a different tool set and is possibly of more practical use to a hiker, backpacker or those drawn to bush-crafting. This is the 108mm long Victorinox German Army Knife. It is especially suited to those who use a small wood stove to heat water or cook with on trail. Note that I am not referring here to the larger and heavier Victorinox model supplied to the German Army that replaced it in 2003.

Original 108mm Victorinox German Army Knife and the one-handed opening 111mm version that replaced it in 2003

Original 108mm Victorinox German Army Knife above and the 126.1g, one-handed opening, 111mm version that replaced it in 2003 below

The original 108mm German Army Knife, and the Safari series derived from them, have a number of special features not found elsewhere within the Victorinox stable that make them both interesting and practical. It is a peculiar series and Victorinox did not elaborate on the design much beyond those mentioned here. Sadly, the company has now discontinued the 108mm series but most of the quite small range can still be found on the second hand market.

Victorinox German Army Knife- second generation, with nail file

Victorinox German Army Knife (GAK)- with olive green nylon scales. 108mm two layer knife  featuring a large blade, combination tool- with woodsaw, can opener and flat screwdriver. This is the second generation with a nail file on the combo tool. Back tools are corkscrew and awl/reamer

The German Army Knife carries the German Eagle on one scale. The civilian version had a blank space where a name could be inserted

The German Army Knife carries the German Eagle on one scale. The civilian Trooper version above has a blank space where a name could be inserted

The 84.9g German Army Knife, or GAK, was produced in its millions, by both Victorinox and other manufacturers. The specifications for the army knife were laid out by the German military in the 1970s and Victorinox was initially awarded the contract. There were many other manufacturers of the knife over its lifespan however and some twenty other makes have been identified.

Some people have rated the versions of German Army Knife made by Klaas, Adler and Aitor as being almost of comparable quality. Other makes of the knife have received scathing reviews. If you have any doubts, simply look for the Victorinox version, with Victorinox tang stamp, these are of uniformly high quality though some may have had a hard life before finding their way on to the second-hand market.

Unfortunately there have also been some cheap, fake knock-offs produced since production of the originals ceased and whereas the construction and material quality of the original and authentic produce is pretty high across most of the authentic suppliers, the cheaper fakes are of dubious quality- caveat emptor!

Victorinox Trooper (civilian version of GAK) – olive green nylon scales. Two layer knife. (Victorinox designation:0.87 70.04). Large blade, combo tool- woodsaw, can opener, screwdriver. Back tools- corkscrew, awl

Victorinox Trooper (civilian version of GAK) – olive green nylon scales. Two layer knife. (Victorinox designation: 0.87 70.04). Large blade, combo tool- woodsaw, can opener, screwdriver. Back tools- corkscrew, awl/reamer. Note that there is no nail file on this civilian version. Red scaled civilian versions of the original German Army Knife are more common

So popular was the German Army Knife that a civilian version was later released by Victorinox. With the same olive drab nylon scheme (what Victorinox termed a ‘military’ handle) but no German Eagle on the scales, this was known as the Trooper. I have no idea why but my one comes in just a tad heavier than the actual GAK on which it is based, weighing 87.1g, including 1.4g saw guard. Another variant has ‘NATO’ on one nylon scale and is known as the Nato Trooper. Also released with red nylon scales, the knife was then called the Safari or Safari Trooper. You will frequently see these names interchanged or combined with no heed as to scale colour. These were all two layer knives. Such was their success that Victorinox tweaked the features and released one and three layer 108mm variants. Some of these are shown below.

Specifications

The 108mm German Army Knife was the first released by Victorinox with textured nylon scales, these are not only robust but also provide good grip. The use of nylon scales was an unusual step for Victorinox and the first time that they had used this material. The size of handle is good in the hand and not at all fiddly, it can be held with confidence and in comfort. One specification made by the army was that all tools open in the same direction, away from the lanyard hole, creating another Victorinox oddity however they all feel very natural to use in this manner. No key ring or shackle was fitted by the manufacturer on any of these knives other than on a few of the uncommon Fireman model.

Heavy duty folding blade with lots of belly found on the original 108mm German Army Knife

Heavy duty folding blade, with good usable length, found on the original 108mm German Army Knife

All of the 108mm variants have an 84mm long spear blade. This is a good size blade with lots of belly and a 75mm cutting edge. Victorinox advertised this as a ‘double thickness jumbo size’ blade

The peculiar Victorinox combination tool that appeared on the German Army Knife and Safari derivative

The peculiar Victorinox combination tool and saw guard that appeared on the German Army Knife and Safari derivative

The combo-tool is a combination of an efficient woodsaw with a flat screwdriver tip and can opener/bottle opener at the end. The woodsaw, that cuts on the ‘pull’ stroke, was frequently covered with a removable, light (1.4g), folded tin blade guard that protects the hand when opening cans/bottles etc. A nail file was added circa 1985 to the combo-tool, this created a second-generation German Army Knife (GAK 2). This file can also be used for striking matches.

Combination tool with and without nailfile

Combination tool with and without nailfile

Mini Victorinox flat tip screwdriver stores easily and neatly on a corkscrew

Mini Victorinox flat tip screwdriver stores easily and neatly on a corkscrew

The five turn corkscrew is longer than is normal with most Victorinox knives. A corkscrew is largely superfluous these days, especially with the growing prevalence of screw-top bottles of wine. A corkscrew was included on the original Victorinox Officer’s Knife in 1897. I find a corkscrew of more use these days for loosening knots in cordage. Beside that, it is a handy place to store one of the micro Victorinox screwdrivers that are so useful for tightening the screws on my glasses.

Long awl/reamer found on German Army Knife

Long awl/reamer found on German Army Knife

The German Army Knife has a 50mm awl/reamer with a wickedly sharp 40mm edge. This is longer than the awls found on most other Victorinox knives and will puncture cordura, trail shoes and boots for repair or leather belts with ease. Opening centrally on the handle it can be grasped and twisted into whatever it is puncturing with little danger to the person holding it. The only thing that would make it better, and I do wish it had one, is a sewing eye.

Different manufacturers, different finishes, varying quality

Different manufacturers, different finishes, varying quality. Mil-Tec made original knives ‘back in the day’ but more recently have switched to poorer quality reproductions.

A further variant on the Safari Trooper is a three layer knife that has a clip-point blade added between spear blade and combo-tool. This was made with olive green scales for the Mauser company (around 240,000 units) and had the weapon manufacturer’s name on the additional blade and side of scale. A similar and very rare (4972 units) version of this extended version was also produced for the Walther company which had black scales.

The two-layer 77.4g Safari Pathfinder is a simplified version of the civilian equivalent to the second generation German Army Knife. As with the first generation GAK, there is no nail file (or match striker) on the combo-tool. However the back tools are excluded. There is no awl/reamer or corkscrew. So it makes for a good, compact tool that retains considerable functionality.

108mm Victorinox Safari Pathfinder (8750)- red nylon scales. Two layer knife. (designation: 0.87 50). Large blade, combo tool- woodsaw, can opener, screwdriver. There are no tools in the scales, as usual with military knives and their derivatives

108mm Victorinox Safari Pathfinder- red nylon scales. Two layer knife. (designation: 0. 8750). Large blade, combo tool- woodsaw, can opener, screwdriver and no back tools. There are no tools in the scales, as is usual with military knives and their derivatives

Victorinox Hunter, showing gutting blade

Victorinox Hunter showing gutting blade, part opened below main blade. Note that the saw is folded away here

A heavier option is the three layer 112.3g Safari Hunter that adds another blade to the Safari Trooper. This is a special curved gutting blade, equally useful for slicing vegetables and fruit in the hand. The rounded tip to the gutting blade (69mm cutting edge) makes it safer to use where there is a risk of stabbing someone, perhaps cutting off seatbelts, pack strap or clothing in the event of accident or trauma etc.

The gutting blade on the Safari Hunter was also made available with a serrated edge on the uncommon (2380 units) Fireman version. This featured crossed fireman’s axes behind the Swiss Cross logo on the scale. The fully serrated blade on this variant was intended for emergency cutting of seat belts etc. This ’emergency’ blade was also fitted to other larger knives later produced by Victorinox.

1978 safari trooper poster, also showing the stag handled model

1978 safari trooper poster, also showing the stag handled model

The  Hunter was alternatively available with real Stag antler scales (0.8780.66), later replaced by imitation antler (0.8780.06). I have never been a fan of these scales and have not sought one out. The real stag handled versions are quite uncommon, probably less than a thousand units, and may have been a trial or premium offering before the company switched to large volume production with imitation material.

The 1978 advertisement shown here illustrates just some of the range of 108mm knives on general sale to the public at that time. Presumably the less well-equipped Solo and Pathfinder didn’t find much favour with the hunting or ‘sportsmen’ fraternity.

108mm Victorinox Safari Hunter (8780)- red nylon scales. Three layer knife. (designation: 0.87 80). Large blade, gutting blade, combo tool- woodsaw, can opener, screwdriver, no nail file. Back tools- corkscrew, awl

108mm Victorinox Safari Hunter (designation: 0.8780)- red nylon scales. Three layer knife. Large blade, gutting blade, combo tool- woodsaw, can opener, screwdriver, no nail file. Back tools- corkscrew, awl/reamer

If the 112.3g Hunter is amongst the heaviest of Safari options, then the single layer 50.4g Solo is the lightest and simplest variant in the 108mm range. You couldn’t get any simpler. It just has the large single blade. If this is all you require, a blade, and no extras that make it into a multi-tool, then this is a comfortable, well sized option. This size of knife fits well in my hands and provides a blade of usable size with no great weight penalty. There was also a 52.5g Solo Plus variant (US designation- 53843) that had a corkscrew as a back tool (no awl). This last knife was originally called the Adventurer (0.8710).

Extremely rare (fifty units) was the two-layer Swiss shArK released in February 2011. This combines the tools of the Solo Plus with an extra blade- a serrated edge blade with rounded tip. The odd name is etched onto the main blade. Three Points of the Compass doubts he will ever see an example of this 81.3g knife, which is  shame as it looks a great combination. Though it would be even better if the corkscrew were exchanged for the reamer.

Victorinox Solo- red nylon scales. One layer knife. large blade, no back tools

108mm Victorinox Solo- red nylon scales. One layer knife with large blade and no back tools

So, in summary, the Victorinox 108mm range is a small yet interesting range of knives and provides just enough tools to be useful in the backcountry. No scissors, which is a game changer for many, and the knives often include a corkscrew, which is of decreasing practical use these days. However these knives remain a favourite of Three Points of the Compass if seldom actually taken on trail. I much prefer one of the smaller 58mm range from Victorinox or a Leatherman keychain tool, especially for longer hikes.

Some of the interesting ranger of 108mm knives from Victorinox

Some of the interesting range of 108mm knives from Victorinox. With either one, two or three layers. Top to bottom: Safari Solo, Safari Hunter, Safari Pathfinder, Safari Trooper, German Army Knife second generation

Many genuine Victorinox versions of the original 108mm German Army Knife and some of the latter variants are still available at reasonable prices second hand and are worth snapping up while you still can. Be aware that some of the more uncommon variants may be more difficult to track down and a premium price may be asked.

Victorinox German Army Knife and Safari derivatives

Victorinox German Army Knife and Safari derivatives

First published in 1962 and reprinted 1963, Know the Game- Camping offered sage advice to the beginner and was a collaboration with The Camping Club of Great Britain and Ireland

Organised outdoor activity in the UK- The Camping and Caravanning Club

Commemorative plaque recording the creation of The Camping Club,affixed to bridge 58 near Wantage, Berks

Enamel club badge. These were available for members to purchase from the outset. Their use was recommended to enable members to ‘recognise their fellows in the sport, and as a passport when camping on an official site’

Enamel club badges were available for members to purchase from the outset. Their use was recommended to enable members to ‘recognise their fellows in the sport, and as a passport when camping on an official site’

The metal plaque shown above is fixed to a stone and brick bridge across Letcombe Brook in Ickleton Road, Wantage. The ‘group of campers’ mentioned was small, just six in number. That simple coming together of friends, including three brothers, from 2nd -5th August 1901, was the first camp meeting of the oldest such club in the World.

Two of the people who had camped in the small English meadow- Thomas Hiram Holding and the Reverend Edward Pitt-Johnson had founded the Association of Cycle Campers earlier that year.

Holding had first experienced camping aged nine when he travelled with his parents across the United States in a wagon train and became the association’s first President. There were thirteen members initially, six of whom attended the first official camp over that four-day August bank-holiday. There were over 100 members of the club the following year and 33 of these, with friends, met for dinner in London in February 1902 to celebrate the beginning of their club. This dinner, or supper, became an annual event and the number of attendees had risen to 92 by 1909. A hundred years later the club was supporting over 500,000 members in their activities.

The Camping Club of Great Britain & Ireland, 1901, second. 1920 - 1983

Enamel badge of The Camping Club of Great Britain & Ireland, 1920 – 1983

“civility and courtesy are cheap, but purchase a great deal”

An annual winter ‘Camp Fire’ was established in 1904 with 150 members present at the first winter camp. Even then, there were camping ‘gear-heads’ and improvements in camping gear were avidly discussed. Displays of tents and equipment were arranged. Lectures and lantern slides were organised. From a total membership of 820, around 400 people attended the ‘Camp Fire’ held at West Kensington in March 1910.

“early to bed; but not too early to rise”

From 1909 members could also view ‘lightweight’ camping equipment at the club’s central office in London. The Association of Cycle Campers shared this central office with two allied clubs- the Caravan Club and the Camping Club, the latter was more for those who enjoyed camping but did not use either cycles or motor cycles for transport. The three clubs supported each other and progressed under the designation of the Camping Union. Central office moved from London to Coventry in 1990.

“if some misguided genius should invent a camping equipment that no one could find fault with, half our pleasures in life would be swept away”

Small lapel Enamel club badge. 1920 - 1983

Small lapel enamel club badge. 1920 – 1983

An annual Christmas Camp was inaugurated in 1904. Nine members pitched their tents near Chesham. This was not an exclusively male affair as four ladies were amongst the sixteen campers at the Christmas Camp at Cudham in 1909. District Associations were instituted in 1907 with the Birmingham District Association leading the way. Official campsites were created for members- 15 in 1906 of which Weybridge was the first. These had increased to 204 by 1910. One of the most popular of club meets, the Club Feast of Lanterns, was first held in Dorking in 1921. Members of the Caravan Club decorated their caravans with hand-made lanterns.

Suggested layout for an A frame tent as specified by the Amateur Camping Club in 1910

‘Ready for occupation’- Suggested layout for an A frame tent, complete with steaming kettle. Amateur Camping Club, 1910

Enamel badge with gilt surround given to new members as a goodwill gesture. 1950-1964

Enamel badge with gilt surround given to new members as a goodwill gesture. Also for presentation to friends as souvenirs. 1950-1964

The Camping Union dissolved amicably in 1909 with the Caravan Club going their own way and the remaining organisations amalgamating and extending their scope to include the needs of pedestrians, pony campers, cyclists, motor-cyclists, motor, caravan, canoeists and boat campers. The new ‘Amateur Camping Club’ was amongst the earliest of organisations formed for all members to enjoy convivial group camping activity. Membership fees were five shillings per annum. The club incorporated the Association of Cycle Campers, the Camping Club and, later, in 1910, the National Camping Club (also formed by Holding). By happy coincidence, the initials of the new association- A.C.C. were already widely known from the predecessor organisation. The Amateur Camping Club was aimed at what they termed ‘light camping’, though the equipment available at the time was no doubt considerably heftier than much available today. In 1910, one member introduced the use of a hand-cart for carrying the necessary camping equipment for him and his family of five that included three small children.

A rare survivor, A.C.C. flag that once fluttered gaily from the apex of a club members tent

A rare survivor, A.C.C. flag, or pennant, that once fluttered gaily from the apex of a club members tent

Ogden's Cigarettes. No. 2 of a series of 50 showing various club badges.

Ogden’s Cigarettes. Number 2 of a series of 50 cards showing various club badges. c1914

An Ogden’s Cigarette Card series of club badges included the official badge of the Amateur Camping Club in its selection. Also shown on this card is the first ACC Club Pennon, which measured 7 ½” x 13”, the letters A.C.C. were white on a green background with a ‘rosy’ red’ background. The club’s handbook instructed members that- “the cost and weight are very small, and it should always be used, as it adds to the appearance of the tent”. I doubt many campers today are adorning their tent with a flag fluttering in the breeze.

Captain Robert Falcon Scott was President of the Amateur Camping Club from 1909. He took the club pennon with him on his ill-fated journey to the South Pole. Following his death during his return from the pole in January 1912, he was still being recorded as Club President in 1914, news of his death only having reached England the previous year. In 1919 there were 755 members of the club.

“a ready made camping outfit is a delusion and a snare”

Enamel club badge of The Camping Club-North Warwickshire District Association,1970

Enamel club badge of The Camping Club-North Warwickshire District Association,1970

The club has always sought to aid not only well established long term members but also advise and welcome people new to the experience of camping. For many years the club stocked just about any piece of kit that the budding camper could wish for. Guides to camping, site lists and general information were regularly published. The Know the Game guide at the head of this post was approved by The Girl Guides Association and, if basic in its limited reach, was nonetheless authoritative, concentrating on safety, comfort, camp hygiene and ‘country manners’.

“choose your camping companions with care”

Three Points of the Compass has pitched up on many a Camping and Caravanning Club site. Perhaps looking a little incongruous amongst the plethora of caravans, and the subject of avid curiousity, I have always been met with friendliness and found the welcome facilities excellent

Three Points of the Compass has pitched up on many a Camping and Caravanning Club site on longer hikes. A lightweight backpacker’s setup can look somewhat incongruous amongst the plethora of caravans, and often the subject of avid curiosity. I have always been met with friendliness and invariably found the welcome facilities excellent

Youth Camping Association. post 1941

Enamel badge for the Youth Camping Association, sponsored by the Camping Club in 1941

Various other name changes to the club took place over the years. While the larger tents and caravans are a prominent sight at the club sites today, the club has not forgotten its roots. Revisiting its original 1901 incarnation, in 1944 the Association of Cycle Campers was reformed as a specialised section of the main club. In 1965 this changed to the Association of Cycle and Lightweight Campers and, finally, in 1984, to the Association of Lightweight Campers.- “a special interest section of the Camping and Caravanning Club …. no-fuss camping by cycle, foot or any type of powered transport”

Specialised sub-sections of the club have been created over the years. Cycling, canoeing, mountaineering, folk dance and song were all represented amongst others. There are now nine specialised section. The Boating Group is also affiliated to the Royal Yachting Association.

“don’t expect the use of the whole farm for the sum of sixpence per night”

Enamel badge for The Camping and Caravanning Club, post 1983

Enamel badge for The Camping and Caravanning Club, post-1983

The caravan section was formed in 1933 and ever increasing numbers of current members are now caravanners. Reflecting this change in emphasis, the parent organisation changed its name to The Camping and Caravanning Club in 1983. The club member’s badge changed in its design and name to reflect this change in emphasis. Yet another enamel badge was made available for members to purchase. Today, some forty per cent of the membership choose touring caravans though one in four of those who own a caravan also own a tent.

The Club Badge

“its use is recommended to enable members to recognise their fellows in the sport, and as a passport when camping on an official site. Its cost and weight are small”

Club Handbook, 1914

Enamel badge for members of the Motor Caravan Section of the Camping Club

Pre-1983 enamel badge for members of the Motor Caravan Section of the Camping Club

Enamel badge for members of the Motor Caravan Section, this badge reflects the change in name of the Camping and Caravanning Club

Enamel badge for members of the Motor Caravan Section, this badge reflects the 1983 change in name of the Camping and Caravanning Club

The caravan section continued to evolve, not only at last reflecting the changes in propulsion from horsepower to internal combustion but also the growing preference for self-contained and motorised recreational units and a Motor Caravan Section was formed in 1962. An annual meet for members of the sub-group is held. 2022 will see their sixtieth anniversary.

“the best position for a lady to adopt in a tent whilst dressing her hair, is kneeling. There is no difficulty then. If nobody is about, go outside”

Enamel badge for members of the Trailer Tent Group- a sub-sction of the Camping and Caravanning Club of Great Britain & Ireland

Enamel badge for members of the Trailer Tent Group- a sub-section of the Camping and Caravanning Club of Great Britain & Ireland

Enamel badge for members of The Camping and Caravanning Club, with 25 Years membership, post 1983

Enamel badge for members of The Camping and Caravanning Club, with 25 Years membership, post-1983. Continuous veteran membership was signified differently

Another sub-section was formed in 1967 with the creation of the Trailer Tent Group, the same year that the club held their first Canadian tour.

“re kit:- boil it down”

The club never abandoned backpackers however. Beside welcoming them to the great majority of sites, specific backpacking facilities have also been provided at a handful of locations.

A new style badge for the 21st century

A new style badge for Veteran members was introduced in the 21st century and levelled the prominence of tent and caravan

The Lake District’s Windermere site, Milarrochy Bay on Loch Lomond and the Hayfield site in the Peak District, provide campers with food preparation areas, indoor and outdoor seating, vented lockers, boot cleaning facilities, bicycle stands and electric points. The latter always appreciated by power starved hikers.

“don’t boast about the set of your flysheet if your tent is full of wrinkles”

Enamel badge for the camping club youth section. This is aimed at young people between the ages of 12-17

Enamel badge for the camping club youth section. This section is aimed at young people between the ages of 12-17

“To encourage in young people, particularly those of limited means, a pioneer spirit of adventure, and self reliance and closer contact with nature and the countryside by the practice of camping”

Following on from the Youth Camping Association formed by the club in 1941, a Camping Club Youth section was created to encourage younger campers and this has remained a focus of the club throughout its existence.

Suggested light kit for one, 1910

  • single tent with guys, slides and pegs
  • poles and pennon
  • single groundsheet of proofed material
  • eiderdown, with valance to tuck under body
  • ‘sirram’ saucepan-kettle stove, windscreen and spirit can
  • matches
  • small aluminium frypan
  • single canvas bucket
  • cup, plate, spoon, fork and knife
  • aluminium condiment box
  • three [proofed bags for bread, oatmeal and tea
  • down pillow
  • string bags, straps and basket

should not weigh more than 9 1/2 lbs.

“if the weather be fine and warm, there is nothing better in life than to lean over the parapet of the bridge and watch the weeds and the quick fishes”

Camping Club Recruiter. Pre 1983

Acrylic badge for Camping Club Recruiter, pre-1983

Acrylic badge for Camping & Caravanning Club Recruiter, post 1983

Acrylic badge for Camping & Caravanning Club Recruiter, post-1983

Acrylic ‘recruiter’ badges were earned by recommending another individual for new membership of the club- ‘friends recommendation’. These were cheaper produced badges than the much loved enamel badges of yore. Again, a slight change in design was introduced following the 1983 re-branding exercise. Recruiters may be doing quite well, for today, there are over 720,000 club members.

“if you snore, have a separate pitch”

'Veteran's' badge, signifying longstanding continuous membership of the Camping and Caravanning Club

‘Veteran’s’ enamel badge, awarded post-1983 to those who had achieved 25 years continuous membership of the Club

'Veteran's' enamel badge, signifying longstanding continuous membership of the Camping and Caravanning Club

‘Veteran’s’ enamel badge, signifying 25 years continuous membership of the Camping Club. Pre-1983

Club members who had completed 25 consecutive years of membership, and were eligible for state pension, could claim Veteran Membership of the Club. This gave a much reduced membership fee. This has caused vexation amongst members who have racked up considerable years of membership but may have taken a break of a year or two due to circumstances.

On the centenary of their creation, the Camping and Caravanning Club released a large button badge for their annual 'National Camping Week'

In 2001, the centenary of their creation, the Camping and Caravanning Club released a large button badge for their first annual ‘National Camping Week’

In 2019 Three Points of the Compass was completing a hike on the Cleveland Way around the North York Moors and coastline and was drawing close to the nights halt. After a windswept and wet day, I was damp, hungry and looking forward to my booked pitch on the Scarborough Camping and Caravanning site. I knew a hot shower and pristine pitch awaited. I needed to properly rest and recuperate prior to setting off on a further fifty miles across the Tabular Hills. I walked through ranks of caravans and motor units, not a tent in sight anywhere beyond a few awnings. The receptionist apologised and said he wanted to amend my booking, I sighed inwardly and wondered what was coming- “I can give you a special backpacker rate, I’m just refunding your account“. I was soon tucked away on a secluded part of the large site and given exclusive use of a family shower block. Result!

“an old campaigner is known for the simplicity and fitness of his equipment”

This, and other quotes in bold above, are ‘hints and tips’ from-

The Handbook of the Amateur Camping Club, 1914

Arrivals leaflet, Scarborough Camping and Caravanning site, 2019

Arrivals leaflet, Scarborough Camping and Caravanning site, 2019

On hikes still to come, Three Points of the Compass looks forward to the occasional break from wild-camping and will often enjoy nights on the well-appointed sites run by the club, assured of good facilities and a great welcome. I may stick out a little with a lightweight tent amongst the motor-homes, modern caravans and frame tents, but the Camping and Caravanning Club really does remain ‘The Friendly Club‘.

In 2001 The Camping Club celebrated its centenary. A second commemorative plaque was placed beside the first plaque shown at the head of this post

In 2001 The Camping and Caravanning Club celebrated its centenary. This second commemorative plaque was placed beside the first plaque shown at the head of this post

There is a timeline of many of the most important or influential UK outdoor organisations on my main website. I will be covering a number of these later in the year. Do have a glance at the list and see where today’s organisations fit in, you may even be able to suggest a glaring omission to the list!

Looking at small light pen options

Gear talk: A few grams here, a few grams there… in search of the perfect pen- again!

 

Three Points of the Compass implores anyone venturing out on to a significant hike over multiple days to document it. If only for your own use. Scribbled notes, how you feel, the people you meet, weather, the sweat on a climb, the shivers on a ridge, the ache in the feet. Anything. Believe me, in the years to come you will read those scribbled notes and many of those recorded moments will come flooding back. That said- you need something to write on and something to write with.

Fisher Stowaway Space pen in the hand

Fisher Stowaway Space pen in the hand

While I still ring the changes on which notebook I take with me on a hike. In 2015 I thought I had found my solution as regards a pen. The Fisher Stowaway was a great, lightweight little solution with a huge ink reservoir. My only issue with it was the cost. It is not outrageously expensive but not a cost I want to be shelling out too frequently. I am not one for losing things on trail, I am pretty careful and methodical. However, when I undertook a five-month hike in 2018 I lost only one item of gear the whole trip. That was my Fisher Stowaway pen, twice. I took a couple of zero days a thousand miles in to my hike, exploring the beautiful city of Chester with just a notebook and pen, the latter came adrift somewhere. I cursed and ordered another to be picked up later in the hike. A hundred miles after receiving that one, I lost it again. I won’t buy another. They are too pricey to keep replacing. This rankles with me and strange as it may seem to those who do not fret over such things, I was determined to find the solution.

Roaming the streets of Chester on a rest day, I walked unencumbered by pack and simply carried a notebook and pen. The latter was lost. The only piece of kit lost on a two thousand mile

Roaming the streets of Chester on a rest day, I walked unencumbered by pack and simply carried a notebook and pen. The latter was lost. The only piece of kit lost on a two thousand mile hike

Over the last couple of months I have been looking again at what lightweight, reliable options there are, pen-wise, for use on trail. I could simply use a nasty little throwaway bic pen, which have broken, smudged or leaked on me too many times, or a pencil. I have many great little mechanical pencils and one of the terrific Koh-i-Noor options would be fine, but it is a pen I am after.

17.3g Victorinox Scribe, with pen extended

17.3g Victorinox Scribe, with pen extended

I wasn’t exhaustive in my investigations by any means. Three Points of the Compass is a big fan of the 58mm series of knives produced by Victorinox over the years and I first considered whether to rely exclusively on one of the Swiss Army Knives that include a pen in their toolset, or even just the pen, removed from the scales, as my main writing implement.

Victorinox Scribe with minuscule pen removed

Victorinox Scribe with minuscule 0.8g pen removed

I frequently carry a 32,5g Midnite Manager from Victorinox on day hikes or of a few days, and they are great for keeping notes then; piggy-backing on the back of other tools I want with me such as blade and scissors. But the ink reservoir is tiny. It will never last the thickness of a moderate notebook. There are a number of 58mm Victorinox knives with pens, mostly in the Signature and Manager series. Probably the lightest of 58mm SAK with a pen is the Victorinox Scribe. Because it eshews scissors, only sporting a small blade, nailfile with screwdriver tip and tweezers (or toothpick) accompanying the retractable pen. This little knife comes in at just 17.3g. It is actually quite comfortable in the hand to write with. By opening the nailfile, it rests in the hand well.

Victorinox Scribe, a very basic toolset that includes a small pen

Victorinox Scribe, a very basic toolset that includes a small pen

Pen from Victorinox SwissCard

Pen from Victorinox SwissCard, this larger option from Victorinox weighs 1.2g

The pens in the 91mm range of knives and SwissCards are longer but still just as thin. There is a larger amount of ink in these but really not a great deal. If using just the Victorinox pen removed from the knife, they are great for just a few scribbled notes but I find them, quite literally, a pain to use for any extended time as their narrow width makes them uncomfortable to hold for longer note taking sessions- the end of a day write-up for example. All of these are pens are pressurised though and write quite well. Which is why I actually include one of the smaller 0.8g spare pens in my ditty bag. If I lose (again) my main pen, or it goes dry on me, I think a less than one gram spare is acceptable if probably superfluous addition. Do note that the Victorinox pens only come with blue ink, always have and it looks like they always will. I prefer black ink and blue is always going to remain a less favoured option for me.

The Victorinox 2019 SwissCard Swiss Spirit comes with a handy set of tools that includes a pen

The 26.8g Victorinox 2019 SwissCard Swiss Spirit comes with a handy set of tools that includes a pen

The True Utility telescopic pen is a lovely robust piece of kit, but the ink reservoir in the pen is tiny

The True Utility telescopic pen is a lovely robust piece of kit, but the ink reservoir in the pen is tiny. One of the replacement refills is shown next to the pen

I then looked at the most minimalist pens I could find. I keep a True Utility telescopic pen on my keyring. Reasonably priced, great for note-taking but surprisingly heavy. Now 8.2g may not sound a great deal but containing such a tiny ink reservoir, I do not think this great keychain pen is suited to backpacking.

True, it does telescope out to a decent length, but the slippery tapering barrel is not particularly comfortable to write with for longer periods. Also that cap in which it is posted, if not attached to anything it is very easy to mislay. I had the same problem with the Inka pens I used to use while backpacking a decade ago. A pen to keep confined to my Every Day Carry I believe.

Even if not suited to backpacking, the True Utility telescopic pen makes a great EDC item, here on my keychain next to a cut down Blackwing 602 pencil

Even if not suited to backpacking, the True Utility telescopic pen makes a great EDC item, here on my keychain next to a cut down Blackwing 602 pencil

The Ohto Minimo is probably the smallest retractable ball point pen on the market

The Ohto Minimo is probably the smallest retractable ball point pen on the market

Ohto Minimo pen

2.7g Ohto Minimo pen

Next up was the cheap-n-cheerful, aptly named, Ohto Minimo ball point pen. This has a 0.5mm line width, is tiny and also comes with a thin little plastic card with pen sleeve that can be slotted into or stuck to just about anything. The clear plastic card is a little larger than most western business cards or credit cards so needs to be trimmed before it will fit a wallet. The work of just a few seconds with a pair of scissors. Refills for the pen are easily available but as the body of this pen is only 3.7mm thick, I again found it too thin to write with for extended periods. It’s weight though is incredible- less than 3g!

I wasn’t getting far in my meagre examination of miniscule pens. Rather than splash out on yet another, I decided to review where I was. I want a lightweight pen, I want black ink, I want reliability, I want affordability and I want it to last a reasonable write length. This all bought me back to my original Fisher Spacepen. Fisher do a pretty good range of pens but it was only the minimalist Stowaway that was ticking all the boxes. How about simply using a refill, by itself? The large ink capacity means that the body is thicker than the tiny little pens I had been looking at. I experimented for a couple of weeks using one to write with every day at work and home but still found the body too slim and a pain to hold for any length of time. Also the smooth body meant it would slip in my grip meaning I had to grasp it more tightly, making it more uncomfortable for extended periods.

Fisher Spacepen refills are easily available, in different ink colours and line thickness

Fisher Spacepen refills are easily available, in different ink colours and line thickness

Fisher Spacepen refill with shrinkwrap sleeve

Fisher Spacepen refill with shrink-wrap sleeve- weight: 3.7g

Some time ago I bought some electricians shrink tubing for wrapping the tops of my shepherds hook tent stakes, the bright red colour increasing visibility in long grass. What if I tried shrinking some of this around the refill body? Five minutes later I had my answer- result! It is easy to do this, cut a length of shrink-wrap, slide over the pen and gently run a hairdryer over it while turning the pen.

The pen is now very slightly wider-  some 6.5mm.  And doesn’t slip in my grip. I originally tried shrinking a length along the whole body, while this worked, I wondered if I could shave off another gram by trimming it to the essential.

Reducing the amount of shrinkwrap on the Fisher refill makes very little difference to the end-weight

Reducing the amount of shrink-wrap on the Fisher refill makes very little difference to the end-weight, this weighs 3.6g

A bare and unencumbered Fisher Spacepen refill weighs 3.4g, shrink-wrapping its length increases this to 3.7g, shortening the shrink-wrapping to a minimum had the negligible effect of reducing it to 3.6g, so barely worth it.

At least for the foreseeable future, that is it for me. For multi-day hikes I have a reliable pen at a decent weight that I can write with for reasonably extended periods though it shall never be as comfortable as a ‘proper’ barrelled pen. In addition, cos I’m a belt’n’braces guy, I have a little Victorinox refill in my ditty bag. For shorter hikes I can favour one of the Victorinox knife options that includes a pen, or if carrying a knife other than a Victorinox (it has been known), take one of the Victorinox pen refills.

It is of course possible to keep a recorded account of a hike on your phone- either as film, audio or in digital note form. However there is genuinely something tactile and pleasant in a dog eared, stained notebook, complete with bits stuffed into the flaps and hurried notes on bus and train times, who it is you have to meet when, resupply lists and phone numbers. I ask, write it down rather than relying on the digital- analogue rules in this format.

A range of lightweight pen options for backpacking

A range of lightweight pen options for backpacking

Opisometer in case stamped Edward Stanford Charing Cross

Map measurer of the month- Stanford’s opisometer

 

Bone handled opisometer with finely turned finial

Bone handled opisometer with finely turned finial

An opisometer is a curious instrument. As soon as you handle one it is pretty obvious how it works. A handle, in this case made of bone, probably from a cow, with a small milled wheel that turns easily on a supported fine thread. There is also a small metal pointer to aid in locating whatever it is you are measuring.

An opisometer is easy to use with irregular lines on a map or drawing

An opisometer is easy to use with irregular lines on a map or drawing

What is essential is a scale to read off against once a line has been precisely tracked. You wind the wheel to one end of the thread, then wheel it along a line on a map, or along any distance you are measuring, then turn the wheel backwards against a known scale. With maps, the scale usually appears at the bottom. Simple to use and effective. Opisometers are still made today but seldom for use with maps, more as an aid in the medical or surveying worlds.

Stanfords Opisometer in small leather carry case

Stanfords opisometer in small leather carry case

Opisometer advertised in a 'Dictionary of British Scientific Instruments', by the British Optical Instrument Manufacturers' Association. 1921

Opisometer advertised in a ‘Dictionary of British Scientific Instruments’, by the British Optical Instrument Manufacturers’ Association. 1921

Having first stated as an employee of Trelawney Saunders at 26-27 Cockspur Street, Charing Cross, London in 1848, Edward Stanford became a partner in 1852. This business relationship never lasted the year however and Stanford became sole proprietor in 1853, expanding his shop, that sold maps and charts, to 7-8 Charing Cross. The business further expanded and a printing works in nearby Trinity Place was purchased. Stanfords became the map maker and seller in London. Now situated at 7 Mercer Walk, Covent Garden, they still enjoy an enviable reputation to this day supplying maps for countless expeditions across the globe.

As well as maps and charts, Stanfords sold many accessories including map measurers. The opisometer shown here is unlikely to have actually been made by Stanfords. It was likely supplied to them by a manufacturer of fine mathematical or surveying instruments. It is difficult to date, certainly they were being sold in the 1870s and the example shown probably dates from around then, but examples were still available for purchase for much of the first half of the twentieth century. Though an all metal construction became more in favour at the turn of the century.

The opisometer is pretty generic in design. Other sellers of surveying and mathematical equipment would also have stocked these, each seller having their own address stamped onto the bespoke leather case that held these quite delicate instruments. The Stanford example is quite small when compared against others that were available. It measures just 97mm (3 13/16″) in length. The turned and pointed finial on the end of the bone handle shows that this is an English made instrument as each country had their own particular design. It will measure a line 958mm (37 3/4″), so over a yard/almost a metre, which is quite remarkable for such a small instrument.

Small Stanfords opisometer (top) with larger opisometer supplied by Elliott Brothers who were making these instruments in the late nineteenth century

Small Stanford’s opisometer (top) with larger similar opisometer supplied by Elliott Brothers who were making these instruments in the late nineteenth century. The bottom example dates between 1853-1873