Map & Land Features

Map & Land Features

Learning to identify map features and be able to spot them on the ground is a key map reading skill to learn

Map and Land Features

A skill of good navigation is the ability to look at your surroundings and recognise which features are going to be on the map, and pick them out on the map itself. Likewise, selecting features from the map and being able to find them on the landscape itself. Being able to do this to some extent is not difficult, as we can all spot a stream, road, track, bridge etc. Then there are degrees of subtlety, from stream junctions to a minor flattening of contours and being able to spot these on map and land too. Practice definitely makes perfect.

The next time you plan a route, draw a thin line in pencil on your map, then follow the line and circle the features that you expect to see on the way. It’s not just immediate features; look in the distance too. Can you see a group of trees marked on the map? You’d expect to see these on the ground too. Are there any small tarns or lochans marked? These too you should be able to spot on the landscape. It’s amazing what you’ll see when you look.

This skill is a key feature of what would be called map reading. Not navigation per se, but the skill of making the link between map and land. You can look at a map and look at the land, but can you ‘see’ the features on each?

Practising this skill in the valley is easier, as there are generally more features to spot, whereas when you climb higher there are generally fewer obvious features. Thus, practice at low level and advance up the hill when your skills develop. Practice and you’ll crack it.

Example Map

Click here for a news story, which contains a sample map.