Mapping and Navigation

Things have changed

I've a set of OS Maps for the Brecon Beacons and for Snowdonia National Park, the latter set are probably 20 years old (or more) and haven't been used a great deal. However one of the things you do before planning a way is to have a look at maps, what you need etc and so you can have a look at the route.

Ordnance Survey how have OS Maps which for a relatively small fee provides you with digital access to Ordnance Survey Maps at the right scales, primarily the 1:25000 that most walkers on the hills tend to use.

To build routes in OS Maps, you need to have a paid for subscription, which is currently £19.99 per annum though I only paid £17.99 during a special offer period in January. Though it seems expenses, it's a lot cheaper than the paper version and also allows to add in the routes you want. You do need to be a subscriber, rather than just a registered user:

  • you can print the 1:50000 and 1:25000 maps
  • import and export routes

Importing GPX Files

The GPX Files for the Cambrian Way are available for download which is very handy for any potential walkers, whether you are intending to use a GPS, or not. Before digging out my old Garmin eTrex bought for Geocaching a few years ago with the kids, I'd thought I'd go traditional and make some maps.

You can import GPX files to OS Maps. I had some issues, very similar to the ones documented on Single Track World forums but the Cambrian Way GPX files seem to be clean. You just need to make sure that you are logged on as a 'subscriber' rather than just a registered user.

Section 1 of the Cambrian Way shared from OS Maps

I made a local copy of the GPX files on my laptop, so that I could play around with them if I needed to. In OSMaps, select Routes from the top menu and from the emerging left hand menu, select Import GPX. You'll be then prompted to select a file from your laptop, with an option to make it Private (I'll assume then the default is public).

Printing the Routes

Prior to printing out maps of the route, I'd recommend editing the route (and you'll have about 18 sections of the Cambrian Way, with the variants on top), so that you don't get the thick red line as the route. Select Edit and from the new top menu select Style. I chose the 2nd thickest line, purple as the colour (no purple on a 1:25000 map normally) and make it slight transparent, so you can see any right of way/footpath information underneath on the map. You'll need to save both the style change and a Save on the main (lefthand) menu, before print it.

When you select Print you'll get a number of choices. I didn't include the waymarks, but given they might line up with your GPS, you could leave them on. I also did not include the Route Card as not of real use. Make sure you've got the map scale set to 1:25000 and select Portrait or Landscape depending on what gives you the most coverage. I tried to make sure the route was in the middle of the map, allowing for some off route adjustments to be made and that there was some overlap. I printed the first Section from Cardiff to Risca on 8 sheets, at 1:25000.

Cambrian Way Route 11 on OS Maps

The PDF files also come out quite nicely as A4 sheets (you can select A3) though I've not printed them yet to determine final print quality.

Cambrian Way Section 11 part 1 printed

In total ended up with 104 sheets to print, which I'll look to do double sided and make sure I've got some numbering in place if possible. Some of them I might not be needed (as the book and local knowledge should be enough). Though 50 sheets of A4 might be a bit heavy, though if I use lightweight paper it should be around 250g based on a paper weight calculator as I don't plan to use the finest quality vellum. I think it's mentioned by a previous walker than the maps come in at 1.5kg, so this is a bit lighter. Also rather than having to post back, it makes toilet paper, though with the risk of a fairly colourful bottom.

And a compass...

The Silva compass was the mainstay of navigation when walking back in the 70's and 80's but alas the GPS has made it redundant for some. I do have one in the house, but just in case I can't find it, I've ordered another one. Eurohike ones look okay and at £3 can you go wrong. Of course you can and I have a strong affinity to the Silva brand having spent hours doing map work in the classroom and in the field when in the Scouts. Still like to think I know what I'm doing with a map.

But then the maps I've produced have something missing, which is the variaton (or deviation) between Grid North, True North and Magnetic North. This is explained nicely on the Ordnance Survey website. Ordnance Survey get their figures from the British Geological Survey (BGS) who have a handy calculator. My house in Bwlch currently has magnetic north 1 degree, 4 minutes west of grid north. Which is a small enough tolerance to be within accuracy when taking a compass reading.

[Cambrian Way Flickr Album](