Can't read a map? You should be fired
“I DON’T know how to read maps - it’s before my time.”
I was appalled to hear several candidates on The Apprentice blurting out why, due to their age, they could not read a map
What a great shame. Maps are wonderful things - as a child I loved looking at maps. I would pour over roads, rivers and hills, homing in on different villages and towns.
I liked following the paths of river tributaries and the contours of upland areas, and I loved all the symbols - churches with towers or steeples, view points, the crossed swords denoting sites of battles, post offices and the little tents at camp sites.
When we visited the Lake District my dad took us on long hikes, following routes he devised using Ordnance Survey maps. The map hung in a waterproof map wallet around his neck. When we got home at the end of the day I liked to spread the map out and retrace our route, imagining the terrain we had crossed.
Maps are the reason I grew to like geography so much and went on to study the subject at university.
Now, sadly, they are rarely used, with people preferring the ease of mapping apps on mobile phones.
Motorists in particular no longer use them, preferring sat nav systems. I must be a rarity in having a glove box in my car stuffed with maps. I still pull over to ask directions, which isn’t always easy, and no doubt many would say unsafe, but I’d rather that than have to listen to a robot telling me where to go for the entire journey.
There’s another reason why we shouldn’t be so quick to dismiss maps. Turning off the GPS and using maps could help fight dementia, a study suggests.
Researchers found that orienteering - which draws upon navigational skills, memory and movement - could be a useful tool in preventing cognitive decline.
A study by a team from McMaster University, Ontario, concluded that map reading can stimulate parts of the brain that our ancestors used for hunting and gathering.
Map reading is a skill, there’s no doubt. My dad was an expert, abke to follow old trods and byways to make up varied, interesting walks.
I am not quite so competent. In the wilds of the North Yorks Moors, Dales or Lake District, I sometimes find it easier to follow written instructions on a walk. But I always take an OS map to back those up and to give an overview of where we are. And, as I said, I love to settle down with a map and look at where we’ve been later on.
I wouldn’t trust GPS in the wilds, as many do - what if the signal fails?
In urban areas I find street maps the easiest way to navigate. I’ve just bought a new A-Z of London because my old one - which I have used since I was a student - is falling apart. On my last visit to the city I forgot to take it and resorted to my phone. With the small display screen, and the fact that I kept having to refresh it, I couldn’t get my bearings in the dark, got hopelessly lost and had to be rescued by my daughter. With a conventional map in my hand, that would never have happened.
No doubt The Apprentice candidates are familiar with Google Maps - someone should tell them that actual maps are very much the same, only on paper, or, if you’re very lucky, linen.
We owe so much to maps, we should treasure them and use them.
‘I can’t read maps,’ the candidates say. Were I Lord Sugar, I wouldn’t hire any of them for that reason alone.