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Modern Map-Making

Image for article Modern Map-Making

JON WICKHAM, our Equipment and Accessories Buyer, asks map-maker PETER KNOWLES about the Topographical Map of the Lake District Wainwright Fells.

Please tell us a bit about yourself and how you got into map making?
I live and work in Keswick, and have been running Rivers Publishing for some 25 years. We mainly publish canoeing guidebooks, and in recent years a few maps; one of our maps, the Canoe and Kayak Map of Britain, is a national bestseller. I am a keen fell walker and felt that with the mapping expertise of our design team we should produce a modern map of the Wainwright fells.

How do you start producing a map like this?
Well, firstly we try to analyse what our users want. From this starting point we decide what size the map should be, what scale, then what information to show and most importantly what to leave off. Our objective throughout is to have a map that is as clear and user friendly as possible.

Modern map making has changed a lot in the last few years, and obviously it’s all done on a computer. Firstly our cartographer, Don Williams, takes the Ordnance Survey 1:250,000 geodata and stitches several mosaic files together. The files are a bit like using Photoshop, and each detailed file has about 60 layers. These are big files and need a lot of computer power – twenty years ago this would have been expensive and difficult, but now it is all very possible if you have the expertise. The next stage is to delete a lot of the superfluous layers, for example boundaries, so we then have a relatively clean and simple base map.

Now comes the fun part - Don and I sit in front of the computer and play with the colours of the topographic layers to try to enhance the shape and height of the Lake District Fells – very satisfying if you get it right, and I have to say I think we did. We have the map displayed on our ground floor and a lot of customers admire it!

It’s not all fun because now comes the boring bit – we have to add the extra detail, including a lot of the fell names and the starting points. Then we check and double-check everything to make sure that we haven’t missed anything. Once we are happy with the finished map, then we send off the computer file to our printers in Lancashire and the finished maps go to our distributors.

How has the map been received?
Very well, thanks, people seem to like it - Leo Houlding gave it our first endorsement, and people like Steve Birkinshaw and Sir Chris Bonington have all said some nice things about it.

The Topographical Map of the Lake District Wainwright Fells is available online, and in store at £8.95 and is a great present for any Wainwright bagger!

20 June 2017 by Jon Wickham

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