One day, at the end of autumn last year, I planned a visit to a castle on the coast built by Henry the Eighth and, fearing that I might have some walking to do, I did something extraordinary.
Under my desk I have a stack of large sheets of paper folded down to roughly the size of a book which are printed, typically on one side, with strange symbols, long lines and numerous names. I reached down and selected the one coded ‘OL22’ and named ‘New Forest’ and opened it out.
For as long as I can remember I have been fascinated with maps. Once one has the capacity to decode them it is possible to visit different places -in one’s head. I have another map open now – Landranger 185: Winchester and Basingstoke area – and without leaving my desk I can ‘see’ the woods, hills and narrow lanes of the country around Winchester.
This old fashioned, low-tech, method of surveying the country from one’s chair has almost passed into the mists of time. Yes, today it is possible to review maps on the internet on a device of one’s choice. But where has the fun gone? I can ask Google to deliver a map on my screen of Royal Leamington Spa. But will I be able to run my eye over the surrounding countryside, and note that there is a red triangle near Stratford-upon-Avon which indicates a Youth Hostel? Maybe, but not so easily as one would with a paper map. And not with that ‘crackle’ so redolent of large sheets of paper being folded.
Times move on, and so perhaps does technology. But consider this; if the power station at SU475025 ever has to close down I may not have the electricity to power my internet device. But I don’t need electricity to reach under my desk…