Here be Dragons ….

A familiar phrase …. based on the medieval practice of putting dragons and all other kinds of creatures (real or imagined), in the uncharted areas of maps.
Cartography, or map making, which has had a long and fascinating history over the centuries, has often in the past given more scope to artistic licence than accuracy.
From Ptolemy in the 2nd century, via efforts such as Hereford Cathedral’s ‘Mappa Mundi’, to our present day Ordnance Survey we have been steadily getting better maps – and most worldwide falsehoods and ambiguities have been corrected.

But the story isn’t over yet by any means.

In a digital age it is perhaps surprising that our public rights of way still have to be recorded on physical maps held in County Council offices.
In theory, a right of way doesn’t exist if it’s not on your local ‘definitive’ map – and come 2026 in accordance with the Countryside Rights of Way (CROW) Act it may even disappear.

Of course, many people have been digitising maps for some time now – and GPS wielding Ramblers have been using them. Councils are in this game too, adopting multifarious software – but they stress that the physical ‘definitive’ map overrides all.

Room for any dragons here ?

Room for any dragons here ?

Local councils are under increasing pressure to maintain and accurately record our footpaths – on the map and on the ground. The Ramblers however had to resort to ‘Freedom of Information’ (FOI) requests to obtain information for their ‘Paths in Crisis’ report. Why should this be ?

We can rely on adapted maps, created under copyright free legislation, but we still have to beware of (metaphorical) dragons.

Is not open access needed to all our rights of way data from one digital authoritative source ?
Does the data belong to each county council or the public at large ?

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B is a great destination

According to the dictionary, to ramble means to wander aimlessly.

Not strictly true of course, since most walkers try to get back to the place where they started.

But there’s nothing quite like a linear walk – from A to B.

The great exploring pioneers of history didn’t make their name by wandering around in circles. They pressed on with a clear aim to get somewhere else.Image

OK….so Britain has been fairly well explored by now – but there can still be a buzz in walking towards a different destination to the one from which you started. You can get a real sense of achievement in finishing 20 miles away rather than meandering around your starting point.

Leave the car behind and discover the wonderful world of public transport. You’ll need it to get home.

After all, it was good enough for that great rambler, Alfred Wainwright.

There are good value day tickets – the Derbyshire Wayfarer, the Greater Manchester Wayfarer – that give fairly unlimited travel on buses and trains in the Peak.

If you’re not in a rush to get home we’re well placed in Derbyshire for the greatest of our national trails – the Pennine Way.

The M1 will only get you to Leeds, as will the HS2 train one day – but there is life north of Leeds.

Stepping on to the 265 mile Pennine Trail at Edale  you are guaranteed a quiet, beautiful direct walk to Scotland and will meet some great people on the way. It’s a tough walk and the weather may not always be pleasant – but you’ll get a free half pint at the Border Inn in Kirk Yetholm from  hospitable Scots who will be pleased to see you.

Give yourself a couple of weeks to get there and return by the east coast train from Berwick.

The economics of the bus pass

Chesterfield Parish Church, Derbyshire

Not all walkers are pensioners with free bus passes – but quite a few are.

In this age of austerity there appears to be  a growing background noise, very often from the better off in society, suggesting that the unemployed, the low paid, and the pensioner should be doing more to help the country out of its financial hole.

The bus pass is an easy target, but few think about the economics around it, let alone search for the underlying statistics. Perhaps before the next election we will have opinions based on facts.

Those facts should highlight that the marginal cost of the bus pass scheme is low. After 9:30 am pensioners, especially in rural areas, are occupying seats that would otherwise be empty. Many free journeys would not be made if a charge was made for them.

This would lead to bus companies cutting services – unless a subsidy came from elsewhere.

Both town and country would be affected.

The local Ramblers Group often do pay to get out into the Peak District – because starting your walk after 9:30 am, particularly in mid-winter, is not feasible. The 8:35 bus to Great Hucklow yesterday contained 17 walkers paying the princely sum of £4.40 each. Only one non-walker was on the bus. Pensioners do sometimes pay full whack for using a bus before 9:30 and subsidising the system in their own individual way.

The fact is that people living or working in rural areas fortunate enough to have a car are unlikely to pay for bus travel. This means that in order to keep any semblance of public transport in those areas there has to be a subsidy from somewhere.

Other facts on the free bus pass should reveal that it encourages pensioners to switch off the central heating, get out and about, giving a bit of a boost to the local economy and improving their own mental health and sense of well-being. Visits to our national parks often result in a bit of exercise, aiding physical health.

View near Great Hucklow, Derbyshire 16 Jan 2013

If free travel were not available, pensioners with cars would use them instead, adding to increased  pollution and congestion on our roads.

Let’s get walkers of all ages into the Peak. They will feel better for it and the benefits will be widespread.

Yesterday, people had the choice of sitting at home cold and miserable watching breakfast TV and worrying about the problems of the world. Or they could climb above the low-lying mist to the sunlit uplands of the Peak to enjoy a healthy walk, followed by a drink at a pub or coffee house….thanks to the last government for its low cost bus scheme.

Anyone who seeks to remove it in the future will not be popular.