Ken Brockway, Footpath Inspector
This article is from Signpost 68, Summer 2021
I don't claim to fully understand what I'm about to comment upon. It appears that technology is moving faster as I slow down. I started using GPS navigation some time back offering the excuse that I found it easier than reading glasses and a paper map. I still did and do laboriously plot a walk route on screen then upload the track to the Garmin.
Recently while working on Slow Ways I used OS Maps Online and discovered the snapping tool. This can be annoying if you prefer, like me, to do your own thing. As the name suggests it snaps your route planning to pre-programmed paths. I've now been introduced to Komoot which claimed to be “The best planner for cycling and hiking”. Well, I haven't followed it up to find out. A search also reveals Strava, both appear to be primarily for cyclists and routes on roads.
I'm delighted to discover younger members of my family enjoy getting out for a walk but do they use a map? The usual request is 'can you recommend a walk' and I upload a route to Google to be followed on the phone. So where you may ask am I going with this?
Having started walking with paper maps in the days of neglected paths, unfortunately still here in places, I perhaps know what to look for and where to look. That stile hidden in a thick overgrown hedge or the unmarked path across a huge field of wheat. The new generation of walkers want the same convenience they have in the car. Follow the on screen instructions ignore the roadside signs, even when it says 'unsuitable for motor vehicles', the satnav is always right.
Google and others already know how busy our local supermarket is and where there are jams on the road because we tell them where we are. Open Street Map is a useful source of information about where folk are walking so when the online maps start to show where we are when out in the countryside what will they show? Will the programs, apps or algorithms offer the definitive line of a path or the walked route?
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