Maps. I have always hated them. Now don't get me wrong, I like a treasure map, with fancy tea-stained paper and sections marked 'ere be dragons', but unfortunately you don't generally tend to navigate with these in real life. No, we're left with a million coloured lines and incomprehensible symbols bearing little relation to what you can actually see. Then there's the added complication of having to use maths or a compass to actually use them, neither of which are welcome complications when you find yourself lost.
However, clearly someone out there thinks the same as me, because these days they come with apps. Maps with apps! This means I no longer have to guess if I'm in the right place, I can check.
When I started studying in Wales my parents very optimistically gave me their old Welsh maps for me to navigate with. I promptly left them in the boot of my car until I discovered them turned into a kind of mush due to an as-yet undiscovered leak. I have for a long time thought of maps as the preserve of obstinate technophobes with no trust in GPS. However, lockdown has left most of us restricted in our movements and more familiar with our immediate surroundings.
My technique was simple: find spots on the map with as few buildings as possible and aim for them, in the hopes of finding a space where no one can cough on me. I had 2 weeks of saved up holiday to use, so I did it. Next I aimed for bits with little trees on them, and hills (Shrewsbury is a flat little mud bowl, despite what the locals insist).
The trickiest part for me was finding a hill, which involved tracking back through the most densely populated spot in the area to get to the other side which comes with the hazards of people who – rather than go for the 2 metre rule – try to physically assault you as they run past.
The results were amazing though. For the first time in a long while, I could hear that rare and magical sound...silence! Better still, when it stopped I was surrounded by birds and beasties I hadn't seen in ages. Treecreepers, Jays, Goldcrests, birds that generally disappear when someone points them out. (My garden is an exposed killing station for our murderous cat, only the bravest pigeons dare venture in.)
So, this is a call to arms to everyone out there with a fear of maps, it's not as scary as it used to be – you have options now! The rewards are space, beasties, views and a vague understanding of where your own house is. Get out there.