The Lure of Completeness

Some of us have an urge to collect things. There’s nothing wrong with that, however the danger is that it (almost) inevitably turns into a urge (or a compulsion) to collect complete sets of things.

Mountains for instance.  There are lots of lists of mountains - from Eight-Thousanders (peaks over 8000m, I’ll never tick anything off on that list) via Munros, Wainwrights to Marilyns and Donalds (have done some on all of these lists). Wherever there is a finite list to be ticked off, people will strive to tick them off.

The same goes for stations on the London Underground or countries - there are people at the moment making plans to get to Dagenham East or Kiribati.  I’m equally sure that there is someone just about to ‘get’ the final lifeboat station on the UK coast.

And while I might have vague ideas about completing any of these lists I too have my collection weakness.  I have probably been to or through every railway station in Scotland but my real enduring weakness is maps. 

I can’t go anywhere - or even plan to go anywhere - without seeking out a proper old-fashioned paper map.  This digital stuff is fine for finding the nearest Starbucks (other coffee shops are available), but to get a sense of a place, folding out a big sheet of paper is the thing to do.  And woe betide you if I catch you refolding a map wrong - you have been warned.

In Great Britain we are extra-ordinarily fortunate to have wonderful maps of the entire country - I sort of assumed that every country had maps of this quality.  I may have reservations about the early history of the Ordnance Survey (the British Army needed a decent map of the Scottish Highlands to help in subjugating the dissenting Jacobites), but it’s difficult to criticise the maps they produce these days.

Over the years I’ve gathered up quite a big collection of Ordnance Survey maps at all scales - but particularly 1:50,000 Landranger and 1:25000 Explorer maps.  There are 204 Landranger maps and 403 Explorer maps.  

And therein lies the problem - these sorts of numbers are perfect collection targets.  A set of half-a-dozen anythings doesn’t really present a meaningful challenge - a set of thousands of anythings probably feels like too big a target.

One day I might get round to the full Explorer series, but in the short term the Landranger series is a more approachable target, particularly the Landranger maps of Scotland (there are only 85 of these).  And as a way of justifying filling in the gaps in my collection, I’m planning walks and photographs in each of the sheets I’ve not visited recently.

I’ll get the Scottish Landranger project finished in the foreseeable future - the question then is what next? - the England, Wales (and Manx) Landrangers or completing Scotland (again) at Explorer scale?

Doesn’t everyone have a box of OS maps at the end of their desk?




Dumfries and Galloway, October 2017

The October instalment of my Landranger Project was in Dumfries and Galloway, a bit of Scotland I think I ought to know, but really don’t.
I must have been driven (as a youngster) across Dumfries and Galloway dozens of times travelling to or from Stranraer en route to Northern Ireland, but I’ve only got one recollection of staying in the area.  That one stay ensured that Talnotry in the Galloway Forest has, in my family at least, always been associated with vast swarms of midges.

Sheet 76: Girvan
The southern part of the Clyde Coast is dominated by Ailsa Craig – renowned for its bird life (particularly gannets) and for the Blue Hone granite that is the traditional stuff of curling stones.

Sheet 76: Ailsa Craig

Sheet 77: Dalmellington and New Galloway
The Galloway Forest covers most of this sheet, I choose to avoid Talnotry this time, and head to one of the quieter areas at the west end of the Forest Park.  Some of the visitor centres are very activity-based but the area around around Glen Trool is much more peaceful.

Sheet 77: Loch Trool

Sheet 82: Stranraer & Glenluce
Stranraer used to be the main route to/from Northern Ireland – and the last time I visited I had travelled to Stranraer on an overnight train from the south of England and had been able to walk from the railway platform just a few yards across the pier and straight onto a SeaLink ferry to Larne. Not these days – there are only occasional local trains to the station (which is still at the end of the pier) but there aren’t any boats at all – all the boats head for Cairnryan a few miles up Loch Ryan.
As you head south from Stranraer down the Rhins, the place starts to feel more and more like an island – and at the southern tip you get to a very traditional looking Stevenson-built lighthouse.

Sheet 82: Mull of Galloway Lighthouse

Sheet 83: Newton Stewart & Kirkcudbright
The Solway Coast is one that has changed many times over the centuries - once upon a time the Isle of Whithorn really was an island, but now it is a village near the southern tip of one of the many Solway headlands.  It has also long been a place of pilgrimage with documentation reaching back over 2000 years - one of the local landmarks is St Ninian’s Chapel which was at one time a stopping off point for pilgrims on their way to the priory at nearby Whithorn.

Sheet 83: St Ninian's Chapel, Isle of Whithorn

Sheet 84: Dumfries & Castle Douglas

I think everyone needs an island retreat.  This includes the Black Douglases (somewhat disreputable characters that may or may not appear somewhere on my family tree) who built their island retreat on a small, but readily defended, island in the middle of the River Dee.

Sheet 84: Threave Castle, Castle Douglas