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?

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