Bluffers who have never examined a map closely before may find the experience daunting. There’s no need to worry, though, because every map comes with its own key to unlock the mystery.
If you’re just stepping out, the important symbols to look out for are:
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Green dotted or dashed lines These are footpaths or bridleways (of which, more later). Hikers pretend to follow these. Those following grey dotted or dashed lines are usually found following borough or county council boundaries.
Blue lines Either motorways or rivers. One of the better ways of distinguishing between the two is to look out for service stations. Most rivers don’t have service stations.
Red triangles Both ‘red’ and ‘triangle’ usually mean danger. On a map it means ‘Youth Hostel’. Avoid these at all costs unless you want to be asphyxiated by the aroma emanating from 89 pairs of socks belonging to teenagers who failed to convince their parents that the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award scheme was not their idea of fun.
FB (Footbridge) A bit like rural buses – there’s never one around when you need it. Always check your map to see if your path crosses a blue wavy line. If there isn’t an ‘FB’ marked next to it, take a detour, unless you enjoy swimming.