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The origin of Harvey 1:40,000 maps.

Updated: May 2

Ever wondered where the Harvey Maps 1:40,000 map scale came from and why?

This story is by Mike Parsons, formerly owner of Karrimor, who sponsored the map as the KIMM event sponsor, later renamed OMM, Original Mountain Marathon. 

A few years ago, Harvey Maps introduced a new map type called the XT40 or the ULTRA MAP, a 1”40,000 scale that folds and fits easily into a pocket. It is a very small format folded into almost a quarter of the normal map size, and its narrow width allows you to keep your thumb on your position, like an orienteering map.

In 1976, I was lying safely in my tent at the KIMM 2-day Mountain Marathon overnight camp in Galloway, SW Scotland. As the heavens opened, rain sluiced down at 6 pm, and dark enveloped all. We saw the lights of runners coming down the hillside: runners were attempting to fight through the forest and around the lake. The lucky ones hit a track unmarked on the map; the unlucky ones were timed out of the competition. The organiser, Gerry Charnley, had assumed that the new Ordnance Survey 1:50,000 scale introduced that year would be a new survey.  It wasn’t – it was simply the old 1 inch to one-mile map resized.

The 1977 KIMM saw the whole competition held in the Howgills on a new 1:40,000 scale map. This was a breakthrough because, at that time, the Howgills area was split over no less than four published Ordnance Survey maps, so running an event in it was impossible. The OS did not produce custom maps at all in this period.

Here is how it came together.

Gerry Charnley came to ask me ( as Karrimor) if I would sponsor a new map. Having experienced the campsite firsthand as a competitor in the Galloway event myself, I immediately said ‘yes’. A few months later, he returned triumphantly and said, ‘We have agreed on a new 1:40,000 scale.’ He explained that it enabled the right size of the physical paper map to get the whole area on a sheet small enough to be handled by competitors. 

Here, for the first time, is the inside story from Robin Harvey, co-founder of Harvey Maps (quote from his email, 1st June 2016) 

I remember it well from 1976. Getting across that marsh and 6-foot-deep ditches to the campsite was tough—without knowing there was a forestry road so close. That inspired us to propose to Gerry that we could do something better. 

I had just finished a photogrammetry course at Glasgow University. I created the WOC ( World Orienteering Champs ) maps for the event in Scotland (the first-ever WOC hald outside Scandinavia).) We planned to try setting up a full-time business mapping for orienteering maps, and a mountain navigation map was a great idea.  

We spent the winter of 76/77 discussing a potential mountain map specification with Gerry. I was keen to use the unusual scale of 1:40,000 as a compromise between the traditional 1:25,000 and 1:50,000 scales. The map would be compact but large enough to show the important details.

The cost was a big issue. We reckoned we could make it work if part of the initial cost were covered ( hence the need for sponsorship), and the map was subsequently marketed as the first in a new series of recreation maps. Gerry was keen and approached you, Mike, as the Karrimor sponsor. 

We always knew we would have to generate enough maps in the series to make the whole thing viable.  Initially, it was the KIMM maps, but we added others over time.  We didn’t know how many we would need to make a viable business. 

Since then, we have continued with both 1:40,000 and 1:25,000 scales.  Our Superwalkers at 1:25,000 do well, but I am glad that the original 1:40,000 scale still has a lot of support.  The BMC wanted it for the British Mountain Maps; our National Trail maps have always used it.  It is the ideal scale for the new ‘pocket perfect’ XT40 Ultramaps.

For more on Harvey Maps More on the KIMM


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