Chartbuster: cyclist rides 7,000 miles across every Ordnance Survey map

Mark Wedgwood traverses territory covered by every one of the 204 Landrangers and says none of his trousers fit any more

Beloved by armchair explorers and outdoors enthusiasts alike, Ordnance Survey’s Landranger maps have inspired countless adventures.

But for one keen cyclist they sparked a challenge that is almost certainly a first: riding across every map in Great Britain in a journey of more than 7,000 miles (11,250km).

Mark Wedgwood’s pedal-powered odyssey traversed every one of the Landranger series’ 204 maps in numerical order, from Shetland to Cornwall, took six months to complete and covered 26 separate coast-to-coast journeys through Scotland, England, Wales and the Isle of Man.

“I’ve never felt better,” said the 55-year-old. “It’s done me an enormous amount of good in every sense, and I have the happy problem that none of my trousers fit me any more. The next challenge is to keep it that way.”

January is traditionally a time for setting personal goals and planning adventures – kickstarting that long-held marathon dream perhaps, or pledging to tick off Scotland’s Munros.

For sheer originality, at least, Wedgwood’s “mad idea” will take some beating. It came amid a pandemic-influenced redundancy and, with his two children at university, against the quiet of an empty nest.

“I’ve thought for a long time that I had something big in me that I wanted to do, something that wasn’t just a repeat of someone else’s idea, and this seemed like the opportunity to finally do it,” said Wedgwood.

Rummaging through a lifetime’s collection of outdoor kit, he stumbled on an old piece of Ordnance Survey (OS) marketing material displaying the patchwork grid of Landranger maps laid over an outline of Britain.

Wedgwood said: “When I started looking more closely I realised it translated to a whole series of coast-to-coast rides. Once the idea bedded itself into my head, it wouldn’t go away, and I guess it was a question of when and not if.”

He embarked on his journey on 9 May, with his wife, Jenni, 59, joining him for the first two weeks of cycling – linked by ferry rides – through the Shetland and Orkney archipelagos.

In fact, it was these islands and the far north of Scotland which provided some of the voyage’s most memorable highlights.

“There were times in midsummer, where I was out on my bike, at maybe 10 or 11 at night and it was still sunny,” he says. “I was all alone in this phenomenal scenery with eagles and red deer and nothing else. They were such elemental experiences and I’d happily repeat them at the drop of a hat.”

Wedgwood cycled on and off for the next six months, sometimes for as long as six weeks at a time, staying with friends and relatives or in B&Bs and only returning home to Hathersage, Derbyshire, for family and social commitments.

He rode the final 65 miles (105km) crossing maps 203 and 204 from Land’s End to Fowey in Cornwall on 28 November. Save a few punctures and worn-out chains and cables, the entire challenge went without a hitch.

“My number one rule throughout was that it had to be enjoyable,” he said. “If for any reason that turned out differently I would have happily stopped and walked away.”

Ordnance Survey was founded in 1791. The origins of the Landranger series go back to 1801 and a map of Kent which was produced at one-inch scale.

It published its 204 metric scale maps, now a staple of outdoor activities, in the mid-1970s, with each sheet covering an area 40km by 40km.

Its spokesperson Rob Andrews said: “Mark has finished such a captivating and unique challenge, never done before, and we couldn’t be prouder that he has completed it using every single one of our 204 OS Landranger Maps.

“What an achievement, and what a demonstration of navigation to experience getting outside across Britain.”

And to anyone mulling a challenge for 2023, Wedgwood’s advice is unequivocal.

“Don’t put it off!” he says. “One of the reasons I did this is that you simply can’t afford to wait.”


Robin Eveleigh

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Signs of the times: Ordnance Survey to consult on new map symbols
Mapmaker suggests symbols could be added for bike repair shops, dog waste bins or river access points

Emine Sinmaz

12, Feb, 2023 @6:12 PM

Article image
Why the centuries-old Ordnance Survey is still going places
Rumoured to be heading for George Osborne’s sell-off list, the mapping agency has plotted a route through the digital age to remain a unique asset

Katie Allen

09, Oct, 2015 @3:11 PM

Article image
UK's Ordnance Survey to launch mapping app in Australia
Project aims to help outdoor enthusiasts plan walks, cycles and hikes on and off beaten path

Alex Hern UK technology editor

22, Feb, 2021 @5:05 PM

Ordnance Survey launches free downloadable maps

Move marks radical departure from previous OS financial model under which every piece of map data had to be paid for

Charles Arthur, Technology editor

31, Mar, 2010 @11:05 PM

Article image
Six of the best city walks in Britain, chosen by Ordnance Survey map users
From Cardiff to Edinburgh, here are OS users’ favourite urban and countryside rambles. Just download the app and you’re on your way

Liz Boulter

18, Oct, 2022 @6:00 AM

Leader: In praise of ... the Ordnance Survey
Leader: Any walker who has been bold enough to venture into the grey murk that has coated Britain's hills for the last week has cause to be grateful to the Ordnance Survey. Without good maps, Christmas expeditions from the South Downs to the Cairngorms would have been much harder and even dangerous.


30, Dec, 2006 @12:04 AM

Ordnance Survey maps

Ordnance Survey's most detailed leisure map. Perfect for country rambles.

Tim Wapshott

07, Sep, 2002 @6:38 PM

Ordnance Survey comes under renewed pressure

The mapping agency faces criticism as OFT prepares to publish its study into the commercial use of public-sector information.

Michael Cross

07, Dec, 2006 @11:53 PM

Article image
Ordnance Survey maps are worth paying for | Martin Wainwright
Martin Wainwright: A move to make OS maps available free online increases their convenience, but undervalues their quirky beauty

Martin Wainwright

03, Apr, 2010 @10:00 AM

Article image
The end of the road for Ordnance Survey?

Ordnance Survey paper maps are under threat from digital devices. Rachel Hewitt celebrates an 'icon of England' beloved by generations of hikers, poets and artists

Rachel Hewitt

19, Apr, 2014 @7:00 AM