Tuesday, 21 November 2017

A striking holiday map


I made a base map on an Excel spreadsheet to plot things on. Each spreadsheet cell was enlarged and reshaped to be a square covering 10 kilometres by 10 kilometres. If you know where Lundy island is, you can see what 'one cell' looks like on this map, when filled in grey. The big squares that cover the map are 100 kilometres by 100 kilometres in size, and represent the National Grid used in Ordnance Survey maps.

I have plotted the coastline of Great Britain onto this, on the basis that if any 10km x 10km cell contains a section of tidal coast, anywhere in it, then that cell will be filled in grey. This has resulted in a map with only a vaguely-defined coastline, but that is good enough for what I might use this base map for. It's for plotting things whose location doesn't need to be very precisely shown, just somewhere inside a 10km x 10km square. Such imprecision can be useful. I could for example use this map to indicate where my various friends live around the country, but without giving their exact locations away.

The Ordnance Survey calls this a raster map, as opposed to a vector one. A vector map is made up of points that can have colour and shape, but also have the ability to contain a wealth of data. They are pretty well data files with a spatial location. Raster maps are made up of straightforward pixels. You can colour them and resize them, but not much else. But that simplicity is all that is required for many applications.

So what does my map show?

I have plotted where my home is in Sussex - that is, in which 100 square kilometre square it lies. It's a yellow-filled square labelled 'Home'. I have plotted other yellow-filled squares too. Those are all my caravan holiday destinations in 2017. And the red-filled squares show all my holiday travellings, not just the journeys to each site, but where I went once there. (I haven't distinguished single visits from repeat visits)

The map therefore reveals where I went while on holiday during 2017.

2017 was not an unusual year. In other years, at least since 2008, the pattern has been similar. I have always concentrated on the West Country, South Wales, and parts of the North of England and Scotland. Except for the Lake District, I've tended not to visit the North West. Nor have I been much to East Anglia. But if all my journeys in all years were plotted, including all the travelling when not on holiday, most of the map squares would be red (indicating at least one visit) and not very many would be left blank. I do get around!

I was away for 83 nights in 2017. I covered 7,041 holiday miles in Fiona. 2,580 of them towing the caravan. None of this is untypical.

Clearly I give travel priority over most other things. My attitude is: I'm completely free to do it, with nobody to look after, no important time restraints, and only myself to please; I have sufficient money to go far and wide; and I have the inclination. Going to new photographic locations is another strong incentive to hit the road, though not the only one.

I can see issues on the horizon, however. How long will Fiona and my caravan really last? Will the cost of diesel fuel become prohibitive? Will health problems arise, to make a long journey difficult to manage? Will I gradually lose the appetite for going far from home? I certainly find travelling more tiring than I did ten years ago. In 2007 M--- and I drove 5,899 miles around New Zealand in the space of 50 days. I handled most of that. It was a magnificent adventure, but the travelling was relentless. I wouldn't relish doing the same now.

But there are trips in this country - well, broadly-speaking the British Isles - that I'd still love to do. I haven't forgotten my plan to take the caravan to Shetland. And to the Outer Hebrides. And there's all of Ireland to see. I keep on mentioning the North European Tour to Sweden to my friends. I will commit myself to one or two of these as soon as my bank loans get fully repaid in mid-2019.

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