6 Types of Landscape to Identify on a Map


In May 2016, Paul Marsh won the OS prize for his design of a landing symbol on Mars.

Even if you do not know how to use a compass, maps provide a wealth of detail to help you understand where you are and where you want to go.

All maps have a key to explain the symbols used and a scale to help you work out distances. Maps use symbols which are often small and obvious images. Woods, buildings, transport hubs and natural features are described by pictures, abbreviations and words. Learn these symbols to help with your mapreading.

To ensure that maps are accurate and help you with your navigation, they are drawn to scale. This scale is often written in centimetres eg: 1:50,000 or 1: 100,000. In the first example, the scale means that for every centimetre on the map represents 50 000 centimetres on the ground ( or 500 metres, or half a kilometre). In the second example, one centimetre  on the map represents one kilometre on the ground.

Maps also depict the lay of the land and you can easily identify features on the landscape.

6 types of landscape to identify on a map

  1. A cliff is a very steep drop in the landscape, often along rivers or coasts.
  2. A saddle is the gap between two hills or mountain peaks.
  3. A valley or re- entrant is a low area of land between hills. 
  4. Spurs are the ridges of land that slope down from the edge of a hill and are commonly seen in hilly jungle terrain.
  5. A concave slope is like a shallow bowl and is steep at the top but more shallow at the bottom.
  6. A steep slope is easily identified by its contours being close together.

Attend one of our courses to learn how to read any map and know where you are in the world.

H.E.A.T. tip: Understand contour lines on a map and pick the better route.