Thursday, March 25, 2021

How to Make Lockdown Walks Interesting

Last week one of my neighbors complained about how she had become incredibly bored having to walk the same streets and parks over & over again during lockdown. I told her that I would put together a list of online maps which I find useful for discovering more about the history of our local neighborhood.

The following list of interactive maps are mostly UK and London specific. However, even if you don't live in London, you may still find these maps interesting and in most cases you should be able to find similar maps which provide the same type of local historical information about where you live.


One of the best online maps for discovering more about nearby points of interest is Wikimapia. For over ten years Wikimapia has provided a great map based resource for discovering information about locations and points of interest around the world. 

In essence Wikimapia is an interactive map which lets you describe physical locations in the same way that Wikipedia allows you to add and edit articles in its wiki database. Like Wikipedia it provides an invaluable resource for researching and discovering information about the world - only with Wikimapia every entry is a real-world location.

To use Wikimapia you just need to search for a place on the map and click on any of the highlighted areas to discover information about the selected location. For example, if you see an interesting looking building on your daily walk, you just need to click on the building on the Wikimapia map to read its Wikimapia wiki entry. 

Historical Ordnance Survey Maps

Wikimapia is a great resource for discovering more about existing landmarks and buildings. It isn't always so informative about the historical buildings and landmarks which, for whatever reason, no longer exist. I always find it fascinating using old Ordnance Survey maps to explore how my neighborhood has developed and changed over the last 150 years.

The National Library of Scotland's Ordnance Survey Map Finder is a great way to find and view vintage Ordnance Survey map of British towns and cities. Using the library's online map you can find old Ordnance Survey maps dating back as far as the 1860s. By exploring your neighborhood on these historical maps you can learn a lot about your area has developed over time and about some of the local historical landmarks and buildings which have been replaced by more modern developments.

Bomb Sight

If you live in London then the amazing Bomb Sight is a fantastic resource to discover the nearby locations which were bombed during World War II. Bomb Sight shows the location of bombs that landed during the war using data taken from a number of different sources. Chief among these sources are the maps created during the Bomb Census Survey 1940 to 1945, which was organized by the Ministry of Home Security.

As you can see from the screenshot above the map shows the locations of thousands of bombs that landed on London during World War II. In most neighborhoods in London's East End you can tell where bombs fell by the location of post-1940's buildings. You can use the Bomb Sight interactive map to confirm where bombs fell on your neighborhood during the war.

The Archaeology of Greater London online map

During lockdown I have turned time & time again to John Rogers' YouTube channel. John is a London-based film-maker and writer who has made hundreds of videos about interesting London walks.On one of his videos John explained how he uses The Archaeology of Greater London Online Map to learn more about some of the local prehistoric history which is hidden beneath our modern roads and streets.

The Archaeology of Greater London Online Map was created by the Museum of London Archaeology to show the locations in London of some of the most interesting archaeological finds and sites from London's prehistoric, Roman, Saxon, and medieval history. Using the map you can find the locations near you where important archaeological finds have been made. 

The map is a great resource for discovering more about the ancient history of your local neighborhood.For example the map reveals that a neolithic axe was discovered at the end of my road.and a Bronze Age settlement also used to exist nearby. This Bronze Age settlement has made no lasting impression on the modern urban landscape but on my walks I can still imagine a small settlement hidden in the low-lying marshes which dominated this area during the Bronze Age.

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