In Scotland we’re famous for majestic unspoilt landscapes, and there’s some unusual proof that some of them are really quite empty of people: in the rankings of the least popular Ordnance Survey maps in the UK, Scotland claims all of the top ten. If you watch Landward on BBC Scotland, you’ll have seen a recent episode where the team took on the challenge of visiting the area covered by the map at number 1: OS Explorer 440, covering an area in the Highlands, north of Inverness. As soon as the team arrives, they see an osprey, then a lizard, then a beautiful waterfall: not quite the featureless landscape one might assume from it being so decisively overlooked by the map-buying community.
Being a Theologian I immediately wondered what the equivalent book of the Bible might be: which book is the least read? It’s called the Book of Obadiah, and it’s also the shortest book in the Old Testament, which for Monro-baggers would usually be the argument for it being the first one you’d read. But when you see it, you can see why there’s been much shuffling of feet and turning to the next page. Here’s a flavour of it: “Though you soar aloft like the eagle, though your nest is set among the stars, from there I will bring you down, says the Lord.” There’s generally a lot about smiting in there too, and God is clearly not in a good mood: the book is all about him wreaking vengeance on a people who stood idly by while their neighbours were destroyed.
Looking at the least of them, this unvisited place and this unread book, is a great way to see a big message. Greta Thunberg and her supporters aren’t just campaigning to save the OS best-sellers like Snowden, the Peaks, and the Lakes, they’re standing up for the unvisited and unremarked places like OS 440 and all the other un-bought maps of Scotland. All of these hidden gems will face the same fate as the big guns, if we fail to care for our planet. So I think one of my mini-projects now, will be to buy a set of these unpopular maps; and I’ll go on a pilgrimage to visit these forgotten places, to remind me why caring for the earth is so important.
I have been delivering “Thought For The Day” pieces on BBC Radio Scotland since November 2016. By kind permission these pieces are reproduced in blog posts here on my website. To find my other pieces click here go to my Thought For The Day index page.