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Primary Geography Handbook Extension Project: Maps and Stories 8-11

Primary students fieldwork map

Mapping Landscapes

This page extends the content of Primary Geography Handbook Chapter 8

Mapwork skills by Colin Bridge (pp.105-119)

‘… Most of us remember the place where we were brought up in some considerable detail and often recall it with fondness. These first impressions of the outside world stay with us throughout our lives and provide a rich source of experience.’

Scoffham (2004) Ch1, p.17

Getting started

  • Today’s children need to be given the luxury of ‘wandering free’ and we can do that by using the essential ingredient of fieldwork.
  • Set the scene. Go, with sketch pad and camera, to your nearest open space (park, heath, playing field, golf course). Ask pupils to imagine themselves as authors collecting views and impressions of the landscape in which they want to set a story.
  • Find out how different things relate to each other e.g. the slope, the woods and grass, the fields, the footpaths. What barriers are there? Examples could include nettles, hedges and bed edgings as well as the more obvious ones such as streams and fences.

  • Encourage observation and facilitate visual, verbal and/or textual recording processes. Challenge pupils to be prepared to describe what they have seen to others – to explain what they have seen (and why it is there) and to identify what they need and want to know.
  • Back in school make a map – a useful computer aid is a mapping package such as Local Studies (site no longer available) into which the maps and photographs collected can be copied, new maps drawn and illustrations added. These can then be compared with your local maps.
  • Top KS2 classes should have already been using maps and know where to find them on the internet so many of the activities suggested will be revision and reinforcement. (See the useful guide to progression in Table 1, Ch8, p.110)
  • Then start reading. The story is in short chapters and each has an adventure involving varying degrees of problem solving. This format is perfect for class discussion and can support both development and assessment of pupils’ understanding.
  • Set the scene further by finding out the children’s understanding of quarries and different limestones (link here with Science). See below for geographical locations of different limestones and find where your nearest limestones are located by using a good atlas.

A comprehensive guide to what kinds of maps and plans you might want to provide pupils with can be found in Ch8, p.106.

Issues and Misconceptions

It is not until you start to provide opportunities for structured observation and discussion of local areas that pupils realise they may have trodden the same routes every day and yet not really noticed what was beneath their feet and around them. In this respect it’s always useful to find out what pupils think they know about a locality before visiting it and what they think after structured fieldwork. Sharing different perceptions of the same place can also be extremely enlightening as we tend to hold differing views and personal connotations of places which relate to our own prior experiences and use.

Pupils will probably have little knowledge of the geology underpinning different landscapes and Stig of the Dump offers accessible ways to develop their thinking. Some background information to support learning is given here.


Background to the location and differences between limestones

The geology map to the right is taken from the British Geological Survey’s Make-a Map tool, an interactive application which allows you to create a customised map showing rock units, place names, coastlines and other features to suit your own needs.

There is no map with Stig of the Dump but the author is very clear that the quarry is a chalk quarry (chalk is a soft limestone) and not very far from Sevenoaks. This puts the story location somewhere in the North Downs between Westerham in the west and Trottiscliffe in the east. But it could be elsewhere in the British Isles.

Chalk rock once covered the whole of the British Isles. Today it occurs, complete with thin bands of flint and flint nodules (the source of Stig’s implement material), in the Yorkshire and Lincolnshire Wolds, North and South Downs, Chiltern Hills and the Wiltshire and Hampshire Downs.

These areas all have very similar landscapes just as described by the author (for an example see Chapter 9 p.186), and are all associated with evidence of early man whether through track ways, hoards of flint spear heads and axes, or mystical standing stones and carved horses.

Use an atlas to find out about your nearest chalk hills.

Other, hard, limestone quarries are found in the low Jurassic hills stretching from the Dorset coast north-eastwards through the Cotswolds into Northamptonshire and thence to the North York Moors. This is a light honey-coloured stone, excellent for constructing large and small buildings, often found many miles away from the stone source e.g. whole or parts (the carved lintels and window frames) of parish churches.

An even harder, grey white limestone occurs in Somerset, South and North Wales, the Yorkshire Dales and southern parts of the Lake District. This is so old it has become crystalline in texture. You can tell when you are in this Carboniferous limestone country because the field walls are white, solid and run straight for many miles. This is in contrast to the field boundaries in chalk country, which are usually hedges or wire and post.

Chalk, on the whole is too soft and powdery to use as a building stone – but easy to dig out as Stig did to create his own cave. The caverns and gorges found in hard limestone e.g. at Cheddar, Castleton, Cresswell and Malham have been created by torrents of water breaking and dissolving the limestone. The quarries in the Mendips are large and cut into the crystalline Carboniferous Limestone which is very hard!

Quarries in hard limestone areas are shown on the 1:25000 Explorer maps with the rock symbol round the entire perimeter whilst quarries in soft limestone areas are denoted at this scale by only a ‘pecked’ perimeter line. This useful differentiation is not used in the less detailed 1:50000 Landranger map series. This PowerPoint Presentation provides further information.

Your nearest quarries may be cut from other hard rocks such as sandstone or granite – neither of which provide materials for early implements – but are still used for dumping rubbish! Other ‘holes’ in the ground are the result of digging up gravel, sand and clay for making bricks.

Using and Making Maps

‘… Our overall objectives are that we want our pupils to learn how to describe where they are and record information in their local environment, to be able to plan routes and journeys, to extend this ability from the locality to the rest of the UK and to make sense of the daily bombardment of media messages… Mapwork is made more exciting nowadays through the use of aerial photos, satellite images, internet searches and an expanding range of interactive computer programmes…’

Bridge (2004) p.105

Key points

It is a good exercise to relate photographs to maps (and vice versa), 3D views to 2D plans and of course, to use maps at different scales. The PowerPoint example below gives some examples of comparisons between ground level views and aerial views (which Stig obtained from his tree climb) and compares symbols used at different scales of map. These maps are only available from the Digimap for Schools (OS).

Using Maps and Images

Fieldwork opportunities

  • Visit your local country park.
  • Organise a residential visit to Juniper Hall which is located on the North Downs.

Primary framework opportunities


  • The story opening immediately takes the reader into the writer’s confidence. There are also very short sentences and the paragraph subjects move the story along quickly. This analysis can take place alongside the map work, and sustainability and citizenship work. Develop vocabulary for all three areas and then use in personal stories. The map extracts and photographs should be used as stimuli for descriptive, dramatic or persuasive writing.
  • Compare with another story where a character similar to Lou does not believe another character’s experience e.g. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe where the children do not believe Lucy has been to Narnia – Edward is especially obnoxious!
  • There are some excellent passages in Stig of the Dump where Barney’s inner thoughts are expressed – these could be clues for dramatic interpretations of Barney’s thoughts (see p.20-1).
  • The power of mime could be demonstrated by designating a day without talking when in the classroom. This could be a potent way to develop awareness about how important communication is and to think about how much we rely on the spoken word.
  • Developing instructions is crucial for devising and describing a trail across a map extract.
  • Take one of Stig’s solutions (e.g. p.100-3) and translate it into numbered instructions.
  • Barney’s adventures could be translated into diary form and compared with explorers’ diaries.
  • Debating issues such as smoking (urban and suburban schools) and hunting (rural schools) can lead to persuasive writing.
  • Themes can be followed in other stories for example a look at Midsummer in literature with its traditions of mysticism and magic. The effect of seasons in other, more distant places could also be explored, such as Bringing the Rain to the Kapiti Plain by Verma Aardema (Picture Mac, 1981) and Tiddalick, the Frog who Caused a Flood by Robert Roennfeldt (Picture Puffins, 1981 – reissued Collins Educational, 2007).


  • Measuring distances between landmarks giving fine measurements in metres.
  • Then measuring between places such as village to town giving coarser measurements in kilometres.
  • Gaining confidence in locating features by grid reference first by square (four figures) then more precisely within the square using six figures.
  • Develop relationships with degrees and compass direction. Use in PE to develop an orienteering route in your chosen study area.

Image produced from the Ordnance Survey Get-a-map service. Image reproduced with kind permission of Ordnance Survey and Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland.

Activity Ideas

These activities expand upon the possibilities mentioned in Chapter 8 of the Primary Geography Handbook.

  • If you are already based in a limestone area obtain local maps. Keys to Explorer and Landranger sheets are available from the OS website.
  • Obtain enough map extracts for class use from Digimap for Schools (OS).
  • Show maps on your Interactive White Board and systematically build up a key to the map symbols. Work across the extracts from west to east with the whole class. Remember, a symbol is not just an icon but also a colour, a line and a combination of these to show an area. Most importantly white, i.e. the background colour, is farmland or garden/yard.
  • Then divide the class into pairs with each pair working from north to south, taking a particular symbol/colour and describing its location in relation to a road or house/building. The description should give a feeling of atmosphere – e.g. ‘happy, frightening, mysterious’ – depending upon the adjectives used.
  • Follow this up by referring to the first three chapters of Stig of the Dump for landscape descriptions for example ‘This had been a side of a hill once…’ (p.8) which describes the area surrounded by the symbol for a quarry. Can pupils write their own description for the location of their quarry?
  • It is useful to have symbol cards to play symbol snap as a warm up or finishing off activity. (See the Primary Geography Handbook p.108-113 for more on this).

Download the Activity Grid and Further Activities documents below for more ideas:

Activity Grid

Further Activities

TIP: download and print several of these guides and laminate them. They make an excellent, free geographical resource for the classroom.

Children’s Voices

You will have discussed with children what they saw and intrigued them in their visit to collect ideas for writing. Extend this further by making a map of their favourite places. Use a local Explorer map – or just draw a framework of local roads on flipchart or IWB – then add emoticons (see Fig 4, p.43, Ch3: ‘Geography and the emotions’ by Julia Tanner in the Primary Geography Handbook).

How well do pupils agree on the scary places? On the safe places? On the beautiful places? Remind them of these feelings when Barney describes his feelings about a place for example when going back to the quarry or his Granny’s house. This can be extended to other places they have visited and their views put up on a large map of the UK/Europe or anywhere!

Sustainability is a second major theme which can be developed from this story. Discussions can be started about how to reuse everyday discarded materials similar to those used by Stig.


  • Use of a mapping package such as Local Studies to draw their own maps and use pictorial and/or conventional symbols (NB they cannot be mixed easily but it is possible). See some worked examples using Local Studies.

  • Researching knowledge from Wikipedia (e.g. Stone circles).
  • Cutting and pasting map extracts from Digimap for Schools (OS) – entering relevant grid references and learning about the different styles produced with different scales.
  • Aerial photographs from Bing Maps, Google Maps et al which can then be annotated using a Paint package or pasted into Local Studies and annotated with relevant map symbols and place names.
  • Researching images from Geograph and from Google images and refining the titles with geographical annotations or using to develop route instructions.

Inter-disciplinary opportunities

Science: Materials, Light and Shade; Re-use of materials.

Link with MFL: Half of the class use one language, half use a different language (variations on this may help new immigrants) in order to understand the skill of miming.

D&T: Creating shelters, solving problems with recyclable materials – and creating the instruction sheets for doing so.

PE: Use the map extracts to create orienteering routes.

Music: Take one of the lists of dumped material (e.g. p.12) and use for making instruments. Read through for other similar lists.

History: Follow up the henge and prehistoric archaeology themes and place in sequence in relation to the last Ice Age and the coming of the Romans.

Art: Create picture maps using charcoal and natural colours from plants. Paint a pair of pictures showing the prehistoric landscape of forest and heath (p.123-6) and the present day landscape (p.153-6).

Assessment for Learning

The Teacher Assessment Activities Geography Key Stage 2 (QCA 2007) has some very relevant support for assessment for learning (with teachers’ examples using National Curriculum planning as well as the QCA schemes of work). See Section 2: ‘Our Neighbourhood’ in this book.

Activity 1: ‘What is environmental quality?’ gives ideas and practical examples for assessing observation, vocabulary and understanding of an environment. The ideas translate well to a range of approaches to different environmental problems. For example, you may wish to stimulate debate about the necessity of quarries and the rights and wrongs of landfill and ‘dumping’ and would be able to adapt the ideas and activities suggested in this book.

Activity 2: ‘How good are we at route planning?’ provides a model approach that you could apply to assessing the mapwork suggested in the Stig of the Dump activities. There is a progression map which will enable differentiation in planning work as well as in assessing the final outcomes. Different techniques for questioning and observing pupils at work are outlined and links are made to aspects of the level descriptions to help you build up a best fit picture of pupils’ progress.


  • The first stage of a display is providing images and material which will support the class and individual work.
  • Photographs of chalk landscape (see relevant squares on the Geograph website) complete with grid references and titles.
  • The Legends for the Explorer and Landranger maps taken from the PDF files and enlarged.
  • A dictionary ‘diary’ for geographical vocabulary words – in this case most of the nouns used by King to describe his scenarios.
  • You might want to move onto supplementing the photographs with map extracts annotated to show the location of the photograph on the map. This could be the outcome from using Local Studies.
  • Use pupils’ starting work from local fieldwork where they viewed and interpreted the landscape from an author’s stance.
  • Add pupils’ journey maps and stories with suitable titling based upon the book – it is worth deciding upon a common font and point size for titles and body text (if typed).
  • Ask pupils how work can be sequenced to best illustrate the development of the story as well as the development of the work arising from ideas in the story.
  • There could be a final evaluation in terms of how the story could be used to develop understanding of sustainable actions.

Images reproduced with the permission of the British Geological Survey © NERC. All rights Reserved

Additional Resources

Cave Paintings
Stig of the Dump filming details and photographs
Virtual Quarry – an interactive website for kids

Longcliffe Quarry – a working limestone quarry. The website provides information on the history of the limestone industry, a very extensive glossary, and information about the uses of limestone in agriculture (including putting in feed – link with milk and bones). Details about their environmental policies could be useful for initiating a debate upon the place of industry in the countryside.

Other stories which can be given a similar treatment:

Danny the Champion of the World (Puffin Fiction) by Roald Dahl
Watership Down (Puffin Books) by Richard Adams
The Secret Garden (Puffin Classics) by Frances Hodgson Burnett
George’s Marvellous Medicine (Puffin Fiction) by Roald Dahl

Download this useful list of websites for children’s literature:

Websites for Children’s Literature

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