Maps for Saboteurs

Fabric Maps for Saboteurs first entered military service in 1914, but could they now be the antidote to Sabotage?

Just a couple of weeks ago, one of my long-standing customers, a veteran of the 3 Peaks Yacht Race, Peter Larkin, pointed me to the BBC series –Secret Agent Selection WW2. The fifth of the episodes focussed on the final stage of training for the SOE. Little did I know that I was soon to become a victim of one of their favourite tactics.

Crucial in coordinating resistance

A crucial part of these saboteur’s armoury, of course, was their fabic maps (the predecessors to SplashMaps) and button sized compasses. Concealed in the linings of clothes these essential guides were crucial in coordinating resistance and disruptive activities such as the blowing up of crucial infrastructure.

Ready for anything?

70 years on and a very rural war is raging. And the maps again play their part. Fewer deaths occur and this time the two participants – Mountain Bikers and Walkers- represent 2 of my favourite passions. Just why can’t these outdoors lovers get along?

At the Scott Mountain Bike Marathon on the famous Ridgeway, the mischief was in the fixing of the route markers. In a number of places a series of route markers were switched continuously during the day’s events. The up-shot was that those doing the Half (65km) and Full (82km) Marathon were adding on at least 5km in finding their way back to the trail.

Stepping into others’ shoes

Marking-up on-site as the route was not given before the event

Does this all stem from the typical human incapability to see things from others’ perspectives? Do we all change character as soon as we change our modes of transport?
Through my training in Agile project management and innovation I embrace “stepping into others’ shoes” on a daily basis. Changing perspectives and extending awareness to encompass others somehow improves the quality of ideas and the effectiveness of decision making.

I begrudge anyone

Final route marked on. A good idea? Or rely on the signs alone?

But even I fall foul of the overriding influence of the wheels I’m using or the speed I pace. It’s clear I have completely distinct moods based upon my mode of travel.
When I walk I begrudge anyone that breaks the peace, when I mountain bike I don’t want anyone breaking my pace and when I am dully behind the wheel of a car I resent nearly anything that causes me a delay.
We seldom recognise the different perspectives, yet they all exist in us, often at different points in a single day!

Mild mannered folk

Some had to go an extra 5km!

Ask any of the organising team from Scott and they’ll all label the Saboteus the same. “Ramblers… dog walking Ramblers!”
“Ramblers”?, seriously? The mild-mannered folk that halloo you as you tramp the trails.

Trespassers even if …

The vitriol is fanned in the key publications. Walk, the magazine for the Ramblers’ membership regularly posts advice on how to report cyclists as trespassers even if they are pushing bikes on footpaths. And the attitude of Mountain bikers to Ramblers was quite clear that weekend in Wantage.

Post ride breather helped by SplashMaps

Trying to do their bit

750 cyclists were briefed to be as courteous as possible before being unleashed onto the Ridgeway. Clearly the organisers trying to do their bit? How many took the advice I cannot say. Certainly I never witnessed any trist between walkers and cyclists and the forward warnings of the event were well posted way in advance.

Impromptu team work gets us back on track

Impromtu team work among strangers

So is the sabotage effective? Is it worth while? Does it make anything better?
Speaking with a number of MTB riders after the event, the response was one of amusement. The challenge of finding your way and understanding you’d been duped developed an impromptu team work among strangers. This may not have been true for the hardened racers in the group, but for most it was enough to have completed the route, made new friends while pouring over a fabric map where the route had been hastily penned and were happy to have made a credible record for their Strava app.

Smiles all around?

Team SplashMaps: Some of us just enjoyed being out there

And for the walkers? A man walking a dog away from the sign posts in question was seen laughing at his handiwork. Ultimately smiles all around?

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