Green Maps Save Lives
You can now view the maps that saved Britain from starvation in WW2, via a website which charts how the country has changed over 250 years of history.
This new e-publication shows all surviving one inch to the mile maps of what became the Land Utilisation Survey which was undertaken in the 1930s by a quarter of a million volunteers, many of whom were children and students.
The survey was the brainchild of Professor Sir Laurence Dudley Stamp, an expert in Economic geography, and was the first definitive attempt to plot how all land in Britain was being used. It came to form a vital framework for planning how to grow enough food to feed Britain during the war years. It was behind agricultural planning and the Dig for Victory campaign. The survey was coordinated at county level, and ran on minimal funding, supplemented by help in kind from the London School of Economics and the Ordnance Survey.
Parishes were surveyed using the six inch OS base maps which showed field boundaries. Seven classes of land use were plotted - forest & woodland; meadowland & pasture; arable land; heath & common land; gardens, allotments & nurseries, water and “unproductive land”, meaning urban and industrial areas. Stamp and his team transferred this information to the one inch maps for publication. Each sheet took eight weeks of work by a skilled cartographer to transpose, and there were 235 sheets in all.
With the outbreak of WW2, demand for maps escalated as planners realised their value in agricultural strategy for the war effort. Even after the war, the Land Utilisation Survey played a central role in planning for the country’s agricultural and economic recovery.
Today the maps are important because they tell us what the land around us used to be like – information that has relevance as government and Transition groups seek to understand how we can protect the environment and work towards restoring local food resilience to meet the challenges of climate change and resource depletion.