Sat Nav (satellite navigation systems) ignore heritage sites such as Stonehenge, and now Mary Spence, the president of the Royal Cartographic Society has led a protest at its annual conference at the Royal Albert Hall against the loss of place.

Mary Spence argued that sat nav systems and other similar navigational tools ‘are demolishing thousands of years of history – not to mention Britain’s remarkable geography – at a stroke by not including them on maps that millions of us now use every day.’

As sat navs were created, says Ms Spence, ‘people who weren’t cartographers – computer people – were used to put maps together. If you are driving from A to B, you miss everything that is not directly on your route.’

Ms Spence had used Google Maps to plan her journey to the Royal Albert Hall. ‘The National History Museum, the Science Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum – none of them was on the map.’

Motorists following Google Maps through Wiltshire are instructed to ‘exit on to the A303 toward Andover’, with no indication of the fact that they are passing Stonehenge.

Map and atlas sales have fallen by 36 per cent since 2004.

Ed Parsons, a geo-spatial technologist from Google, said: ‘I think people who are geographically challenged have always been geographically challenged. The big change is that the information is now much more accessible.’

Mary Spence of the Royal Cartographic Society argued last night, however, that sat nav systems ignore heritage sites such as Stonehenge, and is leading a protest against the loss of place.

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  • Jez Bretherton

    Mary Spence raises a good point.

    Surely the challenge now is to use this new technology to augment this new generation of mapping with scaleable geographic data that helps the user become more geographically aware? Depicting slope, views and vistas, valleys and hills, natural and man-made features on a aerial photographic layer will surely come. Will the Royal Carto Society and others be ready for it?

    As a landscape archaeologist I am interested in whether the technology exists to tell teh story of the developing landscape as one travels through that landscape, picking up nodal points of interest on the way. Now that would be fun!