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Mapping Geography

  • Introduction to Geography
  • The location of the UK and Manchester (with Atlas skills)
  • Continents and Oceans
  • Human and Physical Geography of the UK
  • Urbanisation in Manchester
  • Regeneration in Manchester
  • Manchester in OS Maps
  • Manchester from Space

Where is the United Kingdom?

The United Kingdom (UK) is part of the British Isles (you can see the UK in the red circle on the satellite image below). The British Isles are located in the North Atlantic Ocean off the north-west coast of Mainland Europe. They are mainly made up of two large island countries: the UK - England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland - and Ireland. There are also over 5,000 smaller islands including: The Orkney and Shetland Islands, The Hebrides, The Isle of Wight, Isle of Scilly and the Channel Islands (Jersey and Guernsey). An island is a mass of land surrounded by water.


Geographically, the British Isles are divided between highlands to the north and west and lowlands to the east and south.





The UK is part of continental Europe. Europe is one of seven continents. A continent is large mass of land on the Earth's surface. Look at the satellite image of the world below. The seven continents are shown in the green boxes with the world's five oceans shown in the blue boxes. 

The UK is densely populated (areas with large populations that are crowded). Most people live in urban areas such as towns and cities. The south-east is the most densely populated part of the UK. The Scottish highlands are sparsely populated (areas with small populations that are spread out).


The red circles on the map to the left show major towns and cities. 


Belfast is the capital city of Northern Ireland, Edinburgh is the capital city of Scotland, Cardiff is the capital city of Wales and London is the capital city of England. London is in the south-east of England. 

Major cities in the north of England include: Manchester, Liverpool (north-west England), Leeds (north England), Newcastle, Hull (north-east England). These cities form part of the Northern Powerhouse. 

What is the Physical Geography of the UK?

Relief means the shape of the land, steepness of slopes and height above sea level. The relief of the UK has been mentioned in the previous section. Geographically, the UK is divided between highlands to the north and west and lowlands to the east and south. This is shown in the relief map to the right. The yellow and light orange areas are over 200m above sea level, whereas the green areas are less than 100m below sea level. 

Relief is determined by the geology of an area. Geology is the study of the earth's crust, the rocks it is made up of and their characteristics. Hard rocks such as granite and slate are more resistant to change than softer rocks such as clays. Therefore, hard rocks are found in mountainous areas and softer rock is found in lowland areas. 

The UK has an extensive river system. The starting point of a river is called the source. Most rivers have their source in the highlands (you can see this for some of the UK's major rivers on the map above). The rivers flow downstream to the sea; the area where the river meets the sea is called the mouth. 

The UK has a temperate climate because it is located between the polar region and the Tropic of Cancer. The UK experiences cool and wet winters and warm and wet summers. The highest rainfall is in the west where winds from the sea blow against mountains and hills. Central and eastern areas are sheltered and experience lower rainfall. Temperature differs across the UK, mainly due to latitude (distance north and south of the Equator). Areas closer to the Equator will experience warmer temperatures than areas further north. 

What is the Human Geography of the UK?

In this section you will build on your knowledge of the UK's population density and major towns and cities as well as explore the UK's economy and employment structure. The UK has a population around 66 million people. Our country is densely populated (areas with large populations that are crowded). Most people live in urban areas such as towns and cities. The south-east is the most densely populated part of the UK. The Scottish Highlands are sparsely populated (areas with small populations that are spread out). 

Belfast is the capital city of Northern Ireland, Edinburgh is the capital city of Scotland, Cardiff is the capital city of Wales and London is the capital city of England. London is in the south-east of England. Major cities in the north of England include: Manchester, Liverpool (north-west England), Leeds (north England), Newcastle, Hull (north-east England). These cities form part of the Northern Powerhouse. 

An economy is the state of a country or region in terms of the production and consumption of goods and services and the supply of money. A strong economy would produce and sell lots of goods such as meat, vehicles and electronic appliances, as well as services such as technology and research. 

Historically, the UK's economy was based on coal mining, iron and steelmaking and textiles. Now, the UK's economy is based on goods such as cars, chemicals, electronic and high-tech goods, and services such as banking and insurance. Everyone who works contributes to the economy through producing and buying goods and services. An economy is made up of different types of jobs and can be divided into four employment sectors: - primary, secondary, tertiary and quaternary. 

  • As a country begins to develop (improve the standard of living) the majority of people work in the primary sector. This is working and extracting raw materials from the land. Jobs in this sector include: farmers, miners, forestry workers and those working in the fishing industry.
  • The secondary sector involves making new thing (manufacturing) from the raw materials. Jobs in this sector include: factory workers, steelworkers, construction workers. 
  • In a developed country, most people work in the tertiary sector. This involves providing services to people. Jobs in this sector include doctors, nurses, teachers and those working in retail. 
  • Since the late 20th century (1900s), there has been an increase in people working in the quaternary sector. This sector involves a high level of expertise and skill. Jobs in this sector may involve developing technology, or pharmaceutical and medical treatments. 

Take a look at the table below to see how the UK's employment structure has changed.








7.7 million

26.9 million

37.9 million

57.8 million

63.2 million

























What was Manchester like 1940 years ago?

An urban environment is a town or a city. Manchester in one of the UK's major northern cities and forms part of the governments Northern Powerhouse; a project to boost economic growth in the north. Economic growth means the increase in the production and value of goods and services.   


Manchester is located in the north-west of England. Manchester is around 36 miles inland (away from the coast) on relatively flat land. The Pennines border Manchester to the north and east (you can see this on the relief map of the UK). 


But, Manchester wasn't always a major city. Before machines and factories, the UK was predominantly an agricultural country. This meant that the majority of the population worked in the primary sector. 

The picture above is a depiction of Manchester in the 1750s. Can you spot Manchester Cathedral?

Manchester began with the Romans in 79 AD (around 1940 years ago). The Romans built a fort near a crossing point on the River Medlock, and called it Mamucium (image to the left). 


A settlement (a place where people establish a community in a previously uninhabited area) quickly built up around it. By the 13th Century (1200s) Manchester had become a market town.

In the 14th Century (1300s) Flemish weavers migrated to Manchester from Flanders in Belgium bringing their skills to enhance the textile industry. People began making wool and linen cloth in their homes. 

In 1760, Manchester's population was around 17,000. Two things happened that would change Manchester:

  • The industrial revolution started and machines were being used to spin and weave fibres into cloth.
  • Liverpool (another major city in north-west England) started importing cotton, which was transported to Manchester by boat along the canal.

The machinery was powered by water and so cotton mills started being built near fast flowing streams and rivers. These mills were joined by factories for dyeing and printing the cloth and factories for making mill machinery. By the end of the 18th century (1700s) Manchester had established itself as the centre of the cotton industry in Lancashire. Many people started to migrate to Manchester from the surrounding rural areas, looking for work. This is known as rural-to-urban migration. Later, people started migrating from other parts of the UK such as Ireland. This migration started the urbanisation of Manchester (increasing amount of people living in towns and cities). 

Why did Manchester experience Urbanisation?

Urbanisation is the increasing amount of people living in towns and cities. Manchester has not always been a major city. Around 1940 years ago, Manchester was a small market town built up around the Roman fort of Mamucium and the River Medlock.


With the opening of the cotton mills and factories many people migrated to Manchester from the surrounding rural areas and other places in the UK such as Ireland. Migration is caused by push and pull factors. Push factors are reasons you leave a place, for instance the famine in Ireland in the late 18th century. Pull factors are reasons you move to a place, for instance the promise of a job in Manchester during the industrial revolution. This migration along with natural increase (babies being born) caused urbanisation. During this period, the majority of Manchester's population worked in the secondary sector. The worker bee is widely used across Manchester to recognise our history as an industrial city. It represents the hard work and hive of activity in the 19th century (1800s).

By 1853, Manchester had a population over 300 000 and it became a city. Although the workers had jobs, their quality of life and standard of living was not great. Speculators (people who take risk and spend money in the hope of making a profit) built cheap houses for rent near the mills and factories. Most houses were terraces which were very close together in narrow streets (image to the right). Most of these only had two rooms - one up, one down. The houses were built without running water and people shared outdoor toilets with dozens of other people. 

Later, taller houses known as tenements (image to the left) were built. These were usually three storey buildings. The tenements would house as many people as possible, including people living in the cellars. 


Gradually, the areas where mill and factory workers lived became known as slums; dirty and overcrowded urban streets populated by very poor people. 

Soot and fumes from the factories caused air pollution, rubbish filled the streets, diseases spread quickly and many children would die before reaching the age of 5.


From the 1850s, laws were made to make landlords improve the living conditions. 

As more people were living in Manchester, it was becoming increasingly urbanised and started to spread outwards into the surrounding fields. Bigger and more comfortable homes were built for the wealthier to live in. 

What happened to Manchester after the Industrial Revolution?

At the turn of the 20th century (1900s), Manchester's industry and population was booming. But, all of that changed during the 1930s when the industrial revolution began to decline. Manchester's economy was based on producing and selling cloth all over the world. However, other countries began to make cloth too, but they sold it for a much cheaper price. Due to globalisation (the world becoming more connected through the exchange of trade and culture), people started buying their cloth and other goods from overseas. 


This left Manchester with less consumers (people who buy things) and so slowly, the mills and factories started to close. People lost their jobs, and this became a push factor to leave Manchester. Community spirit was low and crime rates were high. People moved to other towns and cities in the UK to find work. Some even emigrated from the UK. Manchester's population started to decline. 

Many of Manchester's mills, factories, terraces and tenements were left derelict (left in a poor condition due to disuse and neglect). 


Manchester needed to find ways of recovering from this decline to boost its economy. The city's leaders started looking for ways to regenerate the city.

  • Run-down housing was demolished and replaced by modern housing with better facilities. 
  • Many derelict mills and factories were turned into retail outlets or expensive modern apartments. 
  • They developed the transport infrastructure by improving rail connections between Manchester and other cities, connecting surrounding towns to Manchester by tram, and investing heavily in Manchester Airport's flight connections to other countries.
  • They invested in the arts and culture. Manchester hosts many annual celebrations of music and culture. 
  • There is lots to do in Manchester will many opportunities for retail, entertainment and night life. 
  • Manchester was promoted as a great place for sport.
  • Manchester's universities attract students from around the world, many of whom remain in Manchester after graduating.
  • Manchester attracts many overseas companies that contribute to the local economy. 
  • Manchester is now the fastest growing major city outside of London.

Today, Manchester's economy is mainly based on people working in the tertiary sector and an increasing number of people working in the quaternary sector. Many people work in retail, science and finance. 

How do you use an OS Map?

OS (ordnance survey) maps are the national mapping agency of the UK. The organisation began as part of a military strategy to map the Scottish Highlands during conflict in 1745. OS produce maps for people and businesses. OS maps allow us to use symbols to identify and locate different features like buildings, roads, train stations and motorways. 


OS have created lots of symbols using different colours, shapes, lines, abbreviations and drawings to show certain features. So that you can understand what each symbol is, OS maps have a key or legend explaining what they show. 

Can you match the map symbols with what they represent?

  • Bus Station
  • Museum
  • Police Station
  • Youth Hostel
  • Coniferous Woodland
  • Information Centre
  • Art Gallery
  • Recreation, Leisure or Sports Centre
  • Other Tourist Feature
  • Public Phone
  • School
  • Camping and Caravan Site
  • Non-coniferous Woodland
  • Tourist 
  • Golf course
  • Parking
  • Post Office
  • Academy
  • Place of Worship with a Tower
  • Place of Worship with a Spire

Grid References


OS maps have blue lines that make a number of grids. These grids allow you to find the exact location of a place/symbol on the map by giving the grid reference. 


Vertical lines on an OS map are known as eastings because the numbers increase eastwards and horizontal lines are known as northings because the numbers increase northwards.

Working out four-figure grid references

Go along the eastings line until you reach the bottom left corner of the grid the feature you are looking for is in. For example, if I was looking for the four-figure grid reference of the information centre I would go along the eastings and stop at 75.

Then, read along the northings at the side of the bottom left corner of the grid the feature is in. For example, 45. 


Your four-figure grid reference for the information centre would be 7545. The easting always go first. 

Working out six-figure grid references

To find a more precise location of a place/symbol on the map you can use six-figure grid reference. First, find the grid the feature is in. Then, divide it up into tenths along the eastings and northings (like the grid 7344). Read along the square 73 to count the tenths. There are 5, so you read the easting of a six-figure grid reference as 735. Now read up from grid 44, and count the tenths along it until you get to the public phone. There are 7 tenths, so you read the northing of a six-figure grid reference as 447. Then combine the easting and the northing to make 735447. 

Click on the link below and see if you can spot where our school is. 


Move the map to explore. What map symbols can you see?

How can you measure height and distance on an OS Map?

OS maps show height and distance. Height on OS maps is shown in metres above sea level.

Spot heights are shown using a small black dot with the height in metres written next to it. This is the height of an exact place.


Contour lines are thin brown lines that join show places at a similar height. The height is printed within the line. If contour lines are close together, the gradient is very steep. If contour lines are more spread out, the gradient is gentle. Contour lines usually go up in 5 or 10 metre intervals. Thicker contour lines can be seen every 50 metres. 


The Pennines border Manchester to the north and east (you can see this on the relief map of the UK, and using contour lines on an OS map.

Click on the link below and see if you can spot any contour lines or spot heights.


Move the map to explore. 

You can also measure the distance between places on an OS map, using the scale. You can measure scale in two ways: - as the crow flies and by road. As the crow flies is the straight line distance between places whereas by road takes into account the turns and twists taken between places. You will learn how to calculate these distances during lessons. 

What does Manchester look like from Space?

Travellers and explorers have taught us much of what we know about places. In 1957, Russia launched the world's first satellite known as Sputnik 1 into space. Satellites are artificial bodies that orbit the Earth or moon (or another planet) to collect data (about the Earth's surface or weather) or allow communication. There are around 5000 satellites in orbit today. We use pictures taken by satellites to produce maps. They also allow us to show change. 

These are satellite images of Manchester in May 2018 and July 2018. They show the extent of a heatwave. The imagery from May shows lots of greenery and vegetation, whereas two months later, Manchester's green scene has massively diminished to fields of yellow dried out grass. 


We can also use satellites to observe urbanisation. Read this news article from Manchester Evening News to find out more