British geology added to Ordnance Survey Minecraft map

It’s almost a year since one of summer interns, Joseph Braybook, built a Minecraft world using OS OpenData products, representing over 224,000 square kilometers of Great Britain and we made it available for you to download and explore. We’ve seen around 170,000 downloads since last September, and it seems particularly fitting, that as the one year anniversary draws near, the British Geological Survey (BGS) have gone one step further and recreated the geology of Great Britain beneath the surface. 

Drawing on inspiration from our map last year, the new BGS Minecraft map uses our surface data and adds in their own information on the rough position of real geology beneath, right down to the bedrock. BGS produced the Minecraft blocks using data from their parent material map. In the UK, parent materials provide the basic foundations and building blocks of the soil, influencing their texture, structure, drainage and chemistry.

By peeling away the surface OS map, BGS show the underlying geology beneath the Isle of Wight.

By peeling away the surface OS map, BGS show the underlying geology beneath the Isle of Wight.

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Could you find your way using a map and a compass?

We said a couple of weeks ago that we had wildlife and outdoors expert Simon King in our Southampton head office being interviewed on numerous radio stations about the importance of navigation and knowing where you are. Simon also filmed a short video for us that day. Filmed in the glorious New Forest, Simon and the camera crew interviewed a number of visitors to find out their navigation skills, before reminding us of the basics.

Watch the video below:

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Putting Doctor Who’s Tardis on the map

Tomorrow night will see the much-anticipated return of Doctor Who on our TV screens, with the new Doctor played by Peter Capaldi. We’ll be pleased to see the Tardis back on our screens because of its connection to our maps. As you may know know, the real-life function of those boxes that the Tardis has adopted, was as a telephone call box connecting you to your local police station.

Doctor Who Tardis map

In the early 20th century, hundreds of police call boxes (PCBs) sat on street corners waiting to be used. As phone boxes became more common place (first the famous red design and now the more modern glass version) and then home phones and mobiles phones took over, the PCBs fell out of use.

However, many of them still exist around the country – and for those in their original locations, they are still on our mapping data. Some 203 PCBs are still marked on our maps, although only a fraction of those are recognisable as the Tardis that we still know and love today.  Continue reading “Putting Doctor Who’s Tardis on the map”

Where is the centre of Great Britain?

Is Haltwhistle the centre of Britain?

Is Haltwhistle the centre of Britain?

One of the most common questions we are asked in Ordnance Survey’s Press Office is ‘where is the geographic centre of Britain?’ Most recently, the BBC got in contact with us, framing their article around the question of Scottish Independence and the effect that would have on the centre of Great Britain. The question continues to bubble up as it always has been a contentious issue with many differing views on locations – and even how you define the centre, define Great Britain, and how you measure it.

As you’ll see in the BBC article, the town of Haltwhistle in Northumberland proudly proclaims itself to be the centre of Great Britain as it is mid-way along the mainland’s longest line of longitude; and there is a stone cross in Meriden, near Coventry, claiming to be the geographical centre of England. Some people claim the point farthest from the sea must be the centre (a spot just east of Church Flatts Farm, about a mile south-east of Coton-in-the-Elms, Derbyshire), but others don’t think this can accurately be called the centre…so, where is the centre of Great Britain? Continue reading “Where is the centre of Great Britain?”

Talking GeoVation at the RGS Annual International Conference

We’re pleased to announce that Chris Parker from our GeoVation team, along with past GeoVation Challenge judges, will be taking part in the Royal Geographical Society’s Annual International Conference next week.

Chris is chairing a session on Wednesday 27 August on Innovation and coastal tourism (1) The Wales Coast Path: Promoting health and economic wellbeing. Our GeoVation Challenge in early 2012 looked at how people who lived and worked along, or visited the 870 mile (1,400 km) coastal path could use innovative digital technology to  benefit from the ‘world first’ opportunity. Wales was the first country in the world to launch a complete perimeter coastal path on 5th May 2012. The Wales Coast Path has already generated an additional £32 million in revenue (BBC News, 26 November 2013). Continue reading “Talking GeoVation at the RGS Annual International Conference”

Have you used our Minecraft map of Great Britain?

Last summer, one of our interns, Joseph Braybrook, created a Minecraft world of Great Britain using our OS OpenData products. In September 2013, we released the world for users to download and explore – all 22 billion blocks of it!

Minecraft map of Southampton Water

Southampton Water

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Brush up on your map reading skills

Last week we had wildlife and outdoors expert Simon King in head office, being interviewed on numerous radio stations to sing the praises of navigation and the importance of knowing where you are. You can watch a snippet from Simon’s interviews below. 

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Putting ‘A Pennine Journey’ long-distance footpath on the map

Today’s guest blog is from David Pitt, Chairman of the Pennine Journey Supporters Club

As long-distance footpath walkers and Alfred Wainwright (AW) admirers it seemed logical when, in 1991, my wife Heather and I were wondering what long distance path we should do next that, we remembered AW’s words in his “Personal Notes” at the conclusion of his Coast to Coast Walk guide book: “The map of England is an oyster very rich in pearls. Plan your own marathon and do something never done before…” a-pennine-journey

What we planned was our ‘own marathon’ but based it on AW’s narrative of his ‘A Pennine Journey’ that he did in 1938, published in 1986 after he had become famous. His walk was done mainly using minor roads, in those days relatively traffic-free, but ours was planned using our library of OS maps and took in as many routes described by AW as reasonably possible. One example being the liberal use of the Pennine Way route for which he wrote in 1968 the Pennine Way Companion, regarded by many as the definitive route guide to the first National Trail which celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2015.  Continue reading “Putting ‘A Pennine Journey’ long-distance footpath on the map”

A beginner’s guide to open sea swimming

Guest post by Heather Scott – Swimmer with Royal Wootton Bassett Otters Masters Swimming Club. Novice open water swim competitor, returning to open sea swimming after a 30 year hiatus. Was the first female back in a wetsuit in the Big Sea Swim 2014 – 1km, as well as third fastest female competitor and seventh overall.


If you’re a keen swimmer and fancy a new challenge open water swimming, especially in the sea, may be the right fit for you. With the number of outdoor swims on the rise due to the increased popularity in events such as triathlons there is more opportunity than ever to get outdoors and embrace sea and lake swimming. Open water swimming also appeals to a wide range of ages, especially masters racers who as they get older may not be able to compete on speed alone. Continue reading “A beginner’s guide to open sea swimming”

The pioneers who mapped WW1 battlefields

Earlier this year we wrote about our role in World War One, from printing 33 million maps to help the war effort, to the 149 men and women sent out to France to carry out mapping near the battlefields.

However, it wasn’t just mapping on the ground that took place. World War One also saw the infancy of aerial photography and modern surveying techniques and ITV’s Simon Parkin discovered this recently.
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