Launching a GeoVation challenge on Mission:Explore

GeoVation winner’s Mission:Explore announced their support for a new GeoVation Challenge and a brand new Ordnance Survey ‘Viewpoint’ reward, both aimed at supporting children, families and schools in using geography in innovative ways.

They were announced during a presentation at the BETT Show on Saturday 14 January by Alan Parkinson from Mission:Explore. The GeoVation challenge will ask children to identify a food related problem in their community, think of a solution and come up with a plan for executing it. The best plans that also make use of Ordnance Survey mapping can win a slice of funding to help turn them into a reality. Children in Key Stages 2, 3 and 4 can enter by doing a series of three GeoVation missions on Mission:Explore to win a GeoVation badge and then completing an entry form.

Continue reading “Launching a GeoVation challenge on Mission:Explore”

Try something new next week with Heritage Open Days

Do you ever find yourself wondering what to do and where to go on a weekend? Or maybe you’ve never really explored the attractions right on your doorstep? Then you might be interested in Heritage Open Days 2011, taking place 8–11 September.

It’s a great concept that celebrates England’s architecture and culture by allowing visitors free access to places that are either not usually open, or would normally charge an entrance fee.

It’s organised by volunteers – usually the property owners or managers – and is aimed at local people, hoping to show them curious or hidden attractions free of charge. In 2010 around 1 million visitors took part in the Heritage Open Days, which is coordinated by English Heritage.

If you would like the chance to see your local follies, contemporary buildings or private homes or even take part in guided walks, concerts, re-enactment, trails and much more, visit

If you’d like to walk to your nearest event, you could use our OS getamap application, to plan your route. Don’t forget to upload your favourite places and routes to share with other visitors.

Image courtesy of zawtowers on flickr

The great swapathon

This week on the blog we thought we’d have a look at the Change 4 Life programme that the Department for Health run and the new initiative they have started called the Great Swapathon.

Change 4 Life from the Department of Health

Change 4 Life from the Department of Health

Change 4 Life is a programme that started back in 2009 and demonstrates simple steps that can be taken to improve your health and general well being.  The premise of the campaign stems around the idea of Eat Well, Move More, Live Longer.

The Great Swapathon is all about helping you make small changes in your life that will make a difference – all you need to do is answer some simple questions about your current lifestyle based on diet, well being and activity levels. The outcome of these questions are a set of suggested swaps that you could make such as

  1. Play football with your mates in the park rather than sit indoors playing a computer game
  2. Put some fresh fruit on your breakfast cereal rather than sugar
  3. Walk around whilst talking on your mobile phone

Have you seen the results of the year long study carried out by the National Academy of Sciences yet? Their research has shown that walking for 40 minutes a few times a week helps to preserve memory and keep ageing minds on top form. The study was based on a group of 120 volunteers in the 60′s. To help ward off dementia perhaps a swap a short journey in the car for a brisk walk instead? If you are in need of inspiration of where to walk why not have a look at your local OS Explorer Map or visit the Ordnance Survey explore portal for ideas?

I’ve taken the swapathon quiz and am making some changes in my daily routine – why not have a go yourself and see what changes you could make?

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Save a Cyclist

This week on the blog we’re looking at what is a very serious topic – the safety of cyclists on our roads. We’re less than a month into 2011 and already there have been a number of cycling fatalities on the roads.

Former boxer, Gary Mason was killed whilst on his bike in London on 6 January, whilst last week saw two rising stars of road cycling killed – Carla Swart (Team HTC Highroad) and Lewis Balycki (British Cycling Talent Team) were killed within 24 hours of each other. As a result of these deaths a campaign has been started through facebook to Save A Cyclist.

In July 2010 the former Olympic rower, James Cracknell, was taking part in a challenge across America. He was cycling Route 66 through Arizona when in the early dawn, despite being lit up like a Christmas tree, the wing mirror of a truck struck him from behind, fracturing his skull in two places and leaving him with bleeding in the frontal lobes of the brain and a head full of staples. James was one of the lucky ones. He has lived to tell the tale – but there are plenty of those out there who haven’t.

A survey carried out by the Department for Transport shows that 60% of people think the roads in United Kingdom are too dangerous to cycle on.  Statistic show that in 2009 there were 11 742 reported accidents involving cyclists on Britain’s roads – accounting for 5% of all road accidents.

Image of cyclist in Edinburgh City Centre

City centres are hazardous places for cyclists

Continue reading “Save a Cyclist”

Mystery Walkers Required

This week on the Ordnance Survey blog we thought we’d have a look at one of the campaigns that has been launched by the Ramblers – the Mystery Walker Campaign.

As a nation we have thousands of miles of footpaths. As I’m sure you’ll agree – some of them are good whilst others shall we say need some attention. What the Ramblers are aiming to achieve is a database of where the good, the bad and the ugly of Britains footpaths are. What they are asking for is people to volunteer to become a mystery walker and walk around 3 to 5 miles of footpath and survey the route as they go.

Image of ramblers on a footpath to Whitley

Ramblers on a footpath to Whitley (OS grid reference TQ5053)

Being a mystery walker is easy and is a great way to spend an afternoon – plus it is helping to provide vital information. The reports gained help focus the efforts of local highways team on areas that need their help. Positive feedback on footpaths can also be morale boosting for over-stretched council departments and provide useful information to your fellow walkers.

Continue reading “Mystery Walkers Required”

Autumn walking – be prepared!

With summer an almost distant memory and the trees changing to rich golden shades of brown walking out on the hills becomes more of a challenge. Mountain Rescue see an increase in their call outs over the autumn months as the ground is slipperier underfoot and you can’t see what is lurking under the fallen leaves.

Enjoy fun walks this autumn

Continue reading “Autumn walking – be prepared!”

Walk of the week: Cadover to Plymsteps Circular

The explore portal walk of the week for this week takes place in Dartmoor. It is an interesting walk that passes several waterfalls. Good for a day out this summer.

Cadover to Plymsteps Circular  
Length of route:
16 km (9 mi)
Suitable for:
“Park at Cadover Bridge. Follow route over Trowlsworthy, Hen, and Shavercombe Tors to Plym Steps a series of small waterfalls. Then contour round to Hartor Tors via Claveslake Tor. Join the main track at the old mine and then head SW to Ditsworthy House. The follow the Plym downstream back to Cadover Bridge.”

Cadover to Plymsteps Circular

Cadover to Plymsteps Circular

Grid reference for nearby Shaugh Prior is  SX 555 647 - GB Grid

The OS Explorer maps that you may need for walking in this area are OL28 and OL20. The OS Landranger map that you will need is 202.

Roger5991 submitted this route.

Walk of the week: South Derbyshire Saunter

This week the walk of the week  from the explore portal focusses on Derbyshire. The route will offer you great views over Staunton Harold Reservoir.

South Derbyshire Saunter

Length of route:  15 km (9 mi)
Suitable for: Walking

“This is a cut down or ‘lite’ version of my three viewpoints walk. All of the paths are pleasant, even in the winter. The start / finish is a convenient and free car park with a superb view over Staunton Harold Reservoir.”

South Derbyshire Saunter

South Derbyshire Saunter

 This route was submitted by shieladixon

Why not check out last week’s walk of the week?

Why children need the freedom to explore

Back in January, Mission:Explore was announced as one of the winners of the GeoVation Awards Programme, the initiative supporting exciting ideas that use geography. Everyone that met the team was impressed with their passion, vision and sense of adventure. Here, Daniel Raven-Ellison who gave the pitch which secured the award, writes about the project and it’s aims in the first of a series of guest posts.

You can find out more on the GeoVation blog.


PS look out for some exciting news about this year’s GeoVation Awards very soon!


Mission:Explore is a project to encourage people to see, explore and act innew ways. We started the project because while children’s geographies are being extended in some areas (such as social networks), they are being restricted and bound in others.

As a subject geography is often marginalised and in schools and neighbourhoods children’s physical geographies are being reduced due to risk aversion. Our geographies directly impact on our wellbeing and our understanding of those geographies can help us to improve the wellbeing not only of ourselves but our communities.

Mission:Explore encourages children to look at the world differently

Mission:Explore encourages children to look at the world differently

We believe that it is vital that young people are given the opportunity to explore. Exploration is a state of mind and a process of enquiry. It is about searching for answers even if we do not know the questions and can be physical, emotional or imagined.

Exploration is strongly linked to creativity: both search for originality (if only for the participant) and involve taking and managing risk. These are skills that we need young people to develop and along with their health and education, are being held back when children are not allowed to explore.

Mission:Explore aims to engage young people with geography on their own terms by challenging them to complete challenges. Each mission challenges the explorer to complete quirky, funny, important, strange or just fun activity. The people involved can choose to follow the mission to the letter or just use it to inspire their own ideas.

How far can you get while sucking a mint?!

How far can you get while sucking a mint?!

We have just launched the Mission:Explore children’s book which includes 102 missions. All of our royalties are being invested in free copies of the book for children who would never normally come across them. The first books have been given to Play Tower Hamlets who are distributing them on our behalf.

The book is powerful. As a parent it is a fantastic way to encourage your children to play outdoors in a meaningful way. As an object that can be carried around it can create a purpose for doing the missions and a reason to speak to members of the community.

Missions like “how far can you get while sucking the same mint” involves some basic science while “map (un)friendly places” engages young people with politics and encourages them to question who creates places and cultures. If all the children on a street had a copy of the book it could change that community forever.

The book is available nationally and we would love to hear what you think of it.

We are going a step further though. With the help of GeoVation we, along with The Workshop, are turning Mission:Explore into a website and iPhone App. We will be sharing more details on this innovation in the next blogpost.

Daniel Raven-Ellison.