Ordnance Survey make 10,000 changes a day to the master map of Great Britain. This fact often astounds people and this behind the scenes story from one of our surveyors, Dom Turnor, helps explain just how many changes occur to our landscape every day.
I’m a forty-something field surveyor living and working in the rolling hills and hidden valleys of Worcestershire, where my primary job and purpose is to keep the large scale mapping up-to-date. I have been working as a field surveyor for nearly 13 years and have concentrated my efforts mainly around the golden villages of the Cotswolds, the post-industrial towns of the Forest of Dean and the wooded valleys of Stroud. It has only been in the last year that I have been transferred a little to the north; where I now find my area of responsibility to be the Malvern Hills.
Each field surveyor, and there are around 300 of us, has a geographical area which we have the responsibility to look after. This means we have to add to the map any new or changed features that we are aware of, or we find. If you can imagine the 300 of us are spread out over England, Scotland and Wales and the landscapes are of course very different. They offer the complete contrasts from mountains to conurbations, from moorlands to industrial estates, military barracks to ports and everything around and in-between. All these places, however contrasting in their fortunes, have one thing in common: development. Houses of varying sizes are being built; gated mansions to terraces of sheltered housing, houses of straw and wood, glass and steel, cut into the landscape or standing like an eye sore against a hill side. Schools have been shut down, knocked down and re-built. Warehouses have been vacated and converted into offices and flats, barns likewise. Military bases have been shut down and huge sprawling housing estates have been built in their place. Estates have been built on floodplains, and flood prevention schemes have been built next to these floodplain estates. Residential care homes are cropping up all over the place and old asylums are being converted into flats and dwellings. Roads are being cut into the landscapes to transport the goods we need to fill our new homes, and bases are built with new housing estates abutting up to their boundaries. Woods are cut down and re-planted, reservoirs and lakes are drained and created, and canals are allowed to silt up and then are dredged and re-opened.
So we are all kept very busy, as the development of this country is ongoing to a varying extent as according to the economic climate, the change never stops and nor do we. Every update we make to the digital map is sent back to the main database and then sent onto our customers, so our map is dynamic and we are delivering continuous improvements to it – whether it be a small single-story house outside Much Wenlock or a huge shopping centre in central London.
We believe that every change is important to someone and so it all has to go onto our map, ideally within six months of it being completed, this is what makes Ordnance Survey the finest map makers in the world.