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25 years since the last OS benchmark

You may know about our trig pillars, but did you know that there are more nostalgic reminders of how we used to map Great Britain?

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Have you ever seen one of these while you’ve been out and about? If so, it is highly likely you have spotted one of our renowned benchmarks. 2018 marks 25 years since the last traditionally-cut arrow style benchmark was carved on a milestone located outside The Fountain pub in Loughton.

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GeoTech masterclass: GeoDataViz

GeoTech masterclasses are a popular series of events organised by the team at our Geovation Hub in Clerkenwell Green, London. These workshops are not to be missed and book up quickly and it was on a chilly November evening that the Hub played host to the GeoDataViz (GDV) team.

Kicking off the session was Charley Glynn who gave an overview of the team and the important role we play within OS. Our role involves making sense of complex data through compelling visuals and we do that through a number of different techniques and using a range of software.

To emphasise this Charley took us on a journey through some of our recent work including our visuals for the CityVerve project and OS Custom Made. You can find out more about our team and the type of work we do here.

Next up was Paul Naylor who introduced the new GeoDataViz toolkit, a set of assets and resources that can help with communicating data effectively through the design of compelling and informative visuals.

What is in the toolkit?

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Augmented Reality in the great outdoors

By Tim Newman, Consumer Product Manager

For over a decade, OS has been active in the field of augmented reality – proving the concept back in 2006 with a thought-leading paper on Mobile Augmented Reality, and more recently prototyping 3D maps of Mars, and creating a navigation app for a Shoreditch basement. We’re now really excited to be using this augmented reality technology to introduce a new feature for OS Maps.

The recently released AR feature will help users learn about their surroundings by labelling and categorising the features around them, finally overcoming the big limitation of maps on mobile: the small screen. Have you ever looked out over a stunning vista and found yourself struggling to identify a hill or work out how far it was to the town below you? Now you can simply hold up your smartphone to find out what you’re looking at and how far away it is. If a place catches your interest, just tap on the label to find out more about it.

This fun and informative new feature was made possible by combining sensor data from the phone with OS data of over 200,000 hills, mountains, coastal features, lakes, settlements, transport hubs and areas of woodland. As a company of data experts, it’s fantastically rewarding to make use of our data to help make the outdoors more enjoyable, accessible and safe. This is what motivates the team and, combined with the great feedback we get from users, drives us to continue improving OS Maps – so keep your eyes peeled for the next bunch of features we’re working on to make it easier than ever to plan your time outdoors. There’s never been a better time to open up OS Maps and GetOutside!

To find out more about AR head to

Stay tuned to the blog to learn from Layla Gordon in the tech labs team about how it works and the exciting projects that she’s developing with augmented reality.


Parallel – working with OS OpenData

We’re celebrating seven years of OS OpenData, and its success is down to the people and businesses using the products. We are always interested in hearing how open data is being used, so please keep sharing your examples with us. One business who we have spotted using our data regularly over the years is Parallel. We asked Ashley Clough, founder of Parallel to explain how OS OpenData has benefitted them.

Parallel has evolved to specialise in data-visualisation and mapping, particularly for healthcare data in and around the NHS. We started to use OS OpenData when we became frustrated by the styling of available basemaps for website applications. We needed a set of maps that were optimised for the presentation of data overlays; as icons for point locations and polygons for area indications. We needed to control what was visible on the map at every zoom level and crucially we needed to ensure that the level of detail was consistent across the entirety of Great Britain. We investigated using open source map data but we couldn’t rely on the consistency of data within urban locations, and particularly in more rural locations. As the maps are used within the NHS we needed to ensure that everywhere had the same quality of data; OS OpenData was, and we believe still is, the most consistent for our purpose.

Parallel 3D buildings and functional sites

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7 fantastic things about #TrigPillar80

When we decided to celebrate the 80th anniversary of the trig pillar last year, we had no idea how strongly so many of you felt about the (mostly) concrete pillars dotted around Britain. We’ve had over 1,200 Instagram posts, uncovered dozens of trig baggers, seen Rob Woodall complete his 13-year mission to bag all 6,190 and had hundreds of people, magazines and websites share stories throughout the year.

With 18 April fast-approaching, #TrigPillar80 is drawing to a close, and #TrigPillar81 doesn’t have quite the same ring to it. So, huge thanks to everyone who took part and keep sharing your trig pillar love with us. Here are 7 fantastic things about trig pillars in case you missed all of the celebrations this year: Read More


Top walking destinations for 2016 unveiled

Looking ahead to New Year’s Resolutions for 2017? Trying to decide how to work off those Christmas calories? How about walking? Getting outside and walking in Britain is free, easy and accessible to most of us.

Where will you explore? OS Maps mobile - photo by #GetOutside champion Aleks Kashefi

Where will you explore? OS Maps mobile – photo by #GetOutside champion Aleks Kashefi

We’ve already seen 2016 prove to be a big year for the outdoor enthusiast with the nation either donning their running shoes or walking boots to #GetOutside.

With the year coming to an end we’ve taken a look back at the most popular destinations searched by walkers on our popular OS Maps online service. An amazing 1.4 million destination searches were carried out via our online version of OS Maps in 2016. So, where were people hoping to explore?

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Top 5 mappy Christmas gifts

It’s December, so we feel safe mentioning the ‘C’ word and sharing our 5 favourite Christmas gifts for the map lover in your life. Grab some inspiration here:

1. The Great British Colouring Map: A Colouring Journey Around Britain

CBRelax this Christmas and take an immersive colouring trip across the country, from coasts and forests to our iconic cities and landmarks. The latest addition to the colouring-in craze puts the intricate detail our maps on the page, ready for you either restore them to their original colour scheme – or add your own abstract creative touch! Practice some mindfulness and colour in or simply pore over the maps:

2. OS Custom Made

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then one of our Custom Made maps tells a story. You can put your memories – where you were born, where you met, where you live –at the centre of one of our maps. You can choose a folded map at OS Explorer or OS Landranger map scale, add your own photo and title and centre it wherever you like. Or pick a unique flat map that can be framed and hung on the wall – still with your own title and centred where you choose. For the first time this year, we’re also offering a canvas version for you to hang on your wall. Custom Made map prices start at £16.99, take a look:

3. OS clothing collection

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Recreating historic maps: interview with Charley Glynn

We recently celebrated our 225th anniversary and shared with you two new maps created by our Cartographic Design team. Chris and Charley took inspiration from map styles in our history and used current OS data to recreate the look and feel. Charley chose a 1960s map of the Western Highlands of Scotland. We catch up with him to find out how he went about the challenge.

Charley's map

Charley’s map

Tell us about the map era that you chose Read More


#TrigPillar80 winners picked

First things first, a massive thank you to everyone who has joined in with our #TrigPillar80 celebrations over the last week or so. We’ve been thrilled that so many of you share our loved and appreciation for the trig pillar, and particularly with the hundreds of people who have shared their favourite trig pillar photos with us on Twitter and Instagram so far.

If you missed it last week, catch up on our celebrations, find out about the inner workings of a trig pillar, read about how we survey today, meet Britain’s top trig-bagger, and try out some trig pillar routes recommended by our #GetOutside champions.

But now it’s time to announce the first four winners of our #TrigPillar80 T-shirts…

Week eighteen #TrigPillar80 T-shirt winners – 22/08/16

Trig pillar on Carreg Yr Ogof with Garreg Las in the background #trigpillar80 #ordnancesurvey

A photo posted by @skyrunner1982 on

Week seventeen #TrigPillar80 T-shirt winners – 15/08/16

Week sixteen #TrigPillar80 T-shirt winners – 08/08/16

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Map reading skills: How to read a grid reference

On week four in our six-week blog series on map reading skills, we’re taking a look at how to read a grid reference. Map reading is an essential skill for any explorer or outdoor enthusiast. We’ve teamed up with Steve Backshall to record a series of videos to remind you of the basics and help you feel confident with your map.


So far we’ve covered which OS map you needunderstanding map symbols and making sense of contour lines. Today we’re covering grid references, both four-figure and six-figure version. Over the next fortnight we’ll also cover:

  • Knowing your compass and how to take a compass bearing
  • Understanding magnetic north

Each week we’ll share Steve’s video with you, give a summary in the blog and point you in the right direction of further resources and details. Hear what Steve has to say about grid references in these two short videos: Read More