It’s close to 170 years since OS officially confirmed Ben Nevis as Britain’s highest mountain. It’s nearly 70 years since we carried out the last full survey back in 1949. Now we know in 2016 that the surveyors of a bygone age were just centimetres out in their calculations – testament to their extraordinary efforts and application.
In 1949 theodolites and other antiquities of surveying were the best friends of those mapping every nook and cranny of the British landscape. Now highly refined measuring devices, linked to an intricate network of land stations and a sky-full of satellites (yes up to 15 Russian, American and European ones) have been used to re-check the height of the mountain taking three surveyors just two hours to gather what it took an expeditionary force of surveyors 20 days to complete.
Did you know that the OS computer vaults hold a staggering 450 million geographical features across Great Britain which form the master map of the country? Our surveyors and aircraft are constantly revealing the changing look of GB and to keep up OS make 10,000 changes a day which all feed into our range of paper and digital map products.
We’ve been busy working on a number of new OS OpenData products, including OS Open Roads and OS Open Rivers and it started us thinking about how all these features create the living face of Britain.
So how many miles of roads snake across the country? How many miles of waterways wind their way from the tip of Scotland to the toe of Cornwall and what do all the changes to GB its roads, its rail, its buildings look like over the last 10 years. Take a look in our three videos and find out.
Britain’s road network:
Dr Gary Priestnall, at Nottingham University’s School of Geography, is aiming to recapture the sense of wonder which an extraordinary 15-foot by 14 foot, 3D, sculpted model of the Lake District inspired when it was unveiled in Keswick in the 1870’s. It has spawned a new exhibition opening at Keswick Museum and Art Gallery on Monday February 9 which runs until May. It’s part historical detective story, and part 21st Century, technological success story and Ordnance Survey has helped Gary every step of the way. Here is his story.
A unique 3-D model of the Lake District which would have offered Victorian tourists their first bird’s eye view of the Lake District has been known about since it caused such a stir in 1875. So when the one last surviving, beautifully hand-painted piece of the model, as well as 140 of the original plaster moulds used to create it, fell in to my hands the chance to celebrate the event in 2015 with an exhibition became my cause celebre.
This year’s centenary of the start of World War One brings extra poignancy to Remembrance Day events. In a ‘special’ for BBC1’s flagship programme Countryfile (showing on Sunday 9 November from 6.30 pm) Ordnance Survey has been chosen to reflect life on the front line.
OS’s military heritage saw surveying and map making skills put to the harshest test and also coupled to many parallel military fields of expertise – like sound ranging for allied artillery batteries. So how could we explain skills honed a hundred years ago? And who should be chosen to meet the wonderful presenter of the film – Ellie Harrison?
Out of the blue, a BBC researcher called the Press Office in search of “a willing work force who have to concentrate from clocking on to clocking off; whose work required the assessment of the finest detail throughout”. There were other companies in the frame to take on the task, but several calls to and fro with the comms team and we assured the BBC that we were made of the right stuff.
But now to get 24 willing volunteers to participate in a week-long experiment which involved tests morning and afternoon, and some bizarre things to eat. The number of members of staff who stepped forward for possible selection was amazing. Their interest, both in the science behind the test as well their commitment to seeing it through, was staggering.
Here’s what Christian Kirchel (one of the 24) made of his brush with a network BBC production team, a computer screen and, among other things, lots and lots of fudge!