Ordnance Survey team


Sharing our green credentials

Last month our head office, Explorer House, went green for the day as we celebrated eco-Friday.

Events and activities to encourage everyone to think about the environment and how we can reduce our carbon footprint took place throughout the day. There was something for everyone, from bike maintenance demos to woodland tours and discovering alternative ways to travel to work – it was great to see colleagues outside in the sunshine trying out electric bikes. Our restaurant team also joined in promoting local food suppliers and producers with delicious samples on offer.

The day was also a fun way for everyone to find out more about the environmental features of Explorer House…and the timing couldn’t have been better, as the week before we were delighted to have won a Sustainable Achievement Award from The Office Agents Society (OAS) Development Awards.

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Trig pillars – we salute you

They stand as shining white monoliths and there are 5,500 of them still standing in Great Britain.

And as the nation waves Union Flags aloft during the Jubilee celebrations, spare a thought for a few hardy souls, who are gathering to commemorate the last-used trig pillar in the retriangulation of Britain at Thorney Gale in Westmorland, Cumbria.

Monday, June 4 will mark half a century since this trig pillar was last used, bringing an end to the crucial role of trig pillars in the retriangulation of Great Britain.

Perhaps instantly recognisable to walkers, hikers and geography pupils, the quintessentially British trig pillars were once part of a state-of-the-art network built from 1936, to begin the retriangulation of Great Britain. The task was massive and lasted up until 1962. The benefits of this process we are still reaping today.

An Ordnance Survey team working on the retriangulation

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Get walking with Walk4Life!

Have you ever wondered how far a mile is on the ground and how long it would take you to walk it?  In my mind I go back to the sports field at school to imagine the 100 metre and 400 metre tracks for shorter distances, then after that at some point I mentally move over from metric to imperial, and think about miles!  I know that one big stride is about a metre.  But how far is a mile on the ground?

One of the key aims of the Walk4Life website is to help people who don’t normally walk very far to be confident in their ability to walk a mile. The site, which of course uses Ordnance Survey mapping, shows thousands of walks of all length, but also has 2,012 special 1 mile long Walk4Life Miles. These are waymarked on the ground, with distinctive yellow waymarkers, and act as kind of ‘measured mile’ allowing people to learn how far, or indeed how short, a mile is.  Read More


World place names in Great Britain

You can do a world tour without the need for one of these ...

You can do a world tour without the need for one of these …

Looking at the weather out of the window summer is a dim and distant memory, if indeed it ever happened at all! As the nights start to draw in and the leaves turn to various shades of brown I thought that we’d take ourselves off on a world tour today – without the need for a passport! Within our own shores we have places that sound as though they should be elsewhere in the world …

Let’s take in the sites of Europe first – we could go to Barcelona (Cornwall – OS grid reference SX219535), Holland (Surrey – OS grid reference TQ400504), Moscow (North Ayrshire – OS grid reference NS487402), Florence (Stoke on Trent – OS grid reference SJ918422) or Dresden (Stoke on Trent – OS grid reference SJ910423).

Heading into the Middle East we come across Bethlehem (Carmarthenshire – OS grid reference SN688253), Jerusalem (Cumbria – OS grid reference NY657194) and Jordan (Devon – OS grid reference SX699750).

Rather than heading out across the Atlantic why not try Hollywood (Worcestershire – OS grid reference SP083774), Dallas (Moray – OS grid reference NJ114519), Houston (Renfrewshire – OS grid reference NS405668) or Canada (Hampshire – OS grid reference SU287182).

If you’re after an antipodean adventure then look no further than Melbourne (Derbyshire – OS grid reference SK397248), Botany Bay (Enfield – OS grid reference TQ299 992), Sydney (Cheshire – OS grid reference SJ726565), New Zealand (Wiltshire – OS grid reference SU011773), Christchurch (Dorset – OS grid reference SZ153926) or Wellington (Telford – OS grid reference SJ646122).

Using Ordnance Survey maps – where else can you visit on your world tour without leaving Great Britain?


On your bike!

Given the current cost of petrol and diesel you wouldn’t be on your own if you were looking for an alternative to using your car to get to work. There are many others out there who are looking to take to two wheels rather than four for their daily commute. Today on the Ordnance Survey blog we’re going to look at commuting by bike.

First of all, let’s state the obvious – you’re going to need a bike. If you don’t already have one – you could go to your local cycle shop and make your purchase using your savings or you could buy one through the Bike 2 Work scheme, part of the Governments Green transport plan that is designed to encourage more environmentally friendly travel and promote the health benefits of a more active lifestyle. The scheme enables you to buy a bike using an interest free loan through your employer whilst saving up to 52% on the cost of the bike at the same time. The premise of the scheme, for those of you not already aware of it is this:

  1. You ask your employer to register to the scheme.
  2. You visit one of the accredited Bike 2 Work scheme retailers and get a quotation from them for the bike / accessories you require.
  3. You give the quotation to your employer for them to authorise it.
  4. Your employer provides the Bike 2 Work scheme with the authorisation for your purchase.
  5. Your employer makes a payment to Bike 2 Work based on the quotation you provided them with.
  6. You receive vouchers from Bike 2 Work to make your purchase at the relevant bike shop.
  7. You then start making your interest free payments to your employer.

Alongside the bike – the other things that you should consider investing in include a helmet, clothing that makes you visible to other road users, security for your bike and lights.

Once you are all kitted out all that is left is to plan your route – this isn’t necessarily going to be the same one that you would have driven. Have a look at the OS getamap application to plan your route – you may find that there is a traffic free cycle route that you could take.

So that’s you sorted for your commute into work – so get on your bike!

Do you already commute to work on your bike? What tips would you offer to someone who is thinking of starting to commute on a bike?


Geography underpinning the digital switchover

The digital television switchover has been a massive undertaking from both a logistical and public engagement perspective.

Making sure the 60-odd million television sets in the country are set up with the correct equipment and the conversion of 1,160 TV transmitters has been a task of herculean proportions. And to help tackle this challenge, the BBC has been making extensive use of geographic information.

There are around 50 separate switching dates, and at every step the coverage of TV services has changed as new frequencies come on, old ones go off, and the pattern of interference between sites varies. At every stage the BBC has had to calculate the transmitter coverage to make sure people could still pick up a signal.

They did this by firstly divided the country into 100-metre grid squares and through the use of ADDRESS-POINT data, which pinpoints the location of residential, business and public postal addresses, the BBC were able to identify which of those areas were populated.

From there it was a case of plotting the location of each transmitter and through the use of a digital terrain model, which maps the physical shape of the landscape; they were able to calculate the likely coverage. This involved taking into account the transmitter location, its height, the shape of the landscape and any obstructions or ‘ground clutter’ such as trees and buildings – they even took into account the affect of typical weather conditions!

A series of calculations then enabled them to identify the amount of signal someone would receive from the best placed transmitter, as well as the amount of interference.

And it’s all thanks to that work that when you or I check the Digital UK website, you’re able to see when your area will switchover and what you need to do to be ready.

The switchover started in 2007 and is on track to be completed next year – partly due to the usefulness of geographic information.

Something to ponder when you next curl up in front of the box…


Bagging Munros, Peaks and the Wainwrights

Do you know your Wainwrights from your Hardys?

Do you know your Wainwrights from your Hardys? You will after reading the blog today!

On your outdoor adventures have you come across people who claim to have “bagged” Wainwrights, Munros, Grahams or Peaks? Have you wondered what they were talking about? Today on the Ordnance Survey blog I aim to explain what they all mean! If you don’t know your Marilyns from your Munros or your Wainwrights from your Hardys – read on!

  • Bagging
    This term means – a hill walker / climber / mountaineer attempting to reach the summit of a collection of hills / peaks.

The collection of hills or peaks that are “bagged” could be one of the following …

  • Munros
    These are all the Scottish hills / peaks that are over 3 000ft. The list on Munros was originally set by Sir Hugh Munro in 1891 but has since been revised by the Scottish Mountaineering Club. There are 283 Munros to be bagged with an additional 227 subsidiary Munro Tops listed that meet the height requirement but aren’t deemed to be separate enough from others to stand alone. Read More

How Ordnance Survey plays its part in a flooding emergency

Flooding has featured in the news regularly over the last few years, Boscastle, Cockermouth and Bournemouth to name a few examples. I wanted to share with you how Ordnance Survey can help with flood relief operations and working with The Environment Agency, to provide a flood risk application.

In August 2004, Boscastle in Cornwall was badly effected by a flood that cause major damage through the town. 75mm fell in the space of two hours, the average rainfall for the whole of August alone. The sudden deluge caused two nearby rivers to burst their banks and a torrent of water to sweep through the village’s main street

Bournemouth flood

Bournemouth flood

Cockermouth in Cumbria saw water levels rise to about 2.5 metres in November of 2009. The heavy rainfall caused the rivers Derwent and Cocker to burst their banks; both the rivers meet in the town of Cockermouth where torrents of water carried cars and debris away Read More


Making sense, and use, of open data

Earlier in the year, with the anniversary of, I read quite a few articles or blog posts similar to this by Paul Clarke, lamenting the fact that the simple release of open data hadn’t automatically resulted in an explosion of useful applications and commercial value.

Publication didn’t necessarily mean communication or application, seemed to be the running theme.

To that end, we’ve seen an increasing number of organisations take open data and try to help people make sense of it – you might remember this post we published earlier in the year looking at DataTap, which uses OS OpenSpace to visualise a range of open data released by Windsor and Maidenhead Council.

DataTap subsequently won the MediaGuardian award for the ‘Best Use of Data’ but they’re just one example. I hope you’ll agree that Ordnance Survey is doing its bit through the GeoVation programme and our support of the Open Data Masterclasses (and a few more things in the pipeline I can’t talk about yet…) but there are other organisations out there trying to help people make sense of, and more importantly, use of open data.

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Street maps on Kindle using OS OpenData

Maps on your KindleWe think this is pretty cool, and it’s an example of a company creating commercial value from open data.

Lovell Johns, a company that has been providing traditional mapping products for the private and public sectors for 45 years, has created a range of Street Map Guides for Amazon’s Kindle.

Maps on Kindle isn’t actually unique, but this is the best interface I’ve seen that manages to overcome the Kindle’s basic navigation functionality.

Downloadable within seconds, the guides contain OS Street View mapping covering the central area of each city – with London, Birmingham, Manchester, Glasgow, Bristol, Oxford, Cambridge, Portsmouth, Cardiff and Edinburgh available so far.

Users then navigate about the map using the traditional page turning buttons, plus on page click-to-navigate tools. Personally I think this is one of the more innovative commercial uses of OS OpenData I’ve seen.

Kindle Map Guides can be found on the Amazon website.