Yesterday, some of our team had the pleasure of meeting Princess Anne at the unveiling of a plaque to celebrate the restoration of the Osmington White Horse near Weymouth.
Regular blog readers will have read before about our work with the Osmington Restoration Society to help them restore the 204 year-old figure back to its original setting following years of neglect and weathering which have affected the way it looks.
For the team involved it was a moment of great pride that Her Royal Highness, The Princess Royal was able to formally acknowledge the monument created to honour King George III – her great, great, great, great grandfather who was sadly unable to return to Weymouth to acknowledge it due to illness.
The Princess recognised the work put in by many volunteers to restore it as closely to the original in time for the 2012 Olympics when the monument will be seen by millions of people watching the TV coverage of the Olympic sailing held in Weymouth.
The Osmington Restoration Group was set up in 2009 with the ambition of restoring the monument to its original and preventing further deterioration. With a grant from Natural England, and help from local organisations and individuals, together with research and technical expertise by Ordnance Survey and English Heritage, work began in July 2010
Each stage raised its own challenges. These ranged from having to remove 160 tonnes of superfluous stone without jeopardising the surrounding site of special scientific interest, having to work in all weathers on a steep hillside, and determining the original outline after much change over the years. Many volunteer groups helped including Scouts, Army and Navy cadets and local school children.
Research was needed across widely disparate sources including oil paintings from the period, old photographs and Ordnance Survey maps, on-site analysis of earthworks, and the use of the latest GPS and mapping technologies – which is where we came on board to help. The interactive use of such a combination of sources is believed to have broken new ground in this type of restoration.
Although The Princess’s arrival in a helicopter was a little late, due to the early morning fog, the day created great interest among the media and we got some great pictures and carried out some great interviews.
Photographs with thanks to Mike Buck and Chris Bird.
When the last aerial imagery was flown in November it didn’t just mark the end of the 2011 flying programme, but also the end of our tenure at Blackpool Airport. We’ve been flying from the airport for over 50 years, had an office in the area since the mid 1960s, and two members of our Flying Unit have been spending six months of the year there for the last 20 years.
In its early days, the flying programme operated from a number of bases around the country, including Blackpool. Over time, the central position of Blackpool for flying to the far north of Scotland and down to the Isles of Scilly made it the sensible choice to have as a permanent base for the Flying Unit. In addition, the climate in the area meant that it was rarely a fog-bound airport and flying time could be maximised.
The Flying Unit could be in the skies over you anytime that weather allows between March and November, capturing around 50,000 images a year. Five people, some from our field teams and others from head office, work on a rota from our Blackpool airport base during the flying season. The two people on the rota spend around two weeks at a time in Blackpool, flying as often as the weather allows, including weekends.
As 2011 draws to a close we thought we’d share with you our top ten most popular blog stories from the year. If you’re new to the blog, get a feel for the things we talk about; and if you’re a regular blog-reader, remind yourself of what we’ve been talking about this year.
And if there’s anything you’d like to see more of or any questions you’d like answered on the blog – let us know.
10. Know your grid references – for those of you who aren’t sure of how to take a grid reference – here’s a step by step guide.
9. All of a Twitter about mapping – a two week period of tweeting by our surveyors gave you a flavour of the work they do every day.
8. Mapping applications for your phone – location based applications are big business in the Smartphone market and none more so than apps using Ordnance Survey data.
We’ve enjoyed writing quizzes and finding images to test your mapping knowledge this year – so whether you’re sat at home and feeling too full to move after the festive feasting or at work and wishing you weren’t, have a go at some of the geo-fun from 2011.
Try our map symbol game – simply swap one map symbol with an adjacent one to create a line of three or more identical symbols horizontally or vertically.
Do you know your map symbols? – How well do you think you know the symbols that appear on our OS Explorer and OS Landranger maps?
A location challenge when addressing fraud – do you recognise these well-known places on a map?
Play spot the difference with our Cartography team – have you got what it takes to be a cartographer?
Amidst the joy of our Christmas celebrations this year, staff at Ordnance Survey will be remembering the contribution made to the national mapping agency by Brigadier Martin Hotine CMG CBE RE.
Brigadier Hotine served in the Royal Engineers for many years and saw active service in both the First and Second World Wars. However, it was during 1934–1939 when he worked at Ordnance Survey heading up the catchily-titled ‘Trigonometrical and Levelling division’ when he made the contribution which we’ll be remembering.
Hotine was the person responsible for the design, planning and implementation of the re-triangulation of Great Britain on which Ordnance Survey maps are still based. During this inter-war period, he designed the iconic and much-loved Trig Pillar which is still found now on many hilltops and in the countryside across Great Britain.
Guest blog by Graham E Little
So there I was on 8 December 2011, in my best suit and new tie, drinking champagne in the grandest of surroundings and shaking hands with the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh – not an everyday occurrence!
It all started with a tip off from Vanessa Lawrence, our Chief Executive, that I might be receiving an interesting royal invitation. A royal crested invitation card duly arrived from The Master of the Household who had ‘received Her Majesty’s command to invite Mr Graham Little to a reception to be given at Buckingham Palace for those involved in Exploration and Adventure’. The reception marked the centenary of Captain Robert Scott’s final expedition to the South Pole.
Although well over 45 years of loyal service to Ordnance Survey must count for something, my invitation was no doubt in recognition of a similar number of years of climbing and mountaineering around the world with a respectable number of first ascents in remote places.
It was not quite a personal audience as I was but one of about 400 invited to Buckingham Palace, with all aspects of adventure and exploration and the great and the good of geography represented.
A few months ago, we told you about the work we have been doing with The Osmington White Horse restoration team to help them to restore the figure to its original form. So, as the winter sets in and the team are no longer on the hill, I thought you might like to hear about how it’s gone and what’s happening next.
The Osmington White Horse is a figure cut into the hill just outside Weymouth Bay. The figure of George III on his horse was originally created in 1808 and is enormous at 85 metres long and nearly 100 metres high. It’s on a very steep slope which can be seen from Weymouth Bay which will host the sailing element of the Olympics in 2012.
Although there have been a number of spasmodic maintenance and restoration projects over the years (including Challenge Anneka in the 1980s) the figure had deteriorated badly and the original figure had become overgrown and ill-defined over time.
The project to restore the figure started in 2009 by The Osmington Society – an amazing group of local people with a desire to improve the heritage in their area. They enlisted the support of Natural England, English Heritage and Ordnance Survey to help identify the original outline.
Our Remote Sensing team have a unique perspective on Great Britain as they work with aerial imagery every day. Whether they are camera operators in our Flying Unit or technicians based in our Southampton head office, they are getting a bird’s eye view of the sights that you and I only see from the ground.
From beautiful shots of remote Scottish islands, to viewing the Houses of Parliament, every day takes the team somewhere different. Although our 2011 flying season has now come to a close (the team usually fly from March to November as that is the best weather window), processing continues on the thousands of images captured for our database. During processing, Remote Sensing see some unusual sights – which won’t be making it into our database and on to our mapping anytime soon.
One of my colleagues volunteers for a local Search and Rescue team and I caught up with Phil to find out more about the role…
Have you ever switched on the TV and caught the tail end of a news item showing Search and Rescue (SAR) teams scouring the countryside for missing people? These teams are usually made up of locally trained volunteers who are ‘on call’. UK teams include both lowland SAR and mountain SAR teams, but both have the similar objectives – to quickly locate missing and vulnerable people, usually at the request of the local police force. The police can call the teams 24/7, 365 days a year to carry out searches.
We’ve come to the end of the tweeting period for our surveyors and others at Ordnance Survey. We wanted to give you all a feel for the work our teams do each day as they go about updating the master map of Great Britain.
Over the last fortnight our tweeting surveyors have been all over Great Britain – whether it is mapping the latest railway bridge in the Cotswolds, recording the changes left by coastal erosion in the east of England or getting caught in the glaur (boot-hugging mud) near Perth.
For those based in head office, they are still lucky enough to tour the country through their computer screens – checking 3D dam models in Brecon, working on Greenwich Park and testing imagery around Northumberland National Park.
We’ve had some great questions come in which either the tweeters themselves or the @OrdnanceSurvey twitter account have answered. From whether our trig pillars are still in use (sadly, we have more modern methods now) to wondering if we’re about to issue a parking ticket (definitely not in our remit)!
I noticed how often weather featured in the tweets – but if your job involved working in the great outdoors, this is bound to be a key topic. If you’ve been following any of the tweeters, following #osatwork or keeping an eye on our map – let us know what you thought.
For us, we’ll be ‘switching off’ the Twitter map, but we hope you’ve enjoyed the tweets and seeing who is working near you across Great Britain. You can still get a feel for the work we do through @OrdnanceSurvey and @OSLeisure too.