Behind the scenes


Behind the scenes at the Royal visit

We were thrilled that HRH The Duke of Edinburgh was able to come and officially open Explorer House last week. Having been involved in the organisation of the visit, I’m relieved that it all went so smoothly (well almost – if you don’t include the panic when we heard the royal party was going to arrive fifteen minutes early). It had been quite an undertaking, with over 100 VIP guests coming for lunch, the tightened security and everyone hoping to get the opportunity to meet The Duke.

Media scrum

On the day, I was part of the small team looking after the media – including film crews from BBC South and ITV Meridian as well as our friends at The Southern Daily Echo and BBC Radio Solent. We received some brilliant media coverage that day with everyone highlighting how much the technology and our organisation had changed in the 42 years since The Duke’s last visit.

Some of our staff were also doing unusual things with some roped in to play behind the scenes roles, from car park attendants to meeting and greeting to  making presentations showing how our data is used.

Lots of people played important roles including one of our security team successfully apprehended a very growly and persistent Jack Russell who came strolling over the grass from nowhere at exactly the moment The Duke turned up. He obviously wanted to see what was going on, although as he didn’t have any ID or an invitation we couldn’t let him in!!One of my personal highlights was the children from Explorers nursery, situated on Adanac Park, coming over to wave their flags and school pupils from St Marks Primary School in Southampton coming in to show visitors how they use Digimap for Schools.

Flag carriers

All in all it was an exhausting, but satisfying day which went off smoothly and I think everyone was pleased that Ordnance Survey made such a good impression on The Duke and all the VIPs.

If you want to know more about the visit, you might like to watch this video covering the whole day.


All of a Twitter about mapping

Please note our surveyors’ tweeting was over a two week period and the map and accounts are no longer active.

Have you ever wondered what we get up to at Ordnance Survey on a daily basis? Maybe you’ve seen someone in a hi-vis jacket with Ordnance Survey written on it and some odd-looking equipment walking around your local area and wondered what’s going on. Well now’s your chance to get an insiders view.

From today, a selection of our surveyors, field staff and technical experts will be tweeting live as the update the nation’s mapping. We make around 5000 changes a day to the digital mastermap of Great Britain, so there’s a lot going on – from the farthest reaches of Scotland and the Welsh peaks, to inner city London. As the national mapping agency for Great Britain we know a lot of you, be it from government, the business world or as individuals, rely on our work to provide you with accurate and up-to-date information. So we hope this will be a chance to take a look at how we do that, through the eyes of the people doing the work all around the country. And, of course feel free to ask them questions about their work, they’ll be keen to answer them and I promise they don’t bite!

You can follow our intrepid team on Twitter and you can also see where they are and what they’re up to on our OS OpenSpace map, linked to their geo-enabled tweets. Click to view our tweeters on an interactive map. You can see them on Twitter itself under these account names, or if you’re signed into Twitter you can follow this list. Alternatively, keep an eye on the hashtag #OSatwork:

@OS_Kimberley – working in the Cambridge area

@OS_Ashleigh – surveyor in south west Wales

@OS_learning – learning and development consultant at head office

@OS_Dom – surveyor in the Cotswolds area

@OS_matt – surveyor in the Norfolk area

@OS_Doug – surveyor in Moray and north Aberdeenshire

@OS_Biggles – member of our Flying Unit, based in Blackpool

@OS_mickgwyn – surveyor in north Wales

@OS_Jez – surveyor in the Norfolk area

@OS_markmyworlds – surveyor in the West Midlands

@OS_Matthew – quality assurance expert on imagery and height data at head office

@OSRemoteSensing – technician working with aerial imagery in our Remote Sensing team at head office

@OS_phil – surveyor in the London area

@OS_mickup – surveyor in north Oxfordshire

@OS_georgeqa – quality assurance on imagery data expert at head office

@OS__David – surveyor in Perth and Kinross

You can also follow us on @OrdnanceSurvey and @OSLeisure – but we’re not on the map as we don’t have a GPS signal on our desktop PCs I’m afraid! Check out what we’re all up to and let me know what you think.


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


After the floods – putting Cumbria back together

For the last in our series of posts this week celebrating the Lake District National Park we’re looking at how Cumbria is returning to normal after the floods of November 2009.

The day of 19 November 2009 will remain in the memories of those living in Cumbria, and in particular Cockermouth for some time to come. Heavy rains had caused the rivers Derwent and Cocker, which both meet in Cockermouth, to rise and burst their banks. It was the time it took for the waters to take over the town that caught many unawares and unprepared. By midday the water levels were high, but Main Street was dry, by 3pm the water was a foot deep on Main Street and by midnight Main Street and some of it’s side streets had been transformed into a raging torrent of water which reached up to 8ft deep in places. I’d watched the footage on the television and thought that it looked bad – but it wasn’t until I visited Cockermouth earlier this year that I realised just how bad it had been.

Many bridges, like this one at Little Braithwaite, were destroyed during the floods.

Many bridges, like this one at Little Braithwaite, were destroyed during the floods.

Cockermouth wasn’t the only place affected by the floods. Workington, at the mouth of the River Derwent, was also badly affected with flood water. Being down stream from where the two flooded rivers met in Cockermouth, the flood waters came rushing downstream and engulfed Workington. The wall of water took out several bridges in the town – leaving only the railway bridge left as the river crossing, effectively cutting the town in two. Read More


A day in the life of a surveyor in Cumbria

This week on the Ordnance Survey blog we are celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Lake District National Park. Today we are going to spend the day with Ant Kewen who is one of our Surveyors and is based in Cumbria.





Ant, how long have you been working with Ordnance Survey?
I joined Ordnance Survey back in 1985 as a Surveyor and worked in Lancashire for 23 years. I’ve been in my current role here in Cumbria for the past 3 years.

Ant doesn't have a bad view on his journey to work does he?

Ant doesn’t have a bad view on his journey to work does he?

What is a typical day like for you?
I get up before the rest of the house, have a cup of tea, and put the computer on to check through e-mails. I then decide which area of Cumbria I’m going to work in today. The decision on which jobs to do and where to go are based on high priority work such as Land Registry and high priority jobs based on age and size. I check the weather – it always seems to be raining somewhere in Cumbria but seeing as I have the whole of Cumbria to go to and a choice of jobs that can be done in the rain (such as collecting addresses or reviews), I’m not usually housebound due to the weather. I then double check that I have the data I need – when I return home I usually set this up ready for the following day, then set the SatNav up and off I go. The range of tasks in a typical day can vary from Land Registry Surveys and building sites through to single houses and barn conversions, reviewing planned jobs to assess when they will be ready to survey and collecting and matching addresses. Read More


A day in the life of a surveyor in London

We’re often asked about the work Ordnance Survey does, and unsurprisingly the role of surveyor crops up most often. I asked Tristan Shearing, one of our London surveying team, to give us an insight into his role…

Tristan at work in LondonWhen I tell people I work for  Ordnance Survey as a surveyor, the most common response is ‘But isn’t everything already mapped?’. Confusion truly sets in when I tell them I work in an area of North London, far from the mountains and moorland they associate with Ordnance Survey mapping. When I explain that every time a house is demolished and rebuilt, or an estate is regenerated, or a prestigious new tower block is constructed, the London surveyors are on the scene taking measurements and updating the large-scale mapping, it starts to make a little more sense.

Read More


Going green at Adanac Park

Before we moved into our new head office, I wrote about how we hoped to make it as environmentally friendly as we could. So, we have a BREEAM ‘Excellent’ rated building, but what has this actually contributed to the lowering of Ordnance Survey’s carbon footprint?

The building was designed to be energy efficient, with minimal impact on the environment. The combination of measures, such as sensor controlled lighting and natural ventilation, means that there has been a big reduction in the energy we use at head office. In our last full year at Romsey Road, our total energy demand was over 20 million kWh. Even though we purchased green electricity from the grid and produced renewable heat and power from our own combined heat and power unit, that still created a carbon footprint of 6 616 tonnes of CO2.

Read More


Cycling Lands End to John O’ Groats in 7 days

On July 11 2011 a group of 7 cyclists (6 fire fighters and me!) are leaving Lands End and heading for John O’ Groats.

Our aim is to arrive in 7 days, averaging 125 miles per day.

A year ago firefighters James Shears and Alan Bannon lost their lives fighting a fire at Shirley Towers in Southampton. We are undertaking this challenge to raise money for the Firefighters Charity. The Fire Fighters Charity exists for all fire service personnel during their times of need, and assists thousands of individuals every year, by providing pioneering treatment and support services.

It costs over £9 million every year to keep the Charity running, and with no government funding, the charity is completely reliant upon donations from the general public and fire community.

Andy Hanley, front right, and the gang cycling for the Firefighters Charity

Read More


When Ordnance Survey went to War

Recently, we held a service of dedication for the new War Memorial at our head office. The memorial commemorates the names of 123 of our former colleagues who gave their lives during the two World Wars.

Our history catalogues our efforts during the two wars and shows how our role changed dramatically between the two wars as we moved from survey work producing trench maps on the ground in the First World War, to printing some 342 million maps for Allied forces in World War II.

Following the declaration of the Great War, Ordnance Survey was immediately placed at the disposal of the War Office and lost 16 of its 22 officers to war duties and 285 civilians volunteered for war too. This, twinned with the demands of war on Ordnance Survey, meant that ‘normal’ work was heavily cut back. By 1915, some 22 printing presses were working solely on producing war maps and 90% of all maps used in France were supplied by Ordnance Survey.

Read More


We’re 220 years old today

On this day in 1791, Ordnance Survey was born. Our arrival was marked by the payment of the princely sum £373.14s to Jesse Ramsden for a three-foot theodolite. That purchase was made at the request of the Master General, the 3rd Duke of Richmond, and is now generally accepted as the founding action of the Ordnance Survey.

Surveyors from Ordnance Survey in the mid nineteenth century.

That theodolite, and others like it, were used to map the south east coast of Britain for fear of invasion by the French, and ever since then, all the way through to the modern digital age, Ordnance Survey has played a constant role charting the changing face of the nation.

Today, to mark the anniversary, dignitaries and senior military officials from the Royal Engineers, will gather to dedicate our new War Memorial which remembers the sacrifice of the 123 Ordnance Survey staff who gave their lives during the two World Wars.

The design of the memorial echoes the iconic shape of an Ordnance Survey trig pillar.

It should be quite a spectacle.

The presence of the Royal Engineers harks back to our military origins, where that fear of invasion promoted the Board of Ordnance, the Ministry of Defence of the day, to order a  survey of the south east – hence our rather unusual name.

EastEnders 1801 – an extract of the first Ordnance Survey map printed in 1801.

The art of map making subsequently played a major role in both World Wars, with Ordnance Survey staff being dispatched to map the trenches throughout The Great War, whilst during World War II some 342 million maps were printed for use by the Allied forces.

By 1944 maps were off the presses and in the hands of men at the front within 24 hours.

So it’s a day to remember our past, but given that the ceremony is in the grounds of our new head office, it will be a unique mix of old and new.