A history of the OS Landranger map

The OS Landranger map is well loved by all outdoor enthusiasts. Its history, as the leisure map to use for planning days out and activities extends back many years and several generations have relied upon on ‘the pink map’ for their active pursuits.

OS Landranger - Barrow in Furness

OS Landranger – Barrow in Furness

The following describes the background and series specification of this famous Ordnance Survey map, from the early days, through metrification to today.

The history of the OS Landranger map goes back to 1791 when a One-Inch military map of the County of Kent was commenced. Published in 1801, the map of Kent was followed by a map of the County of Essex in 1803. The remainder of England and Wales, including the Isle of Man was completed by 1873; Scotland was completed in 1887. These sheets were printed in monochrome only, with coloured editions being started in the late 1800’s.

These were followed by a number of series with different formats and specifications. In 1945 the New Popular Sixth Series was started, each sheet covering an area of 40 x 45 km and incorporating the National Grid.

A Seventh Series was authorised in 1947 with the first sheets being published in 1952. These sheets were printed in ten colours but in 1962, for economic reasons, the number of colours was reduced to six. The Seventh Series comprised 189 sheets.

Metrication of Ordnance Survey map series to meet the Government metrication programme was introduced in 1965 and necessitated replacing the One Inch Seventh Series. Consultations with map users plus technical and economic factors resulted in the scale of 1:50 000 being chosen.

It was not possible to produce a completely redrawn series in the desired time scale so an interim 1:50 000 First Series was produced. The Series was compiled from photographic enlargements of One Inch Seventh Series material, assembled into a 40 x 40 km format, partially revised and printed in 6 colours.

The 1:50 000 First Series of 204 sheets was published in two blocks, the southern half of the country in 1974 and the northern half in 1976.
The conversion of First Series sheets to Second Series began in 1974 and was completed in 1987. Additions included metric contours as well as tourist and Forestry Commission information.

The early Second Series sheets were printed in six flat colours but later produced from a range of four process colours, black, cyan, magenta and yellow.

In 1980, tree symbols, depiction of foreshore categories and grid numbers on the body of the map were included in the specification. At the same time the name Landranger was adopted for the series.

The need for automation of production was recognised from a study in 1991 and a project was initiated in 1993 to establish requirements for maintaining the integrity and quality standards of the Second Series.

Following a production trial in 1994 on Sheet 95 that evaluated production methodology, performance results and flowline implications, the decision was made to proceed with conversion of all Landranger sheets to data format.’

And so, the OS Landranger we use today was born. This series covers the whole of Great Britain in 204 maps and provides all the detailed information you need to get to know an area.

If you’d like to browse the full series of OS Landranger maps or find out more, you can visit our map shop.


The Geograph project – submit your photos!

Sponsored by Ordnance Survey, the Geograph Britain and Ireland project aims to collect geographically representative photographs and information for every square kilometre of Great Britain and Ireland. The project, which has been contributed to by 10 019 users is now made up of 1 935 225 images covering 256 701 grid squares, or 77.4% of the total. That’s a lot of photographs!

According to the site, a good Geograph presents images and information on the main human and physical geographical feature(s) present in any given Ordnance Survey 1km grid square. The images on the Geograph site show towns, cities, streets, buildings, countryside, people, boats, cars and more. They capture the everyday landscape of Great Britain and contribute to a valuable open source project, which is free from commercial exploitation.

The images that follow show the type of photographs that can be submitted.

Geograph contribution - The Stroma sets sail for Lossiemouth

Geograph contribution – The Stroma sets sail for Lossiemouth, by Des Colhoun

The great thing about Geograph is that anyone can get involved. It is intended that people will see it as a game or project and a chance to get out more. Either select an area that has not yet been captured or add to an already populated area with new images. The site shows statistics including a leaderboard to show who has submitted the most photos, so if you’re keen you’ll see exactly how well you’re doing. The current leader has submitted 480 images.

Geograph contribution - The View NNW to the Malvern Hills

Geograph contribution – The View NNW to the Malvern Hills, by Pauline Eccles

If you enjoy photography and would like to get involved with this project then why not log in to see what it’s all about There’s still plenty of opportunity to add your own images to this growing database.


Surveying one of Snowdonia’s highest mountains

Over the past year or so, I’ve been working with a group people who are on a quest to rewrite the map of Great Britain.

John Barnard, Graham Jackson and Myrddyn Phillips have been tirelessly climbing some of the country’s most famous peaks and measuring their heights using state-of-the-art GPS equipment.  In doing so they have helped create mountains where once there were mere hills, and vice versa of course!

Their latest expedition takes them to Snowdonia and one of Wales’ most iconic mountains.

This is their story:

“One of the most spectacular mountains in Snowdonia – Tryfan – may be suffering from delusions of grandeur.  With a 915 metre (3,002 ft) map height, it is close to one of Britain’s historically important benchmark heights, that of 3,000 ft.

Since there is a +/-3 metre (+/-10 ft) margin of uncertainty associated with the surveying method that determined this height (using aerial photographs), it means that Tryfan might not be a 3,000 ft mountain at all.

Tryfan, viewed by many as iconic, rises above the Ogwen Valley, its profile dominating the surroundings.  Its crowning glory is its summit, which comprises two monolithic blocks of rock, known as Adam and Eve. They are separated by just enough daunting space to tempt the occasional “fearless” scrambler to clamber atop and jump from one to the other!

At the summit

At the summit

It is our intention in the latter half of June to resurvey Tryfan and determine if this mountain is in fact over 3,000 ft high. Our surveying activities have stemmed from our quest to improve the accuracy of hill-related data within the Database of British Hills, a database available on the internet which contains details of over 6,500 hills.

It’s also fun to bring an activity based on measurement science into a realm such as hill walking.  Moreover, there is the opportunity to take in the beauty of our much varied upland landscape while awaiting the GPS equipment to gather data!

Gathering data

Gathering data

This project is taking place in conjunction with the Snowdonia Society and also with involvement from Paul Beauchamp and Mark Greaves of Ordnance Survey.

The announcement to resurvey Tryfan was broadcast by the BBC on 15 March, who along with ITV and an independent production group, CREAD, all want to join us at the summit on the day of the survey.

We decided it would be wise to conduct a reconnaissance in order to work out exactly, at our leisure, how we would survey Tryfan!  This would save us time on the actual day of the survey as solutions to any problems would already have been found.

The day of reconnaissance was clear and sunny, but with a biting wind from the North West. We strapped the equipment to one of the blocks, checked that it remained stable and made sure that satellite signals could be received satisfactorily. All we have to do now is repeat this procedure, but this time gathering the minimum of 2 hours of data required for Ordnance Survey verification whilst being filmed doing so.  No pressure there then!

Will Tryfan remain a 3,000 footer?  Keep checking the Ordnance Survey Blog for the answer!

For those interested in ‘The Tryfan Project’ you can now follow its progress on YouTube.

John Barnard, Graham Jackson, Myrddyn Phillips”


The history of the OS Explorer map – part 2

Here’s the second in our two part series on the history of the OS Explorer map. Read part 1.

The 1:25 000 scale Ordnance Survey map evolves

Pathfinder maps proved very popular with walkers and other leisure users but after a while steps were taken to make the map even more user friendly. The first experimental Explorer maps were published in 1994, with five maps issued simultaneously covering parts of the Chilterns, Mendips and Northumberland. On average the new Ordnance Survey maps covered three times the area of their predecessor Pathfinders, and were six times bigger than the blue-covered originals (originally Outdoor Leisure maps) at this scale.

The new Ordnance Survey maps gave users much more mapping for their money. The additional tourist and leisure information added to the maps at the time made planning countryside walks and outdoor activity trips much easier. Outdoors enthusiasts could find out exactly where every footpath and bridleway would take them. They could clearly see national park boundaries, sites of antiquity, youth hostels, viewpoints, pubs, schools, country parks, gardens, picnic sites and more. They could plan their activities down to the nearest phone box and public convenience! Anyone involved in the countryside now had an amazing level of detail at their fingertips.

More Explorer maps emerge

Over the following two and a half years, a further 26 Explorer maps were published for different parts of the country, several introducing or developing ideas to test the usefulness of the new-look maps to the public. Feedback from people who use the maps regularly from walking groups such as the Ramblers, to horse riders, councils and nowadays geocachers, has always been used to develop the 1:25 000 scale map.

By 2003, every Pathfinder and Outdoor Leisure Map had been converted to the Explorer Map series and in 2004, following the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 (which gives people new rights to walk on open country and registered common land) areas of open access are being depicted on OS Explorer Maps. And so, the OS Explorer map that is used so widely today was born.

What do people use the OS Explorer map for today?

The OS Explorer map has always been extremely popular with ramblers but these days the list of people who use 1:25 000 scale maps is never ending. The following gives you an idea of who might use one.

  • Walkers
  • Runners
  • Orienteerers
  • Horse riders
  • Cavers
  • Geocachers
  • Mountain bikers
  • Road cyclists
  • Adventure racers
  • Climbers
  • Green laners
  • Pot holers
  • Kayakers

Do you have any other uses for the iconic OS Explorer map that we haven’t mentioned here?


The history of the OS Explorer Map

Here’s the first in our two part series on the history of the OS Explorer map.

OS Explorer Maps – the beginning

The iconic OS Explorer Map, used daily by thousands of people from ramblers to rock climbers and named by the Design Council as an official millennium product, has a fascinating history. Did you know, for example, that it wasn’t until 2005 that the whole of Great Britain was covered, including remote areas of the Scottish Highlands?

OS Explorer Map 218 Wyre Forest and Kidderminster

OS Explorer Map 218 Wyre Forest and Kidderminster

1:25 000 was born

Amazingly, it has now been nearly a century since the famous walking map was born. The first time maps were produced at the familiar 1:25 000 scale (2½ inches on the map being equivalent to 1 mile on the ground or 4 cm to 1 km) was in the early 20th century, but back then, in 1914, only the military had access to this level of detail on a paper map and used them to plan and execute their operations. The first military map from Ordnance Survey covered East Anglia.

Mapping was extremely important during the two world wars but it wasn’t until 1938 that it was suggested that a series of public maps was produced. At this time, it was felt that it would be useful for schools to have access to detailed maps. Students could learn much more about geography with a detailed Ordnance Survey map to hand.

It was decided that if the idea took off in schools, then the mapping might eventually cover the whole of the country to give outdoors enthusiasts unrivalled access to the great British countryside! The first experimental (or Provisional) maps at this scale appeared after the Second World War ended in 1945.

Outdoor Leisure maps

Interest in outdoor pursuits and leisure time spent in the countryside began to grow over time and consideration was given to boosting interest in 1:25 000 scale mapping. In 1972 the first Outdoor Leisure map was published of the Dark Peak area of the Peak District. OL1 can still be purchased today in the map shop. Subsequently other OL maps were published concentrating on the national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty.

The Pathfinder

As a result of the success of the first 1:25 000 scale maps of national parks, many of the maps were redesigned to broaden their appeal further. They now covered twice the land area and were given green covers to distinguish them. The new maps were given the name Pathfinder. Those Pathfinders covering England and Wales showed all public rights of way. It was now possible to plan walking routes and ramble freely without trespassing!

Read part two next week.


Bath best for a city walk!


Bath Skyline – a row of Georgian houses

If you’re looking for somewhere great to go walking in your leisure time then you could head for the best route in Britain. Did you know that The Bath Skyline walking trail has been named Britain’s most popular city walk, in a new study by The National Trust?

Apparently, enthusiastic walkers questioned by the Trust suggested the 6-mile circular walking trail circumnavigating the historic city is the finest in Great Britain, closely followed by Clumber Park in Nottinghamshire, where green, open spaces lined with lime trees have become a walking hot spot.

Having recently spent some time in Bath I can definitely see what the fuss is about. The city is steeped in history and stunning views of Georgian sandstone buildings and rolling hills can be found on every corner, just what you need on a leisurely hike!

Jo Burgon, Head of Access and Recreation at The National Trust, says:

We’re finding that more people want to get out into the great outdoors but often need to be pointed in the right direction.

Bath Skyline and Clumber Park came out on top of a list of 130 walking trails in Great Britain, what better way to get some use out of your Ordnance Survey maps.