OS VectorMap District graduates to beta release

opendata2It won’t have escaped the notice of some of you that we’re rapidly approaching the first birthday of OS OpenData (has it really been a whole year?!) So with that in mind, we’re very pleased to be able to announce that OS VectorMap District has graduated from an alpha to a beta release and is now available to download and order.

Consider it an early birthday gift from us, to you.

OS VectorMap District made its debut as part of OS OpenData last year, designed specifically for displaying third part information on the web (like our Blitz map last year), and when in its vector format, as a customisable backdrop map. It was an alpha release and by no means the finished article, so based on your feedback the new beta version boasts new content and a range of improvements.

What’s new? Read More


Walk of the week: Mynydd Mallaen walk

This week our route of the week comes with thanks to Geoffrey Williams of Ramblers Cymru.

Mynydd Mallaen walk (10 miles / 16kms)

Map: OS Explorer Map 187 – Llandovery / Llanymddyfri

Start: SN766423

  • From the Forestry Commission site north of Cilycwm go up the track through the gate for 100m – then turn left off the track and take the path up hill across Forestry hard track and continue up hill until on the level.
  • From the Forest track continue approximatley 300 metres to the stile in the fence.
  • Cross the stile and head in north-east direction through two gates heading for the gap between two woodlands through the sheep fold.
  • Pick up the old track and follow to the first standing stone and the second Maen Bach. Read More

Trouble with Web Map Builder?


The GeoDoctor

In this post I’m going to focus on a particular developer issue around the use of our Web Map Builder. Questions have arisen around what you do with the code you get when you press the ‘Collect code’ button in ‘Step 4 – Generate and save code’. You are actually given a fully formed HTML document.

This is fantastic if all you want is a blank page with a map in it.

For that all I would need to do is:

1. Select all the code

2. Copy the code into a text editor, such as Notepad.

3. Save it as <name>.html, such as mymap.html.

4. Put it on my webserver

You will hopefully have something that looks like this: Read More


A route with a view: South Bank, London

County Hall and the London Eye

County Hall and the London Eye

Four and a half years ago, my family and I relocated to the Isle of Wight from London. Quite a culture shock, coming from a fast paced to a gentle amble lifestyle! It took a bit of time to adjust to a quieter lifestyle, but this week I thought I’d write about my regular walks along the South Bank in London and describe the sights along the route.

Start: Embankment Tube Station
End: Butlers Wharf next to Tower Bridge
Difficulty: Easy – Flat for most of the route with a few steps.
Distance: 2.4 miles
Facilities: There are food, drink and toilet stops along the route Read More


The science behind GI and mapping

Ever wondered what a career in geography could lead to? A special guest post by Tom Bramald from Newcastle University, reveals all…

“A few years ago, I was sitting talking with a group of friends about why we had chosen our particular degree courses and it pretty much boiled down to this: “I just loved looking at maps and wanted to know how they are put together”.


“Our “confession” made, we went on to talk about how we had spent hours poring over Ordnance Survey maps and atlases, and in some cases had even sketched our own maps of where we lived and played.Nowadays, apps, web sites and tools such as Google Earth, Where’s the Path?, OS OpenSpace, StreetView, even the in-car sat-nav, bring GI and mapping ever closer to us.

“But what is it that allows the Ordnance Survey map to be made, Google Earth to be browsed and the sat-nav to know where it is going?

“The answer is a science called geomatics.

Read More


The world’s greatest living explorer

Today on the Ordnance Survey blog we wish a very happy birthday to the man described as the worlds greatest living explorer Sir Ranulph Twisleton-Wykeham Fiennes.

Happy Birthday Sir Ranulph!

Happy Birthday Sir Ranulph!

Sir Ranulph was born on 7 March 1944. Shortly before his birth, his father was killed in action in the second world war. This meant that at birth he inherited his fathers baronetcy – becoming the third Baronet of Banbury. His early years were spent in South Africa before returning to Great Britain at the age of 12 to be educated at  Eton before joining the army where he served for eight years.

In was in the 1960’s that he became an adventurer and explorer. Some of the huge challenges that he has undertaken since then have included:

  • Being the first to reach both poles and to cross both the Antarctic and Arctic oceans – all with Charles Burton.
  • The first, with Charles Burton, to circumnavigate the world along its polar axis – something that has never since been successfully repeated.
  • Led the first hovercraft expedition up the longest river in the world – the Nile.
  • In 1990 achieved the world record for unsupported northerly pole travel.
  • Led the team that discovered the lost city of Ubar on the Yemeni border in 1992.
  • In 2003, less than 4 months after suffering a heart attack, 3 day coma and double heart bypass – he completed 7 marathons in 7 days on 7 continents.
  • In May 2009 became the oldest Briton to ever reach the summit of Mount Everest.

I had the pleasure of meeting Sir Ranulph and asked him where his favourite area of Great Britain was. Read More


Cartography – from past to present

Following on from last week’s article on the wide range of work our cartographers cover, we started thinking about how cartography has changed over the years. We have a number of team members who have recently moved to our new head office at Adanac Park, and have also worked at our previous two Southampton bases, at Romsey Road and London Road, spanning more than 40 years. I caught up with John to find out a bit more… if you have any memories about cartography at Ordnance Survey, let us know.

“My time at Ordnance Survey started with a training course on 25 January 1966 with me earning the princely sum of £446 per annum. After a few weeks we moved from to the training drawing sections at London Road. The building had been caught in the blitz in 1941 and was a shadow of its former self. At this point in time it still felt like a military organisation with military personnel occupying all of the top management positions.

Cartographer applying building stipple film to one of the original enamel positives. There is a surveyor's BJ plate by her left elbow, and a ruling pen. Applying building stipple like this was eventually replaced by cutting the buildings out of a 'cut and strip' mask to match what had been scribed.

Cartographer applying building stipple film to one of the original enamel positives. There is a surveyor’s BJ plate by her left elbow, and a ruling pen. Applying building stipple like this was eventually replaced by cutting the buildings out of a ‘cut and strip’ mask to match what had been scribed.

My cartography skills started with the ruling pen. We would draw a 7/1000 inch gauge line in black ink onto enamel. We were working on enamel coated zinc plates on which an image of the surveyor’s work had been printed in a light blue aniline die, at 1:1 250 map scale. Map symbols and text were added to the enamel and the finished article was used to make the printing plate At that point the zinc plate would be stripped of the old enamel image and re-enamelled to be used again.  Read More


The Chelmer & Blackwater Navigation – Canoe trail

The Chelmer & Blackwater Navigation

The Chelmer & Blackwater Navigation

Approximate duration:
Springfield to Heybridge Basin approximately 4 – 6 hours of gentle paddling you can return the same way too,  so a car shuttle need not be required. However return by bus possible as there are bus links also available (Chelmsford – Maldon; Maldon – Heybridge Basin)

Approximate distance: 14 miles

Start immediately below Springfield Lock. Access by a short lane from the far end of Wharf Road car park (Grid Reference TL 717063). Cross footbridge to access landing stage. Trail follows the full length of the Chelmer & Blackwater Navigation via 14 miles and 11 locks to Heybridge Basin. Paper Mill Lock, midway along the trail, has refreshment facilities and WC.

Finish at the trip boat landing stage by Daisy Meadow car park, Heybridge Basin (Grid Reference TL 871059)


The Chelmer

General Information:
This independent little waterway was engineered by the great John Rennie between 1793 and 1797 and is the only waterway in the country that is stil l owned and operated by its original Company of Proprietors, although it is currently managed by Essex Waterways Limited, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Inland Waterways Association. Being separate from the main waterway network of Britain it was probably forgotten when the waterways were nationalised! It was a barge canal with wide locks, and carried freight (mainly Scandinavian timber in its latter days) well into the 1970s – horse-drawn until the mid 1950s. Now it more resembles a midlands canal, as recent decades have seen its discovery by increasing numbers of narrowboaters with their colourful craft. Its route is almost entirely rural, with just a short industrial section through Heybridge village. Read More