Route of the week: Henley to Marlow – River Thames


The route of the week this week is courtesy of  the British Canoe Union.

Length – 9 miles and 3 locks – (It is possible to use the locks instead of getting out to portage them therefore this route is suitable for those with ambulant problems).
– A Thames Licence is required Canoe England Membership includes a Thames licence (take your membership card and sticker with you)
– ½ to 1 day depending on your speed and the desire to stop and look at the scenery etc Read More


Our first annual festive geography quiz

frustrationThinking about winding down the grey matter as Christmas approaches? Well think again, as it’s time for our first annual (hopefully) festive geography quiz! To be honest, the questions aren’t very festive but they most definitely are geography related.

Alas in the age of austerity the only prize we can offer is a sense of pride at being a geography wizard and generally more intelligent than everyone else.

The first person to leave all the correct answers as a comment will be officially crowned as the winner – thinking caps on and try not to resort to Google immediately! And you never know, just some of the answers might be lurking in previous blog posts…

1. What name do islands in England, Scotland and Wales all share?

2. Britain’s longest river rises in Wales; what is it called?

3. Which islands lie between Iceland and the Shetland Islands?

4. Which area of land in England is administered by Verderers?

5. What is the most easterly point of mainland Great Britain, and which OS Landranger Map is it on? – OSGB grid reference please!

6. What is the length of the coastline of Great Britain, including all major islands, at Mean High Water at 1:10,000 scale, to the nearest 10 kilometres?

7. What is England’s Second Largest Cathedral?

8. Why is Sixpenny Handley, Dorset, so called?

9. Name the three towns or cities that have contained Ordnance Survey’s Headquarters?

And finally,

10. What was the first map to contain the words Ordnance Survey?

[Image by Sybren A. Stüvel via Flickr]


Mapping gritting routes this winter

The question on many people’s lips is will this country ever be ready for snow?

As stranded motorists are forced to spend 13 hours or more in their cars in Scotland, controversy is raging over whether the Government has done all it could to avoid the country once again grinding to a standstill.

However, there is one thing that has definitely got better since the heavy snows last winter, with an increase in councils using mapping to show which routes are being gritted. It’s another example, like our recent Blitz map of Southampton, of how geography can be used to help communicate information in a way that’s clear and meaningful.

Mapping gritting routes by Nottinghamshire County Council

This map, using OS VectorMap District, details main routes, severe weather routes and primary routes and how and when they are gritted. Complete with postcode, street or town name search function.

Nottingham County Council gritting routes

Nottingham County Council gritting routes

Gritting route data for Birmingham, Solihull and Walsall

Mappa Mercia uses OpenStreetMap to show which roads in the West Midlands are gritted as well as the location of known grit bins, with the functionality to add bins yourself.

You can add the locations of grit bins to Mappa Mercia

You can add the locations of grit bins to Mappa Mercia

Have you come across any other examples?


A trip around Britain’s festive place names

After the fun we had compiling a list of Britain’s Spookiest Place Names back in October, I thought it was only right that with just 19 days until the big day to turned our attention to the festive season and the nation’s best Christmas themed locations…

From Cold Christmas (Hertfordshire) and Christmas Cross (Shropshire) to Holly Green (Worcestershire) and Ivy Tree (Cumbria), there are places scattered across the country where it feels like Christmas all year round – even if only in name.

As it approaches midnight on Christmas Eve, don’t forget to hang up your Stocking (Herefordshire) and leave out a Carrot (Angus) for Rudolph. You can pucker up at Mistletoe Oak in Herefordshire, dream of a white Christmas in Snow Falls (North Yorkshire), or make your way to Wiseman’s Bridge (Pembrokeshire) by the light of a Star (Somerset) – although you may like to use a good map instead.

Some places are more festive than others!

Some places are more festive than others!

For those not worried about their waistline, there’s always Turkey Island (Hampshire) with a side helping of Cranberry (Staffordshire) and Sproutes (West Sussex), followed by Pudding Hill (Windsor). Wash it all down with a couple of Brandys (Cornwall) or Baileys (Essex) and use your Nut Crackers (Devon) to break open your Brazils (Essex) or The Walnuts (Milton Keynes).

There are sackfuls of festive places from Cornwall right up to the Scottish islands. You can visit Bethlehem (Carmarthenshire) without even getting near an aeroplane, or practise your Yuletide songs in Carrol (Highland).

So, what do you think? Have we missed any real crackers (sorry)? What are your picks for Britain’s most festive place names?

[Image by kevindooley via Flickr]


Remembering 1969

As staff begin to get settled in our new head office at Adanac Park, there has been a lot of reminiscing about our time at Romsey Road. There are still quite a few staff who remember moving in back in 1968, and especially when The Queen and Prince Philip visited in March 1969 for the official opening ceremony.

So we were very excited to come across a video on YouTube from that very day. It’s a fantastic window back to 1969 and a reminder of how much Ordnance Survey has changed – enjoy!


Skiing in Scotland

Skier - Image from Europe Up Close

Skier – Image from Europe Up Close

This week I’ve decided to keep it topical, given the recent snowy weather we’ve been experiencing.

At the moment most of Great Britain is covered in snow, so you could ski in these areas. In Scotland, however, there are five main ski resorts to be found. Nevis Range, Glen Coe, Glenshee, Cairngorm and The Lecht.

The Nevis Range
Nevis Range, also known as Aonach Mor, is Scotland’s newest and most modern ski area, located next to Britain’s highest mountain, Ben Nevis. It was opened for the 1989-90 season. Lifts include the UK’s only quad chair and six-person gondola, the latter giving it that ‘Continental feel’, although spectacular views over the West Coast are very Scottish. The nearest town is Fort William where much of the accommodation and apres ski facilities are based. View a map of The Nevis Range piste.
OS Landranger map 41 – Ben Nevis
OS Explorer map 392 – Ben Nevis & Fort William

Glen Coe
Scotland’s original ski centre began life as a weekend haunt for dedicated enthusiasts. Still regarded by many as the country’s best ski centre, with a world-class vertical, it is located in an awesome location at the South end of a spectacular valley. The centre is now open seven days with optional high-value packages including ski-hire and instruction (based on-slope) and lift pass. A wide variety of accommodation is available locally. View a map of Glen Coe piste
OS Explorer map 384 – Glen Coe

Piste map - Image from Ski Scotland

Piste map – Image from Ski Scotland

Glenshee Ski Centre, Scotland’s ‘Three Valleys’ flanks each side of Britain’s highest road pass and offers more lifts and marked piste kilometres then any other British ski centre. The Centre is close to Braemar where the annual ‘Gathering’ is staged, and the Queen’s summer residence of Balmoral. View a map of Glenshee piste
OS Landranger map 53- Blairgowrie & Forest of Alyth
OS Explorer map 379 – Dunkeld, Aberfeldy & Glen Almond

Scotland’s best known ski area is 10 miles (16km) east of the lively village of Aviemore. There have been dramatic improvements here in recent years and a vast array of non-ski activities are now available to counter the traditional problem – unpredictable weather. View a map of The Cairngorm piste
OS Landranger map 36 – Grantown & Aviemore
OS Explorer map 403 – Cairn Gorm & Aviemore

The Lecht
The Lecht was one of the first areas in Scotland to offer snowboard instruction and has subsequently hosted numerous competitions. Its fun park is well equipped for snowboarders – it has table tops, log slides, gap jumps and a full-length half-pipe so freestyle facilities are excellent. The Lecht also offers many ski runs for the skier fans too. View a map of The Lecht piste
OS Explorer map 400 – Loch Lochy & Glen Roy


Mapping the Southampton Blitz 70 years on

Damage to Ordnance Survey's London Road building

Damage to Ordnance Survey’s London Road building

This year is the 70th anniversary of the Blitz, and whilst for some people the word might be almost synonymous with the bombing of London, many other towns and cities across the country also suffered terribly from Luftwaffe attacks.

One of those was Southampton. As an important dockyard on the south coast of England, home of the Supermarine factory and birthplace of the Spitfire, it was a prime target.

During the nights of 30 November and 1 December 1940, the Southampton Blitz reached its climax as the city came under sustained attack. Hundreds of tonnes of bombs were dropped during the two nights, whilst on 30 November alone some 634 individual properties were left ablaze – including our then head office on London Road.

A report by the Ministry of Food describes how the resulting destruction “equalled anything so far in aerial attack on this country” but even so, it is very hard to now comprehend the scale of the damage, let alone the impact it had on the people who lived through it.

So with the help of The National Archives and Southampton City Council, we’ve built a map using OS OpenSpace that pinpoints where 712 of the bombs fell based on records from the time. We hope that by seeing the bomb sites overlaid on modern mapping, it will help people better relate to the scale of the damage and the courage and suffering of those who lived through it.

You can clearly see the heavy concentration of direct hits around the docks and industrial areas in Woolston and Itchen, as well as the city centre itself.

We’ve also included images of some of the original documents from 1940 that recount the raids and damage that was done. Within them you can read about how our offices were destroyed; the fear for patients in South Hants Hospital; the affect the raids had on food supplies; and a report by a man working for Southern Railway who travelled from Salisbury to Southampton during the raid.

To read them, simply click on the green markers shown on the map, whilst the red markers indicate each bomb impact site. We hope you find it interesting – I certainly found the research fascinating.

In terms of the damage to the Ordnance Survey offices, thankfully no one was killed, but many valuable documents were destroyed including height survey records; drawings for the New Popular One Inch map series and almost all Object Name Books, which recorded the place and feature names published on the maps of England and Wales.

Perhaps the most precious object lost was the 3 foot Theodolite of 1787 made by Jesse Ramsden and used in the scientific triangulation survey from the Greenwich Observatory to the Kent Coast in 1787-88 by Major General William Roy – the precursor to the founding of Ordnance Survey in 1791.

Tonight, Ordnance Survey staff will be at the commemorative service at St Mary’s Church, Southampton, a place which was gutted by fire during the Blitz, to remember the events of 1940 and those who gave their lives for our freedom.

UPDATE: Quite a few people have asked me to make a version of the map available for download, so here it is. It should be high enough resolution to be enlarged to around A2 size.