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 http://www.geograph.org.uk/. There’s still plenty of opportunity to add your own images to this growing database.


Photo archive goes live on OS OpenSpace

It’s always great to see geography being used as part of interesting projects, especially when it’s for something we wouldn’t expect.

The National Archives has recently introduced National Archives Labs – an interactive test environment where they are making a range of information freely available. And with the huge amount they look after, geography is an ideal way to display and organise it all.

So, they’ve started using OS OpenSpace – our free online mapping tool – to display a massive inter-war photography collection.

The National Archives history photo finder, using OS OpenSpace

The National Archives history photo finder, using OS OpenSpace

The collection was created by J Dixon-Scott who took 14,000 pictures between 1920 – 1940. It’s a candid portrait of life in the inter-war period showing people, towns and countryside. Some of the shots of people working and at school show how much day-to-day life has really changed. It’s a great historical reference tool and by using mapping to display the shots means it is easy to see how much your local area has changed.

As I said, it’s always good to see how our data is being used and we are keen to see and share more examples. If you’re using OS OpenSpace, or know of someone who is, please let us know!


Tryfan stands tall(er)

Last week I wrote about an expedition to resurvey the height of Tryfan using modern GPS technology – the same technology the Ordnance Survey uses to map the country. Well, it was a great success and here is an account from John, Graham and Myrddyn. You can also watch an interview with our very own Mark Greaves on the BBC website.

The morning began dark and grey as we drove into the car park at Ogwen cottage, dark because it was just after 5am and grey because a fine drizzle had fallen on the valley.

Early morning cloud began to clear as they reached the summit

Early morning cloud began to clear as they reached the summit

As we emerged from our vehicles clouds of midges descended for breakfast; this promised to be a hard day.We needn’t have worried though.The team of Mark Greaves (Ordnance Survey), Chris Dearden and Brian Jones (BBC), Alun Pugh (Snowdonia Society), Llion Iwan & Stephen Edwards (CREAD) and Mark Handford (Mountain Guide) and ourselves assembled and set off for the summit.

With only a small stop for a live breakfast broadcast from Chris, we were on the summit for 08.00hr and the equipment was then put in place and data collection commenced.To herald this historic occasion the sun pierced the thick mist and within half-an-hour a wide vista of mountains presented itself and the sun shone from a blue sky.

Suddenly, our spirits lifted.

The three hours of waiting, while the GPS collected data, passed quickly, our attention focussed by radio and television interviews.Finally, with the vigil over, we descended the mountain and then made our way to the Snowdonia Society’s headquarters at Ty Hwll where Mark processed the results.

Graham, John and Mark pose with 'Adam' and 'Eve' at Tryfan's peak.

Graham, John and Mark pose with ‘Adam’ and ‘Eve’ at Tryfan’s peak.

With the local press and BBC now all present the result was announced.Tryfan had confounded its doubters and came in at 917.5m, a couple of metres higher than its current map height!

John Barnard, Myrddyn Phillips and Graham Jackson


Visiting the Director General’s House

Vanessa Lawrence, our Director General recently paid a visit to a particularly special building in Southampton. 15 Rockstone Place is near the centre of the city and is now the home of a solicitors firm, but it for many years it had a very close association with Ordnance Survey as the ‘Director General’s House’.

Vanessa at the Director General's House

Vanessa at the Director General’s House

The house was built in 1840, and was one of the last projects of Samuel Toomer, who died in 1842 at the age of only 41. It was originally called Avenue House and for the next 25 years it served as a private residence.

There were several tenants until in 1865 the house was acquired from the Toomer family for the purpose of accommodating the Director General of Ordnance Survey.

Major Henry James (who later became Lt General, Sir Henry James), Director General 1854-75, was the first occupier, and the house was used by all his successors until Sir Duncan A Johnston, Director General from 1899 to 1905. It was during Sir Duncan’s tenure that the decision was taken to stop using the house as the official residence.


By 1900, faced with the need for extra space for an increasing amount of colour printing, and not wishing to find temporary accommodation, the decision was taken to convert the house into offices, which is as it stayed until we moved to our current home on Romsey Road in 1969.

The building remained empty until the mid 1980s and been home to a range of different businesses ever since.

Simon Rhodes, Managing Partner at Trethowans Solicitors which now occupy the building, shows Vanessa a painting of the building.

Simon Rhodes, Managing Partner at Trethowans Solicitors which now occupies the building, shows Vanessa a painting of the building.

With our new head office due to be complete in just a few months it could be easy to lose touch with the past, which is why we’re keen to ensure our long heritage is remembered.


Our last summer at Romsey Road


Adanac Park from the south

Adanac Park from the south



Front view of Adanac Park

Front view of Adanac Park

We’re just edging into summer now and I realised that it’s been a couple of months since I took you behind the scenes of our new building at Adanac Park. You can see from the pictures above how things have progressed since March and across the business we’re all starting to find out the important things like where our teams will be sitting and what food and drink options will be available!

There are also mixed feelings for many people as Romsey Road has been Ordnance Survey’s home since the 1960s and we’re now in our final months there. The pictures below show you how this site looked in its early days. If you have any memories of Romsey Road, let us know as we’re gathering stories on our wiki from all our employees, past and present.


Work starts on Romsey Road

Work starts on Romsey Road



Romsey Road in the 1960s

Romsey Road in the 1960s


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?


GeoVation mapping a path to disability access

As well as the full GeoVation Awards Programme we launched last year (by the way, there will be more news about this year’s programme very soon) we ran an internal version, asking members of staff to come up with their own innovative, geography based ideas.

The winner was Rob Trent, who works in our risk management team, who came up with an idea around geography and disability access.

Here’s Rob’s story…

“An awful lot has been happening since I was fortunate enough to win the internal competition for the GeoVation Ideas Challenge. My idea is to enable people to upload comments, photos and video about any location with regard to disabled facilities. The site could also be used by organisations wishing to sell disability services, such as electric wheelchairs, or it could be used by organisations wishing to promote their accessibility.

The prize was a rather magnificent Flip video camera, which has been extremely useful in taking forward my idea.

Rob is presented his prize by Peter ter Haar, Director of Products

Rob is presented his prize by Peter ter Haar, Director of Products

That was the easy part! Since then I have been engaged in various activities which will hopefully turn the idea into reality.

Days after the award I met with Chris Parker from the GeoVation team, and we started to talk about the idea, It soon became apparent that there was a wider scope to it than just disability. Access issues are also highly relevant for people pushing prams or buggies. We also have a population where the percentage of older people is increasing. Access issues are relevant to older people too.

From those discussions the name “AccessAdvisr” was born. That was to be the name of the website, and anything related to the idea.

On 12 and 13 March I went to London. Not to see the Queen but to WhereCampEU. For the uninitiated “WhereCampEU is the un-conference for geo people. The event will bring together the brightest and most interesting map hackers, makers and designers from across the EU for a weekend of mapping fun”.

The purpose of my visit was to ‘pitch’ my idea to the developers. I did this through a combination of slides and a short film. The slides included some graphic designs from someone helping me with the project, and the ‘film’ (in the very loosest sense) demonstrated my journey to WhereCampEU and how I accessed public transport. This was filmed using the Flip camera attached to my wheelchair.

The presentation went very well, and I made useful contacts, not only with the geo-development community, but also with people who have experience in offering advice to people starting projects. I was given really useful advice regarding such things as registering a domain name for my website, creating a prototype and then trying to get support to push things forward.

Having soaked up all the advice, I spent some time starting to develop a prototype website. I’d already registered the domain name and I have very limited web development skills!

Using a free on-line tool called Weebly I had very quickly (alright, after two days – what are “A records” all about!?) put together a ropey website. So far, I’ve uploaded my first ever Youtube video, and created a link from my website. It doesn’t yet do what it says on the GeoVation tin, but I’m really pleased that the idea is moving forward.

Part of making this idea a success is getting people to trial the site, and to eventually use it. I attended the Ordnance Survey Disability Forum where I gave a 10 minute talk on my idea, and hopefully interested people enough to have a look at my efforts so far.

So, a lot has happened but there’s shed loads still to be done. I’ll do my best to keep you posted.”