We currently have 250 field surveyors who contribute to the 10,000 changes taking place every day in our database. Thanks to them our master map of Great Britain is constantly, subtly shifting and changing. Luckily, the country is nothing if not varied, and not all of our surveyors are pounding concrete and worrying about urban canyons (the phenomena of being in an area so built up that satellite signals – can’t reach their GNSS kit). Some spend their days surrounded by sheep, not Starbucks. One such surveyor is Guy Rodger who looks after Shetland. Guy’s worked for OS for 30 years and spends an average of four weeks in Shetland every year and has to carefully plan his work to maximise his time there. I caught up with him recently to ask him some questions.
We’re often asked about how our surveyors carry out their work, and particularly how they cope in adverse weather conditions. Our blogging surveyor Dom Turnor, gives his take on surveying in the recent wet weather.
The Telegraph reported at the end of January, that we have had the wettest January since records began over 100 years ago, with some parts of Britain receiving two times the average rainfall for the month. Whilst this has caused devastation and considerable heartache across the country, the job of a field surveyor goes on; we have deadlines to meet and customers to serve and they need new or amended data to appear on our maps so they can go about their business.
Ordnance Survey make 10,000 changes a day to the master map of Great Britain. This fact often astounds people and this behind the scenes story from one of our surveyors, Dom Turnor, helps explain just how many changes occur to our landscape every day.
I’m a forty-something field surveyor living and working in the rolling hills and hidden valleys of Worcestershire, where my primary job and purpose is to keep the large scale mapping up-to-date. I have been working as a field surveyor for nearly 13 years and have concentrated my efforts mainly around the golden villages of the Cotswolds, the post-industrial towns of the Forest of Dean and the wooded valleys of Stroud. It has only been in the last year that I have been transferred a little to the north; where I now find my area of responsibility to be the Malvern Hills.
In today’s age of automated systems and electronic data sources, it can be easy to forget that people are at the heart of what we do as an organisation. Keen to get back to the grass roots of what our organisation does, (collecting and maintaining of geographic data), I arranged to spend the day with one of Ordnance Survey’s nation-wide team of 250 surveyors.
I met Jeremy Thompson, a surveyor in one of the five London teams (which forms part of the South Region) at the London office, within the imposing National Audit Office building. Although three surveyors use this as a base, most surveyors work from home – Jeremy has an office set up in his garden shed!
As well as experiencing the move to homeworking, Jeremy has seen big changes during his 27-year career. He said: “I joined Ordnance Survey after completing my A levels, mainly for the reason of wanting a job outside and not being tied to an office. Geography and technical drawing were my two favourite subjects at school, so a job which seemed to combine the two seemed ideal.”
Jeremy explained that it is still quite common for people to associate Ordnance Survey with our paper maps, and not realise the level of detail which is captured by the surveyor. He said: “Since 1986, the job has evolved massively over the years; to working with digital data on a pen tablet instead of film documents and Rotring pens, and using GPS/GNSS, together with other modern-day equipment. The information we capture on the ground is used to inform a wide variety of organisations, across both the private and public sector. The range of rich data we now collect has widened greatly – it is much more complex, including a whole host of attributes, such as addresses and road routing.”
Each surveyor manages their own bank of jobs; with various criteria enabling them prioritise workloads. There are different types of surveying jobs scheduled on the system, all deadline based, and flagged up at various intervals – and the hours spent in front of a computer varies, dependent on each individual job. The surveyors can view intelligence about sites, which has been gathered from various sources, such as local authorities and commercial organisations. Information is also added from the network of surveyors who can make observations out in the field. The combination of details enables the surveyor to prepare for a job, and have a full background of the site.
This week we’re celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Lake District National Park. Today we’re looking at the national park authority and how they rely on Ordnance Survey mapping data. Today we’re talking to Rosemary Long who is a GIS Officer for the Lake District National Park (LDNP). Rosemary has worked for LDNP for over ten years but has been in her current role since March 2011.
What’s a typical day like for you Rosemary?
No two days here are ever the same in the GIS team. The one constant thing that we have to deal with though is location. When we need to show someone where something is in the Lake District the best way is to show them on a map – and the best maps of the Lake District are Ordnance Survey ones.
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.
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.
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…
When 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.
Mention a cartographer and people will think of someone who draws maps. Well, it’s obvious isn’t it? Having spent a few hours talking to various members of our Cartography team though, I’m actually amazed at the breadth of areas they cover. So, if you’ve already read our ‘day in the life of a surveyor’ blogs, read on to find out what happens once that surveyed data gets inside the building.
Our Cartography team, which is really lots of separate teams with different specialisms, is led by Huw, and they are responsible for deriving and maintaining cartographic databases, and providing the finished data for Ordnance Survey national series paper and data products. They do this through the manipulation and enhancement of our core databases. But as well as this ‘core’ work, they work on lots of other projects from specialist maps to innovative work on the effects of colour vision deficiency on mapping.
Sandy leads the Explorer team. Unsurprisingly, they work on the design, editing and updating of databases for our very popular 1:25 000 OS Explorer Map. The team also work on the data for our OS Select bespoke product where customers can centre a map on an area of their choice and on our digital product, 1:25 000 Scale Colour Raster.
When many people think of Ordnance Survey, they think of the lovely OS Explorer and OS Landranger maps. However, the vast majority of mapping, or data, that we send out to customers is actually on CD, DVD or hard drive. Last year we shipped 38 terabytes of data – or approximately 39,874,560 MB. These were produced on six robots and give our customers access to our OS MasterMap products and many more. The team responsible for producing the customer digital data orders and sending them out are the DPSC team and I caught up with Kelly Callawayto find out about a typical day in the life…
00.01 – OK, so we don’t start just after midnight but, on the first of every month, at this time our SAP system will start to create update orders for our robots. In fact, both our fulfilment systems run 24/7 and our robot, the Microtech XL Express with an 800 disk capacity, means that we can support unattended running even over the longest holiday.
The job of a surveyor is the one that we get asked about the most. People are fascinated by the people in hi-vis jackets that work their way around the country capturing the 5 000 changes made to our database everyday. Craig Methven and Dave Robertson work in our Inverness field office and told me what they get up to…