Great Britain is an island in its own right, but aside from the mainland, there are hundreds of islands around the British coast, many uninhabited*. Inspired by David Garcia’s data visualisation of the Philippines, our GeoDataViz team worked with Alasdair Rae at the University of Sheffield to explore Britain’s largest islands.
They found that there are 82 English, Scottish and Welsh islands larger than 5km2. Scotland boasts the vast majority with 71, not surprising when you consider the Outer Hebrides, Shetland and Orkney and other beautiful islands off the coast. Wales had just 2 entries and England 9.
You may know about our trig pillars, but did you know that there are more nostalgic reminders of how we used to map Great Britain?
Have you ever seen one of these while you’ve been out and about? If so, it is highly likely you have spotted one of our renowned benchmarks. 2018 marks 25 years since the last traditionally-cut arrow style benchmark was carved on a milestone located outside The Fountain pub in Loughton.
Visitors to South Wales have long held the historic county of Glamorgan in high regard. Twinning the urban centres of Cardiff and Swansea with the world-famous green, green grass of rural Wales, there is certainly plenty on offer. So what exactly should visitors to this famed part of the world do on their breaks?
When you consider the quintessential British summer, it probably involves garden parties, canapés and…bog snorkelling?
No, you haven’t misread. Britain is home to some weird and wonderful sports over the summer months and offers some interesting alternatives to traditional summer sports and activities, like tennis and cricket.
Fancy trying something new this year?
We’re lucky in Britain that our seasons are so wonderfully defined; each one quite distinct from its predecessor due to the colour of the leaves on the trees, the abundance of native flowers and the low-lying mist on the ground. It would be difficult to choose a favourite season, even the tumultuous grey skies of late autumn, the withering heat of summer and the frozen ground of mid-winter have their charms – but there’s something about spring; this awakening of nature after its sleepy hibernation and regeneration of flora and fauna.
Following the government’s recent announcements around investing in roads and infrastructure across Britain, we decided to take a dip into our database and investigate some of the 450 million features in there. We make over 10,000 changes a day to the geographic database of Great Britain and are already looking forward to capturing the details of any new roads, as well as changes to existing ones.
Take a look at some of the figures we’ve pulled out from our database.
Our video shows Britain’s road network too:
Question 1: In which city is the Great Central Railway, the only place in the world where you can see full-size steam engines passing each other, located?
One of the most common questions we are asked in Ordnance Survey’s Press Office is ‘where is the geographic centre of Britain?’ Most recently, the BBC got in contact with us, framing their article around the question of Scottish Independence and the effect that would have on the centre of Great Britain. The question continues to bubble up as it always has been a contentious issue with many differing views on locations – and even how you define the centre, define Great Britain, and how you measure it.
As you’ll see in the BBC article, the town of Haltwhistle in Northumberland proudly proclaims itself to be the centre of Great Britain as it is mid-way along the mainland’s longest line of longitude; and there is a stone cross in Meriden, near Coventry, claiming to be the geographical centre of England. Some people claim the point farthest from the sea must be the centre (a spot just east of Church Flatts Farm, about a mile south-east of Coton-in-the-Elms, Derbyshire), but others don’t think this can accurately be called the centre…so, where is the centre of Great Britain?
We read an article recently about all of the different words we use across Great Britain to talk about the humble bread roll. While bread roll is probably the most common term these days, the fact that we’re using it, could well mark us out as coming from the south of England. And we do, we’re based down in Southampton, at Ordnance Survey’s Explorer House head office. As well as being called a bread roll, others across Britain know it as the barm cake, bap, stottie or cob.
This wide range of names got us thinking about other terms that have regional variations. The English language is so rich, and there are a surprising number of dialects for such a condensed area as Great Britain. We came up with a range of words for which we could identify regional variations and set about adding them to a map.
We’re often asked this and it’s been a bone of contention for many years. As the mapping agency for Great Britain, it’s our job to survey the features of the landscape – and not to determine the centre of Great Britain, but we still get asked regularly. Views vary widely as people disagree on the definition of Great Britain, how you determine the centre and how accurate the calculations are.
A surveying expert will tell you that there can’t be an absolute centre for a three dimensional land mass sitting on the surface of a sphere and surrounded by the ebb and flow of sea water. The tides alone mean that the shape and size of Great Britain changes on a constant basis. Nevermind the consideration of whether to include Great Britain and her islands or just the mainland itself…the simple fact is that different projections, scales and methods of calculation will produce different results.
So where is the centre? We made a computer calculation based on our 1:625 000 scale mapping to find the centre of Great Britain (including 401 associated islands). The calculation was achieved by linking our 1: 625 000 database with a computer programme based on the standard mathematical principle for determining the centre of a two dimensional irregular object. In basic terms, the principle calculates the point at which the object would balance horizontally on the head of a theoretical pin – its centre of gravity. This is sometimes known as the ‘gravitational method’ and has been used as a scientific application by everyone from Captain Cook to NASA.