We are excited to launch the latest product in the OS MasterMap family, Sites Layer.
OS MasterMap Sites Layer is a nationally maintained dataset that maps the detailed extent of important locations such as airports, schools, hospitals, ports, utility and infrastructure sites and more. The points of access into these sites from the nearest road network are also provided.
This initial release of OS MasterMap Sites Layer focuses on sites in the following themes: Air Transport (such as airports, heliports and airfields), Education (such as schools and university campuses), Medical Care (such as medical care centres, hospices and hospitals), Rail Transport (such as railway station, tram station, vehicular rail terminal), Road Transport (such as coach station, bus station, road user services), Water Transport (such as ports, vehicular and passenger ferry terminals), Utility and Industrial (such as oil terminal, chemical works, oil and gas distribution or storage).
Have you ever seen a Bishop driving a bulldozer or a Curate using a compactor? This seems a strange question until you learn more about the Church of England’s land based assets.
To put you in the picture, the Church Commissioners’ minerals and mining portfolio covers approximately 750,000 acres. (Lancashire is just over 700,0001 acres to give you a sense of perspective). This makes it one of the largest geographic estates in the country. Who knew the Church of England was involved in primary industry such as mineral extraction?
The Church of England itself is no stranger to geography. Parishes and dioceses are geographic in their nature, so maps and boundaries are part of its structure. The land assets which are held and managed by the Church Commissioners for England help generate funds for its support and royalties are received for the extraction of minerals (such as chalk, sand and gravel), so the need for maps to help manage these physical assets is a natural step for an organisation with a wide-spread geographic footprint.
We’ve come to the end of the tweeting period for our surveyors and others at Ordnance Survey. We wanted to give you all a feel for the work our teams do each day as they go about updating the master map of Great Britain.
Over the last fortnight our tweeting surveyors have been all over Great Britain – whether it is mapping the latest railway bridge in the Cotswolds, recording the changes left by coastal erosion in the east of England or getting caught in the glaur (boot-hugging mud) near Perth.
For those based in head office, they are still lucky enough to tour the country through their computer screens – checking 3D dam models in Brecon, working on Greenwich Park and testing imagery around Northumberland National Park.
We’ve had some great questions come in which either the tweeters themselves or the @OrdnanceSurvey twitter account have answered. From whether our trig pillars are still in use (sadly, we have more modern methods now) to wondering if we’re about to issue a parking ticket (definitely not in our remit)!
I noticed how often weather featured in the tweets – but if your job involved working in the great outdoors, this is bound to be a key topic. If you’ve been following any of the tweeters, following #osatwork or keeping an eye on our map – let us know what you thought.
For us, we’ll be ‘switching off’ the Twitter map, but we hope you’ve enjoyed the tweets and seeing who is working near you across Great Britain. You can still get a feel for the work we do through @OrdnanceSurvey and @OSLeisure too.
You might have watched the news or read the papers recently and seen that the Wiltshire town of Wootton Bassett formally received the title ‘Royal’ in a ceremony on Sunday afternoon, 16 October. Royal Wootton Bassett was being recognised for its dedication in honouring Britain’s war dead in recent years.
The four years the residents had lined the streets of the town as a mark of respect to service personnel killed in Iraq and Afghanistan and being repatriated at nearby RAF Lyneham. Prime Minister David Cameron said that the tribute was a symbol of the nation’s gratitude to Wootton Bassett’s people.
The change of name also meant a change was needed in our mapping database at Ordnance Survey. The enormous amount of publicity around this name change meant we had plenty of notice and Wootton Bassett has now become Royal Wootton Bassett – and the change will be available to customers via future product updates.
We make some 5,000 changes each day to the national master map and thanks to the work of our 300 surveyors and an extensive aerial photography programme, significant changes are ‘on the map’ within six months of them appearing.
Adding ‘Royal’ to a town name isn’t one of our usual changes though, Royal Wootton Bassett is the first town in more than 100 years to be given the ‘royal’ title – and there are in fact, only two other English towns with this honour – can you name them?
There are also a number of royal boroughs, such as Kensington and Chelsea and there will be a new borough added next year in honour of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee – do you know where that is?
We’ll add the answers later if nobody posts the correct answers…
For the last in our series of posts this week celebrating the Lake District National Park we’re looking at how Cumbria is returning to normal after the floods of November 2009.
The day of 19 November 2009 will remain in the memories of those living in Cumbria, and in particular Cockermouth for some time to come. Heavy rains had caused the rivers Derwent and Cocker, which both meet in Cockermouth, to rise and burst their banks. It was the time it took for the waters to take over the town that caught many unawares and unprepared. By midday the water levels were high, but Main Street was dry, by 3pm the water was a foot deep on Main Street and by midnight Main Street and some of it’s side streets had been transformed into a raging torrent of water which reached up to 8ft deep in places. I’d watched the footage on the television and thought that it looked bad – but it wasn’t until I visited Cockermouth earlier this year that I realised just how bad it had been.
Cockermouth wasn’t the only place affected by the floods. Workington, at the mouth of the River Derwent, was also badly affected with flood water. Being down stream from where the two flooded rivers met in Cockermouth, the flood waters came rushing downstream and engulfed Workington. The wall of water took out several bridges in the town – leaving only the railway bridge left as the river crossing, effectively cutting the town in two.
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.
There isn’t a single part of Britain that doesn’t see some change to its geography. From bustling city centre to wind-swept moorland, change is everywhere. And to help illustrate the fact, we’ve made this short film that shows the cumulative changes made to the OS MasterMap database, the nation’s 21st century geographic Doomsday Book, which is updated around 5,000 times every day.
The video shows an 18 month period in which you’ll see there isn’t a single part of the country that hasn’t been updated. That’s a lot of change.
You might also like this visualisation showing 7 years of change in Swindon – it’s pretty incredible.
Last week we heard from the Flying Unit in our Remote Sensing team and this week we’re going to find out what happens to the images the Flying Unit send back to head office. As we capture around 50 000 aerial images of Great Britain every year, we need a team ready and waiting to process that information.
The Remote Sensing team take the imagery sent through by the Flying Unit and use it to update our large scale topographic database as well as populating products such as Land-Form PROFILE Plus and OS MasterMap Imagery Layer. We actually use the aerial photography to provide three key things:
• grid coordinates of features on the ground;
• heights of features and topography; and
• rectified photography.
Remote Sensing are split into sub-teams to manage these tasks. In Aerial Triangulation, simply put, they ‘pin’ the imagery to the National Grid and ensures that it is positionally accurate. Meanwhile Orthorectification use stereo imagery to assess changes in scale across the photography and produce a combined image which is geographically accurate. This becomes the OS MasterMap Imagery Layer and can be overlaid with other elements of OS MasterMap too. Finally, Data Capture use the stereo photography to measure height and location in order to update our topographic database. Imagery is viewed on a monitor using polarised spectacles to view two images virtually simultaneously.
So that was Remote Sensing 101 and you should have a rough idea of what the team do. I caught up with Jon, Peter and Nicholas to get their perspectives on their roles and discover how things have changed during their time in the team.
Jon has spent two periods of time in Remote Sensing and seen a number of changes between those two times. Part of Jon’s role is working on ‘knitting’ images together. If you think that the cameras on the aircraft are taking hundreds and thousands of images, then you need to find a way to stitch those images together to create one vast seamless image of Great Britain. The images need to be joined in a sensible means – you wouldn’t want a join across a feature such as a house or bridge for example. So Jon works with images, creating the joins and avoiding features, cutting around buildings and so on. Jon told me, “It’s known as seam lining and is especially challenging in built-up areas with large numbers of features and tall buildings creating shadows. It’s ideal to be working on somewhere like Norfolk – which is flat and relatively easy to do!”
Watching Jon and his colleagues work, my first observation, was apparently a very common one “doesn’t it strain your eyes working in 3D?” Jon assures me this isn’t the case, it’s more about relaxing your eyes and looking into the distance – much like with those 3D hidden image posters that were popular in the late 1990s.
I also wondered whether it had been more challenging for the team to move to our new head office. Jon said, “Now that we all work on PCs, we’re not that different to the rest of the building, so the move was quite simple. We just needed blinds up at the windows to make sure we could complete our screen work without any glare. Before PCs, when we had specialist equipment we needed reinforced floors to hold it all – and they had to be sprung to remove the vibrations from all of the equipment.
“We do have a different set up to most of the business as we work from two screens, with one in 3D. But other than the desks, we’re really not that different.”
Peter and Nicholas work on stereo plotting – making sure that things are in the right place in the simplest terms. They can be working on a variety of mapping scales ranging from urban sweep to mountain and moorland. They also undertake areas where it would be dangerous or access would be denied to our field surveyors, such as airports, refineries, railways, new motorways and so on.
Although my initial thought was that it must be great to have a rural area to check as there’s less change to identify, Peter pointed out that if you have a 5km by 5km area of Ben Nevis, you still have to check every section of it and be able to hunt out the smallest change.
Nicholas told me that he has seen many changes during his time in the team – and later this year the editing system will be changing again. “I undertook two months of training outside Remote Sensing before moving into the team. The analogue stereo plotting machines like the A8 and A10 took a long time to set up as you needed to recreate the position of the aircraft as it took each image. The current set up is more of a ‘trick of the brain’ using the dark glasses to create a 3D image on the screen rather than setting equipment up and looking through optics.”
Peter remembered the introduction of digital workstations around 2002. The digital photogrammetrical workstation (DPW) allowed for an on-screen display by which you could view imagery in 3D using special glasses. Peter also recalled the changeover to colour photography around five years ago and the switch to digital cameras. These have allowed the flying season to be extended, as he said “There have been many changes in Remote Sensing as it constantly evolves…we are now moving forward with a new system and I’m sure we will move on to greater and better things.”
Having a quick look through the specs that these guys work on, I have great admiration for the level of concentration required on a daily basis. I only wish I could show you the world as they see it – maybe once we have 3D computer screens as standard, I’ll do just that.
This week is ‘Walk to School Week,’ a national initiative designed to encourage parents to ditch the car and get their kids walking. The campaign is run by Living Streets, the national charity which campaigns for pedestrians. They aim to help create safe, attractive and enjoyable streets, where people want to walk.
Now, I’m sure there are very few people who would object to the idea of getting children to be more active whilst getting some school run vehicles off the road. That’s good news for everyone involved. It saves money, lowers congestion, pollution and is great exercise.
But I can understand why some parents are reluctant to let their children walk to school alone. Roads are dangerous places, particularly early in the morning. And with that in mind I was reminded to something going on in Daventry.
I’ve been asked a few times whether there really are enough changes to the landscape to warrant an army of 250 surveyors and 2 aircraft mapping them. My answer is always to think of your own town (or one nearby) and the changes that happen there over the course of a year. New buildings appear whilst others are pulled down, the road layout changes and new footpaths are laid.
Change is everywhere.
Now think about all those changes multiplied across the entire country and you start to get the picture.
But like all constant and gradual change, it’s still easy to miss. It’s only when you’re reminded of how things were that you can see how far you’ve come.
So that’s why we’ve built a visualisation showing all the change that has occurred in the north-west of Swindon over the last 7 years. It’s been made by archiving every change made to OS MasterMap Topography Layer since October 2004.
The scale and scope of the transformation is quite astonishing.
But remember that the physical changes only reveal only some of the story. When you watch the video think about all the questions it raises.
What kind of underground infrastructure would need to be put in place? What planning would need to go into providing local services like rubbish collection and public transport? Are there enough schools or GPs to cover the new population? With the loss of green spaces, would you want to model the impact on surface water in case of flooding? Will the roads cope with the increase in congestion? It goes on and on.
And if you think again about that multiplied across the entire country, you start to realise the incredibly important role that geographic information plays in everyone’s lives.
So next time someone asks me if there really is that much change, I’m just going to show them this…
To find out more about how we keep mapping data up-to-date, you might like to this post on a day in the life of a surveyor.