As reported in The Independent yesterday: Campaigners calling for greater availability of official data were joined by lovers of the British countryside in hailing a partial victory against the venerable state-mapping company, after it agreed to offer free and unrestricted access to most of its maps online.
MY VIEW: Maps, those strange sheets with lots of starnge symbols on them that Scout Leaders love to pour over and some folks struggle to ever come to grips with, are one key way of getting people to do a number of otherwise difficult and near-impossible things:
* aiding proper navigation of the natural and built environment
* increasing safety, reducing the likehood of people becoming lost (or, at least these people ‘know’ where they are!)
* engaging and encouraging people – esp young people – to get outdoors, improving their knowledge of the countryside they are moving through.
* This means less people indoors, and more outdoors, resulting healthy young people. This is exactly what movements such as ‘No Child Inside’ http://www.cbf.org/Page.aspx?pid=687 and the ‘Children and Nature Network’ http://www.childrenandnature.org/ are all about.
Anything that achieves the above has to be good. Whilst I respect the concept of protecting some of the download rights regarding some maps – I personally prefer a physical map in my hands, but do find the cost steep at times! – I think having a good range of map resources able to be searched for and downloaded, a good move.
The RAMBLERS think the Government has ‘lost it’s nerve’. What do you think??
OS Free map scheme won’t unleash the benefits of walking
1st April 2010
“Government lost its nerve on releasing Landranger and Explorer maps”
Ramblers have cautiously welcomed a scheme announced today that makes Ordnance Survey mapping data free to the public, but are disappointed that standard walkers maps have been left out of the package.
Until today, every bit of Ordnance Survey mapping had to be paid for under complex and expensive licensing arrangements (1)Following a consultation earlier this year, the ‘‘OS OpenData’ scheme, launched today by the Department of Communities and Local Government, will make mapping such as the 1:10 000 scale Street View digital street atlas freely available for public use and re-use. This means anyone can use the mapping as a “base” to add their own information such as walking routes or the location of services.
But the free datasets will not include digital versions of 1:25 000 Explorer and 1:50 000 Landranger maps – currently the only maps showing much important information for walkers and the standard choice for navigating on foot in rural areas.
The Ramblers, who urged the Government to fund free standard mapping data during the consultation last year, have expressed extreme disappointment that their suggestions have been ignored.
Ramblers Chief Executive, Tom Franklin, comments: “While Street View and some of the other free data will be useful and this is a step in the right direction, we’re very disappointed that the government apparently lost its nerve with releasing Landranger and Explorer.
“These maps provide a familiar view of the walking environment for many millions of walkers and making them free for re-use, would have provided the easiest and most effective way to enable keen volunteers to share their walking knowledge with others.
“We know one of the reasons people don’t walk more is that they don’t know good places to walk, and access to mapping is essential in overcoming that barrier. And more people walking more often is something the government agrees is a good thing, helping tackle obesity and even climate change.”
These maps were included in the original proposals for free mapping. The Ramblers urged the government to release them to help organisations promote attractive and accessible local walking routes, a vital tool in encouraging a healthier and more active lifestyle. Ramblers called on the government to take account of the wider social benefits of mapping, such as its role in supporting active travel to the benefit of public health and the environment.
THE INDY’s EDITORIAL
There is something intoxicatingly romantic about an old Ordnance Survey map. They are redolent of the aromas of childhood; not just the musty smell of an ancient linen-backed tourist edition, but the way the gently water-coloured lines rise up in brown peaks from green valleys.
But they are precision tools of the present too, as a modern 1:50,000 map of any contemporary British city will show, which is why the OS website nearly went into meltdown yesterday when the public was allowed free and unrestricted access to most of its maps online for the first time.
THE ARTICLE IN FULL
British wildernesses may be few and far between nowadays, but the urge to experience nature in the raw remains a primal impulse among the nation’s hikers, bikers and fitness enthusiasts. And for anyone looking to venture into the great outdoors this weekend, an Ordnance Survey (OS) map remains the prerequisite piece of kit to be packed alongside an apple, a cagoul and a box of corned beef and pickle sandwiches to ensure a safe return from a day yomping across hill and dale.
Yesterday campaigners calling for greater availability of official data were joined by lovers of the British countryside in hailing a partial victory against the venerable state-mapping company, after it agreed to offer free and unrestricted access to most of its maps online.
The landmark decision by the OS followed a long public consultation designed to open up information sources gathered at the taxpayer’s expense and to make them available to a new generation of users without charge. Among those welcoming the initiative was the creator of the World Wide Web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, who has been advising Gordon Brown on ways to liberate the Government’s vast data banks to a new wave of entrepreneurs who, it is hoped, may be able to use them to create cutting-edge industries.
Ministers were forced to waive the long-guarded copyright in response to the huge amount of mapping information already available on the internet free of charge. Services such as Google Earth, Street View and Multimap have revolutionised the way that the public perceives and pays for cartographical information.
OS OpenData http://www.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/oswebsite/opendata/, which went online yesterday, will exist alongside an earlier data-sharing scheme called OS OpenSpace, which is also free to groups looking to create and reproduce their own maps. It has brought an end to the absurdity of schoolchildren having to write for permission to photocopy a map from their public library.
The popularity of the service was immediately evident as the OS website became locked up with users rushing to download maps of their area for the first time.
But not everyone was entirely happy. The Ramblers http://www.ramblers.org.uk/ , a charity which represents Britain’s army of hikers and walkers, criticised the omission of the most popular scale paper maps after it was confirmed that the free datasets would not include digital versions of 1:25,000 Explorer and 1:50,000 Landranger series.
The charity’s chief executive, Tom Franklin, accused the Government of “losing its nerve”. He said: “We know one of the reasons people don’t walk more is that they don’t know good places to walk, and access to mapping is essential in overcoming that barrier. And more people walking more often is something the Government agrees is a good thing, helping tackle obesity and even climate change.”
The OS said the decision to leave out the best-selling paper maps, which retail for anything up to £15 each, was “in the national interest” and could “undermine the continued provision of a nationwide paper map series”.
Today, the geographically curious among us love nothing more than poring over the exquisitely drawn contour lines and triangulation marks of an OS map. Yet while modern-day OS maps may be viewed as documents of peace, beneficial to health and the environment, their origins are soaked in the blood of Jacobite suppression.
According to Dr Richard Oliver’s A Short History of the Ordnance Survey of Great Britain, the first modern maps took shape between 1747 and 1755. Their instigator was an ambitious military officer named Colonel David Watson, who served with the Army and also the Engineers of the Board of Ordnance. The painstaking work was carried out by the Lanarkshire-born surveyor William Roy, who went on to become the father of modern cartography, and the pioneering water colourist Paul Sandby, who helped turn the first maps into beautifully realised artworks. It was a primitive process by modern satellite-driven standards. The contour line was yet to be invented, and all distances were measured by 66ft lengths of chain.
The Jacobite uprising of 1745 had caused consternation to King George II, who urgently commissioned the Highlands survey as a means of pacifying the insurgent clansmen north of the border. Overseeing the project was the formidable figure of the Duke of Cumberland, later to achieve notoriety as the “Butcher” of Culloden, architect of the murderously one-sided battle where 2,000 Jacobites were killed or wounded at the cost of just 50 government lives.
Perhaps inevitably, however, it was to be events across the Channel that were to drive the next stage in development. A dispute between the Royal Societies of London and Paris saw the great and the good of the learned bodies try to resolve a long-running disagreement over the relative positions of their astronomical observatories. The system of triangulation settled the debate – a process whereby distances across water and other obstacles were measured for the first time using the angles of a fixed point.
Yet throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, conflict continued to fuel the need for ever more accurate and detailed maps. In England, the first charting of the rolling farmland of Kent and the marshes of Essex appeared amid mounting concern over the prospect of invasion by Napoleon’s forces.
By the time that the Battle of Waterloo was won, everywhere south of Birmingham was mapped. The work was physically demanding and progress was slow. It was not until 1823 that the survey had inched its way northwards armed with the advanced Ramsden theodolite for measuring vertical angles. Thomas Colby, the longest serving Director General of the Ordnance Survey, walked 586 miles in 22 days during one reconnaissance journey.
In 1841, at the time of the railway boom, officials were granted the right by Parliament to enter property in order to measure it. But disputes over which scale to adopt and the distractions of mapping Ireland failed to stem the advance of the theodolite-wielding geodesists, who continued to press ahead with their task and who have been carefully measuring, mapping and remapping the whole of the UK on a near-constant basis ever since.
Dr Christopher Board, chairman of the Charles Close Society for the Study of Ordnance Survey Maps, said the process of mapping the UK would never be complete and needed to remain largely state-funded. “If you left it to private industry you would find the most popular tourist areas would be mapped regularly and kept up to date, but there would be huge areas of agricultural land, moor or croft that would be left untouched,” he said.