Ever since a child I’ve had a love of aircraft and as you can probably tell I like a bit of a challenge, so it’s not surprising that a single character tweet is all it took to convince me to enter a run called the “Spitfire 10K” at an RAF museum.
In the days of ultra marathons and Ironman triathlons some may say that 10k (6.2 miles) isn’t that much of challenge, but as someone with a heart condition and predominately being a cyclist I find running considerably difficult. When I am running my heart rate goes up much quicker and higher, so to maintain a rate that I am comfortable with I have to run at a slower pace or at times even walk. The important thing for me is taking part and that it doesn’t stop me from getting outside.
As per usual it was an early start on Sunday morning as I wanted to get to RAF Cosford early in order to be able to park on the site, rather than use the park and ride service. It was shortly after 8am that I met up with Roland and Sara from ACE (After Cardiac Event) Runners in the museum cafe, we had previously spoken a lot on twitter but this was the first time we had actually met. A little while later after tea/coffee and with cardiac histories exchanged we headed for the safety briefing and the start line by Hangar One.
With the briefing complete it was only a couple of minutes later that we were away and running.
I got carried away with a large group at the start (I’m in the red t-shirt towards the back of the group in the photo above) and as a result set off at far quicker pace than I should have done.
Having run past the museums outdoor exhibits and completing a lap of the hangers it was down onto the airfield past several Jaguars, including Cosford’s “Spotty Jag”.
With the quick pace, for me at least, I completed the first mile in just over 10 minutes, my normal mile pace is closer to 13 minutes.
I was about a third of the way (2 miles) into the run when the race leader passed me coming back the other way (he was at 5 miles!). Rather appropriately for an RAF based event he was runner number 633 and went on to win with a time of just over 36 minutes.
Once onto the airfield the route followed the taxi way to the far end of the runway, up and back down the runway before returning along the taxi ways back to the start/finish line.
This is only my second ever running event and I was hoping to complete it in 1 hour 20 minutes, my first mile paced caused me to slow towards the end and I crossed the line in 1 hour 27 minutes 33 seconds.
It was also a chance to meet up with my brother Andy, who lives close to Cosford. We couldn’t resist the opportunity to take a look around the rest of the museum and of course take a photo of the Vulcan in the Cold War exhibit.
Whilst I’m disappointed with my time I enjoyed every step and I’m looking forward to beating 1 hour 20 mins next year!
I’ve entered numerous sportives over the last five years but the Brompton World Championship on Saturday was my first competitive bike race….
Brompton championships have taken place every year since 2006, previously being held at Blenheim Palace and at Goodwood. The 2016 race, the 11th edition was held in London as part of the Prudential RideLondon weekend.
As with every year there is a strict dress code of a collared shirt, neck tie and jacket – absolutely no visible sportswear or lycra is permitted. As an Ordnance Survey GetOutside Champion entering a World Championship it seemed only right that I should have something OS related on me, but the no lycra rule meant I couldn’t wear my OS cycling jersey. Sue, my partner, came to the rescue by making me a fabulous tie out of a Snowdon Splashmap with the summit at the centre of the tie. To add to the authenticity, I took the splashmap to the summit of Snowdon on my climb the weekend before.
The race itself was eight laps of St James Park, starting with a Le Mans style start in the middle of the Mall. Your Brompton must be fully folded and placed on the opposite side of the Mall in race number order.
The race, of 550 riders, started in four waves. I was in the third wave, which started 20 seconds behind the fastest riders. Just before the the klaxon sounded for our wave everyone started slowly creeping across the Mall, then it sounded and everyone was off running to their Bromptons.
Once on the other side it was a mad scramble to unfold the Bromptons, the quicker you do it the more places you can make up. It wasn’t the fastest time I’ve unfolded my Brompton but I was away and racing just after those around me.
I went off fast on the first lap, in fact it turned out to be my fastest lap of the race at 3 minutes 38 seconds (not including the 1 min 10 seconds to unfold the bike and cross the start line), probably too fast but I made up a lot of places.
The following view is from my handlebars, whilst it’s the entire race I have speeded up the footage after the first lap, keep an eye out for the riders dressed as WW1 Army Soldiers saluting the Queen/Buckingham Palace
I was lapped after 4.5 miles of racing, although I have to say that the group that lapped me did include ex-professional riders including David Millar and Michael Hutchinson. As a result of being lapped I crossed the finish line having completed 7 laps (9.55 miles) in a time of 29 minutes and 59 seconds, averaging 19mph.
That put me in 185th place in the mens race (322 finishers) and 209th overall (420 finishers) – My goal was to finish higher than my starting position of 366, so I was extremely happy with my time. Also there’s not many amateur cyclists that can say they have raced alongside David Millar (ok, participated in the same race as….)
I’ve been to the top of Snowdon twice before, once in the early 80s and again in 2002. On both of those occasions it was a gentle trundle up the mountainside courtesy of the Snowdon Mountain Railway, into the clouds that were shrouding the higher slopes. For the briefest moment in 2002, whilst at the summit, the wind cleared the clouds revealing fantastic views over Llyn Llydaw and out to the east. In that moment I took this photo, seconds later I was back in the clouds.
I used that photo as wallpaper on my work computer for months afterwards, so many people that saw it would ask if I had walked up? Each time I would make some wry remark “me, walk up a mountain?” and then say no I went on the train. I might as well have just downloaded the photo. I’m rather embarrassed about that fact now and it’s time to put it right. I want to be able to say once and for all, yes I have walked up Snowdon!
So with the help of my fellow Ordnance Survey Champions and especially Jason Rawles, our Adventure Guide, a plan was hatched to summit Snowdon by foot on Sunday 24th July. Please take a look at Jason’s blog at what was involved and what you need to consider before tackling a mountain yourself, there is a lot more to it than just putting on a pair of walking boots.
You could say the weather wasn’t at it’s best last Sunday, after a week of high temperatures and cloudless skies, I awoke to the sound of rain. With the poor weather and visibility Jason selected the Pyg Track from Pen-Y-Pass as the best route for us.
Whilst I didn’t get to see the views this time, what I did see was far better. My ability and strength, post heart attack, to be able to climb a mountain, physically, literally and metaphorically. Thank you to everyone involved in helping me reach this personal achievement.
“Yes, I’ve walked up Snowdon!”
If you’ve had a set back, for what ever reason, never give up on your dreams and aspirations. If you put your mind to it you can over come these obstacles and climb your own metaphoric mountain – you just need to #GetOutside, start off slowly and take it easy, you never know where the path will lead you.
As for seeing the views from Snowdon, I will just have to return…
Back in February I went behind the scenes at Ordnance Survey with Dom Turnor, a Field Surveyor at OS, to find out how the master map of Great Britain is updated. During the day I discovered that there are areas that cannot easily be surveyed on the ground, this can be for a variety of reasons including the size/nature of the site, access restrictions or the safety of the surveyor. In these situations the changes can be surveyed using aerial photography. Ordnance Survey have had a dedicated Flying Unit since 1966. OS used aerial photography prior to this and had operators of it’s own, however it was shared with the Royal Air Force and other government departments.
I met up with Air Camera Operator and Field Surveyor Roger Nock at East Midlands Airport to find out more about the Flying Unit and how they capture the aerial imagery required to update the master map.
Ordnance Survey have several planes, each equipped with a large format digital aerial camera system by Vexcel Imaging. This is a state of the art UltraCam digital camera, consisting of eight lenses and 196 megapixels.
The camera/sensor unit is mounted behind the camera operators seat with the airborne computing unit, removable data storage and interface panel to the operators left. The pilot has a secondary display screen which can be mounted to the instrument panel whilst imagery is being captured.
Mounted in front of the camera operator is a forward looking scope for a detailed view of the area and terrain ahead of the aircraft.
The flying season is between late February and early November and is very much dependent on the weather, air traffic control and permission to enter areas of restricted airspace.
Not only do they have to factor in the infamous UK weather, our airspace is also one of the busiest in the Europe, if not the world, especially in the South East with the shear volume of arrivals and departures into the main London airports. In 2014, London Heathrow handled 73.4 million passengers during 470,695 aircraft movements, an average of 1290 flights a day (data from LHR Airports Ltd).
Everything needs to be in place for a flight to take place. The weather needs to be favourable, rain and clouds in the target area will cast shadows on the imagery or completely obscure the ground. Permissions from multiple air traffic controllers along the flightpath and permissions to enter restricted flight areas need to be obtained, the pilots total flying hours that day also needs to be considered, not just total flown so far but the planned flying hours for the sortie need to be taken into consideration and of course the serviceability of the aircraft itself. However, before any of this can take place the flight needs to be planned, which starts with a request for a target to be flown. These can come from various sources including, field surveyors, OS HQ etc.
One target request that needed planning whilst I was visiting was for the Glaslyn river estuary in North Wales, this estuary is predominately sand banks and needs to be accurately surveyed in order to update the master map. As you can imagine this task just isn’t feasible for a ground field surveyor to undertake.
With the target site identified, the air camera operator checks the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) airspace charts for the location and any flying restrictions/hazardous areas. The majority of North Wales is free airspace, however there a few restricted areas with an RAF airfield on Anglesey and some of the valleys being used for low level fast jet training. In our case the Glaslyn estuary is in the free airspace, so there are no restrictions or additional permissions required.
Aerial imagery is captured by flying at a set speed and altitude in a straight line with a photo being taken approximately every 3 seconds (depending on speed).
Having entered certain details into the computer, such as Camera Type, Ground Sample Distance (GSD is the distance between the pixels on the image measured on the ground eg. in an image with a one metre GSD, adjacent pixels image locations are 1 metre apart on the ground).
The operator can then draw the flying strips onto the target area, these appear as black rectangles with the blue centre line being the flightpath of the aircraft and the red dots indicate the location an image will be captured. In order to obtain the best quality survey the images are overlapped, generally by 30%. Additional strips are added until the target area is completely covered as shown in the screenshot below.
Whilst the location of each photo is captured with GPS it is good practice to include several map features in the imagery, such as a main road or village centre, so that the newly acquired imagery can be aligned with existing map data. The original target area is the black outlined polygon just visible under the main rectangles.
In order to fully survey the estuary OS will need to fly five lines capturing a total of 144 images, with each line being flown at 5,800 feet and 175 knots. This relatively small target area will take approximately 30 to 35 minutes to survey when you add in the time it takes to turn the plane at the end of each line. In this example the altitude of each line remains constant as the terrain is flat, in more hilly areas the altitude of each line needs to be adjusted in line with the terrain so that the GSD remains constant as well. An additional element for this sortie is that it must be flown at low tide thereby adding to the complex of scheduling it.
The weather had been poor in the morning of my visit and just when it was looking like we wouldn’t get to fly at all, there was a break in the weather over South Wales and we would be able to fly a sortie. The selected target in Aberporth was a single line which would take five minutes to survey at an altitude of 5800 feet. During the week the area is restricted airspace and even though it was a Saturday permission would still be required to fly in the area.
Our pilot for the day Liam Watt had called ahead and with permission granted, the surveying systems setup and configured we took to the skies over East Midlands and set course for Cardigan.
The outbound flight took us out towards Ironbridge, south of the Wrekin and then over the Shropshire Hills and the Welsh Marches.
We had to be extra vigilant in this area by keeping an eye out for gliders, due to the number of clubs in the area and the weather was perfect for the gliders to soar on the thermals, their small size makes them difficult to see.
As we approached the target area, I heard Liam say to Roger over the intercom “cloud on the line”, this potentially meant we would have to abort the sortie and return to East Midlands without any images. Fortunately as we turned for the line it was in fact clear and Roger started capturing the imagery.
From the co-pilots seat I watched Liam’s secondary screen on the instrument panel in front of me. The images below shows: Top Left – approaching the line. Right – flying the line. Bottom Left – Line complete and turning back for East Midlands.
Roger was happy with the images he captured and with the survey complete we turned for the return flight over the Welsh Marches and the Shropshire Hills back to East Midlands airport.
Having landed and taxied back to the hanger, the last remaining tasks are to remove the data storage units from the aircraft and copy the imagery from the aircraft systems onto the servers where they will be sent to OS in Southampton for processing and updates to the master map will be made.
I would like to thank Ordnance Survey and especially Roger and Liam for giving me access to the Flying Unit for what was a fantastic experience and truly a once in a lifetime opportunity.
Having taken advantage of a late offer of a berth in a cabin I managed to get some sleep, although I’d been asleep for what felt like a few minutes before the ferry’s PA system was announcing that we would shortly be docking in Dieppe – in reality I probably got about four hours sleep.
For some reason the ferry had docked an hour late into Dieppe, so we were behind schedule, unperturbed by the delay we disembarked and left the port to meet up for a quick snack and a rider briefing.
I had checked the weather forecast for Sunday before I left Greenwich, at that point it was saying 6 degrees for Dieppe at 5am and the late teens early twenties for Paris in the afternoon, so I had already decided on shorts. However, the clear skies overnight had made the temperature plummet and my Garmin was reading zero degrees celsius as I rode off the ferry – guess who couldn’t find his long fingered gloves…
After a quick banana and a handful of Haribo, we were a rolling peloton of fifty riders. I restarted my Garmin at 5:38am (French Time) and a long line of flashing white and red lights started to string out illuminating the sleeping port of Dieppe.
Next stop breakfast at Buchy in 30 miles.
There was something magical about cycling through the night and the villages of northern France. The boulangeries and pâtisseries were the only buildings lit up, each spilling out a welcoming glow of warmth onto the roadside, the smells of their wares and freshly baking bread wafting out over the road enticing me to stop… as alluring and seductive as it was I stayed faithful to the road and didn’t stop, instead the smells urged me onwards towards the town of Buchy for our planned breakfast stop. However, I must one day return to try a freshly baked croissants and perhaps un Pain et Baguette Normande.
With each revolution of the pedals the black starry night sky slowly gave way to the first signs of dawn as the sun rejoined us for our epic adventure to Paris. The sun and its warmth were very much welcomed and it wasn’t long before my fingers started to thaw and the feeling returned to my fingertips, I might have been freezing cold but I was loving it. The cold temperatures had resulted in a fine mist rising off the rivers and lakes along the roadsides adding to the magic.
Breakfast in Buchy was a generous spread of items including ham and cheese baguettes, porridge, pastries, orange juice, tea and coffee. The only sun in Buchy at that time of the morning was a strip down the middle of the road, as a result a large number of us where gathered around the traffic island getting strange looks from the locals as they pulled up at the junction.
Suitably thawed, fed and refreshed it was time to make a move and continue onto Paris. Just as I was about to set off, Matt (one of the group of seven other riders from Saturday evening) came over and said he was getting the band back together and we should head out together as a group of eight. We didn’t know it at the time, but it was at that point Team Tally Ho formed up and that we would stay together all the way to Paris.
The early morning mist had been burnt away by the sun and with the temperature rising additional layers of clothing were being removed and stored away in jersey pockets.
Riding in the group was making the miles fly by, I managed to get a quick selfie and tweeted it to update family and friends back home of my progress (and to mention how nice the weather was!).
Shortly after we rode into the town of Les Andelys and standing high on the chalk cliffs at the far end of the town was the impressive Château Gaillard, the ruins of Richard the Lionheart’s castle that he built in the late 12th century. I’ve had an interest in castles since I was a child so yet another reason for a more leisurely return to the area.
The town of Les Andelys is on the banks of the river Seine and it was here that we stopped for a snack with the chance to offload the now unneeded layers of clothing into our bags and another group photo, this time in our excellent L2P24 jerseys.
What you can’t see in the photo above is the blood running down my left leg, as I arrived at the stop my cleat got caught in the pedal (my excuse and I’m sticking to it as I am sure that I unclipped), with both feet clipped to the pedals and no forward motion theres only one direction left to go… yes I met the ground coming up on my lefthand side, my knee took the brunt of the fall. Now usually the blood of a small cut and graze will clot quite quickly. However, with my heart medication my blood doesn’t clot very easily (and I don’t want it too either) so it was it time to test the first aid supplies and ask for a plaster.
With my knee patched up we left Les Andelys behind us following the meandering river Seine towards Vernon and ultimately Paris. With the quiet country roads we were riding two abreast for most of the way, the traffic was starting to build as we passed through Vernon so we took to a single file train taking turns at the front. I took the opportunity to record a short video of us as I dropped back from my turn at the front.
We stayed in the train all the way to the next snack stop, along the way Chris, Tom and Luke (the event photographers) passed us in the car. A couple of miles down the road I spotted the car parked on the roadside and they had setup on both sides of the road to take photos and video footage. I must say a big thank you to them all for the brilliant photos and memories.
The section between snack stop 3 and lunch, whilst only 21 miles, had the two largest climbs of the day at Sailly and L’Hautil (almost 1200 feet in little under 12 miles), whilst climbing L’Hautil my Garmin clicked over onto 100 miles. By this time I could feel the previous 158 miles in my legs but I made it up both to be rewarded with lunch at Chanteloup Les Vignes.
Clea had completed the last part of the climb and into the lunch stop pedalling with just one leg as her lefthand crank had fallen off, fortunately the event mechanics weren’t far behind us and it wasn’t long until the crank had been reattached. We were on a way for the leg and the run into Paris.
We were getting close to the 24 hours and the traffic lights of the suburbs of Paris were not playing, each one seemed to turn red just as we approached. We crossed the Seine for the final time as a group and cycled under the Eiffel Tower, stopping my Garmin at 4:57pm (French time) – Total time 24 hours 28 minutes and if you allow for the ferry delay it would have been 23 hours 28 minutes.
Whilst my goal was to cycle under 24 hours, I do not see it as a failure in a way, but a fantastic achievement for someone who has previously suffered a heart attack and couldn’t walk for more than 5 minutes without getting out of breath. If you would have said to me five years ago, as I was lying on my hospital bed on the day of my heart attack, that I would ride to Paris in 24 and a half hours I wouldn’t have believed you. It just goes to show what you can achieve, start off with small steps and see where it takes you, the most important thing is that you start.
It would be great if you could visit my Just Giving page and perhaps give a donation to Pumping Marvellous as we need to raise awareness about Heart Failure and help other heart patients that are not as fortunate as me.
I’ll be on the start line again in Greenwich on Saturday 29th April 2017 – I’ve still got that magic 24 hours to beat 🙂
The adventure began at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich Park. I had arrived an hour early, having cycled there from a local hotel that I had stayed at the night before. I wasn’t expecting the view from the start, as I reached a statue at the end of a tree lined avenue the view opened up to a one hundred and eighty degree panorama of the park and London beyond, topped off with the skyscrapers of Central London and Canary Wharf on the horizon – I’d only just arrived and the views were fantastic!
Other riders started to arrive and soon a small group had started to form around the benches opposite a van selling coffee. I was a little worried as I entered by myself and therefore would not know anyone, I needn’t have worried as everyone was extremely friendly. Introductions were being made along with the normal questions in this type of scenario, such as have you travelled far to get here etc?
The record distance travelled goes to Milton, he had flown into London the day before from Brisbane, Australia just for this ride and another rider had come from America. It was turning out to be a truly international event before a pedal had even been turned. With the introductions, registration and rider briefing complete it was time for the official group photo in front of the iconic Canary Wharf skyline before heading off on stage one and the ferry at Newhaven.
Stage 1 – London to Newhaven (58 miles / 93 km)
With the riders all assembled we set off for Paris, I started my Garmin at 3:29 pm (UK time) making the goal for the Eiffel Tower 4:29pm (French Time).
The busy streets of London were soon replaced with quiet country lanes as we made our way out of the capital towards Orpington, by chance the route passed my sister-in-law’s mother’s house and they had very kindly made a banner for me, encouraging me up the first main climb of the day.
After Westerham, the route climbed up onto the High Weald skirting Five Hundred Acre Wood, the scenery and views across East Sussex were stunning.
I had hired a small GPS tracker for the ride from Open Tracking, this was sending my current position to a website every ninety seconds and displaying it on a map of the route for family and friends to track my progress. For UK based events Open Tracking use the detailed 1:25000 Ordnance Survey mapping, however as my event left the UK I had to use an alternative mapping partner.
Pumping Marvellous, the heart charity I was cycling in aid of, had also tweeted the tracking link to it’s followers before the start and was tweeting updates along the way, each one was appearing as a notification on my bar mounted Garmin. This was providing me with an excellent source of encouragement, knowing that others were following and supporting me along the way.
By this stage I had been cycling with a group of seven other similar paced riders and we were making steady progress towards our final stop of the evening. The sun was getting low in the sky, as it dipped behind the clouds and the horizon to leave us for the night we were rewarded with a fantastic sunset, unfortunately the photo below does not do it justice.
We arrived in Newhaven at 8:11pm, having covered the 58 miles at an average speed of 13.5 mph with 3,570 feet of climbing, to be rewarded with a two course meal and the opportunity for drinks in a local hotel before riding to the ferry at 9:30pm. Whilst waiting to board the ferry I got talking to a couple of French cyclists who were on their return leg having cycled from Paris to London, on mountain bikes and mainly off road by the sounds of it – Chapeau!
It’s been a while since my alarm clock has gone off at 5am, especially on a Saturday. I was up early for the Cobbler Classic sportive, part of the Ordnance Survey Spin Series organised by UK Cycling Events.
With the car already packed, it was a quick breakfast and coffee before heading out the door, as I sat in the kitchen eating my porridge I could hear the rain hitting the roof of the conservatory. All the weather forecasts I had looked at hadn’t mentioned anything about rain, it was supposed to be sunny all day!
It was just after 5:30am when I left the house in the pouring rain. Whilst it’s only an hour and half drive to the start at Turweston Aerodrome near Brackley, there are roadworks on the M5 with recent night closures and I’ve been caught out like this before so I left with plenty of time to spare in case I needed to take the back routes.
As I got closer to the venue the rain eased off and the first signs of daybreak appeared on the horizon. At first it was a narrow glimmer of red and my thoughts turned to “red sky in the morning, shepherd’s warning… I hope it’s not going to rain all day”. 10 miles further down the road, the rain had stopped and the tarmac was dry. The red morning sky was replaced with, rather appropriately, a brilliant swatch of Ordnance Survey #GetOutside Orange as the sun tried to break through the clouds.
I had arrived early, which gave me plenty of time to sign in, using the quick and easy registration process, to get my rider number (1537) and helmet timing sticker.
As I came out from registration I met fellow OS #GetOutside Champion Karl on his way in for what would be his first sportive on the build up to his amazing 100 Peak Challenge in 2017 – I urge you all to follow the link and take a look at his plans and the challenge. Hopefully, you will be inspired to donate.
I was riding with my friend Jeremy, who had arrived shortly after me, he had stayed in a local hotel as it’s a three and half hour drive from Devon. Soon we were at the start line ready to go and listening to the important rider briefing.
It was dry and overcast with a chilly breeze in the air as we left the aerodrome. It wasn’t long before we had warmed up and were riding along quiet hedgerow lined lanes in the gently rolling countryside, through villages lined with stone buildings and quaint thatched cottages.
As we approached Silverstone (the village not the racetrack) a lovely 1961 Bentley S2 Continental ‘Flying Spur’ gracefully rolled past us in the opposite direction.
The first feed station was a welcome sight at the 37 mile mark, my feet were rather cold by this stage. Even though the stop had allowed my feet to warm up it was still overcast, but there were some promising looking patches of blue appearing in the sky. Although unfortunately it was not quite warm enough to pack away the windproof jacket.
As we left the feed station behind us we spotted the Hellidon Radio Tower on the horizon, over the next few miles it grew larger and larger until, close to the Warwickshire border, we turned left and past it as we headed south.
Rounding the radio tower had turned us into the wind, whilst this made it slightly harder to cycle the wind was doing a fantastic job of blowing the clouds away. By the time we reached the second feed station at Chipping Warden there was more blue in the sky than cloud and the sun was shining. Time to pack away the windproof, although I kept the arm warmers on.
Both feed stations were well stocked with energy drinks, water and plenty of food available. The flapjack and jelly beans are a staple of my cycling diet, as I prefer them to gels. I was particularly impressed with the choice of Sea Salt and Balsamic Vinegar Jacob’s Cracker Crisps as an excellent idea to help riders replace sodium/salt lost through sweat on the ride.
From feed station two it was a gentle 16 miles to the finish line in gorgeous sunshine and at times not a cloud in the sky.
We crossed the finish line with a cycling time of 5 hours and 31 minutes, not our fastest pace but we both have a 100 mile sportive next weekend and I have my London to Paris ride at the end of the month. So it’s more about endurance and time in the saddle than outright pace.
If you have read my blog before you will know that, at the age of 38, I suffered a myocardial infarction (MI, better known as a heart attack). It was caused by a combination of bad habits – a sedentary lifestyle, poor diet, smoking and a general lack of exercise. That was five years ago and I have come along way since that hospital bed in Scotland, completely turning my life around by taking up cycling and running.
I don’t want anybody to have to go through what I did on the fateful day in April 2011. Through my involvement with the Ordnance Survey #GetOutside Campaign, I’ve been sharing my story to encourage others to become active, whilst offering hope and inspiration to other heart failure patients that there is a future after such life changing events.
To mark the 5th anniversary of my MI and raise awareness of Heart Failure I’ve set myself a few challenges for April and May: –
I’ll be in my bright orange OS GetOutside kit for all four rides, do please say hello if you see me!
The main event is London to Paris, I leave Greenwich at 4pm on Saturday 30th and need to arrive at the Eiffel Tower before 4pm on the Sunday (70 miles to Newhaven for the four hour night ferry crossing to Dieppe and then 120 miles to Paris).
Whilst awareness of Heart Disease/Failure and getting people more active is my main driving force, I would like to raise much needed funds for Pumping Marvellous, a heart charity that represents the needs of nearly one million heart failure patients and just as importantly the patients families, at the same time.
If you would like to help the fight against heart failure – 20% of the adult population in the UK will be touched by heart failure and heart disease at sometime in their life – please donate to Pumping Marvellous by visiting my Just Giving page www.justgiving.com/coeurcycliste
It’s a practice that has taken place for over a century, people across Great Britain have grabbed Ordnance Survey (OS) maps, unfolded them and then scanned across the beloved grid squares searching out the familiar symbols we all learnt in school – roads, rivers, woods, churches, youth hostels, trig points, train stations, parking, contour lines etc.
All of this detail is vital to help you plan your next adventure and to navigate on the day – Where are you going to park? What feature are you going to take a bearing off? Where might you stop for a spot of lunch?
Have you ever stopped to think about how all this detail gets onto the map in the first place and more importantly how does it get updated? I spent a day and a half with Dom Turnor, a Surveyor with the OS, finding out how the master map of Great Britain is updated and how often. I make no apologies for the length of this post as I believe it is deserved given the subject matter and the privileged access given to me by OS.
Dom is one of approximately 250 field surveyors across the country and is responsible for the Malvern District, which is part of the Wales and West Central region. His district is long and thin from the county borders of Worcestershire and Shropshire in the north, down to Cheltenham in the south, as highlighted in the image below.
Due to the size and shape of the District, Dom plans his work into economic packages, saving time, fuel and the environment. I joined him for this planning on Monday afternoon at his home office where he explained the systems, processes and different types of surveying tasks he undertakes on a daily basis.
You may be surprised to learn that OS make approximately 10,000 changes to the master map every day and aim to capture all major change within 6 months of it happening. Each of these changes start as a field customer order which are generated from numerous sources such as HM Land Registry, Local Councils, Surveyors, OS HQ, third party suppliers etc. Whilst there are multiple categories for these orders the majority will fall into one of four categories: –
Prestige sites – Sporting venues, Large shopping centres.
Land Registry – Survey requisitions for boundaries and land access
Total Revision – Changes such as construction works, house building
Derived Products – The symbols identifying locations and services
The field customer orders are downloaded on a regular basis to the surveyors computer and then “taken-up” to show that a surveyor is assigned to the order. As I would be spending the following day with Dom, he had selected a range of orders from the various categories, with the exception of the Prestige Sites as these are generally complex by nature. For example the redevelopment of the racecourse in Cheltenham took several full days to survey.
Our customer orders for the following day were: –
Land Registry – boundary survey between two private properties requested by HM Land Registry so that the deeds to the properties could be updated.
Total Revision – a new Sainsbury’s Local supermarket has recently been built and opened in Malvern. The store and surrounding area needs to be surveyed and added to the master map.
Land Registry – query over the precise location and boundaries of an electric sub station in Malvern.
Total Revision – several new housing estates and notifications of potential building works in the Malvern area. These would be initial visits to ascertain the stage of the building works, if any.
Derived Products – a selection of locations and services that we would check were still there as we were passing them.
I met Dom on the Tuesday morning and after a few admin tasks we set off for the first land registry job, as it relates to private property I won’t go into much detail, albeit to say that we met the land owners, surveyed the fence line and boundary identified in the request, along with several photographs from requested viewpoints.
With the land registry job complete, we headed off for the new Sainsbury’s Local in Buttercup Walk, Malvern.
I was surprised and delighted when Dom said that he would let me survey the store! As you can see from the photo above, the store is essentially a rectangular box, with a car park, several fences and landscaped areas.
With the wide open space this is an ideal area to use GPS, the Global Positioning System – a network of satellites in a precise orbit constantly transmitting signals to Earth. Essentially a GPS receiver compares the time a signal was transmitted by a satellite with the time it is received, it is this time difference between the signals that tells the GPS receiver how far away the satellite is. Once the receiver picks up more than three signals it can start to triangulate its position, the more satellites it picks up the more precise the location will be. The OS has a beginners guide to GPS if you would like more detail.
Most of us are probably familiar with GPS receivers and have used one in some form or another, with receivers in sat navs, smartphones, activity tracking devices and handheld navigation devices. These devices are generally accurate to within 5 to 10 metres 95% of the time. Whilst this level of accuracy is sufficient for consumer use, it is not precise enough for detailed mapping. Therefore, each OS Surveyor has a state of the art Leica GS15 GPS receiver, mounted on a 1.8 metre pole and connected to the surveyors laptop via bluetooth and to the cellular phone network.
With the equipment setup and connected Dom handed it over to me, I planted the GPS pole on the first corner of the car park, ensured it was level, waited for it to acquire the satellites (we managed to receive signals from 14 satellites), I watched the accuracy/quality of the signal improve to 0.01 (I believe that means an accuracy of 1cm!) and clicked on measure. A dot appeared at our location on the map, we moved on to the next corner, waited for the accuracy to be less than 0.10, click another dot, then a line appeared joining the dots, move to the next corner, click, another dot, and so on until we had the complete outline of the car park. Next came the curved kerbs of the entrance to the car park, selecting the curved line tool I measured several points around the kerbs. Next up was the fencing and footpaths around the site. With all the landscaping and ground work complete it was time to survey and plot the buildings location.
To get an accurate location with GPS the receiver needs a clear view of the sky, up until this point we were getting very accurate measurements, as we went closer to the walls of the building the accuracy dropped to an unacceptable level. Therefore to obtain the locations of each corner, we measured a point along the line of each wall, as close as possible with an acceptable accuracy level. When you have six of these measurements (two at each of three corners) you can join the survey points with lines (the same as plotting the kerb line of the car park), these lines will intersect at each of the four corners giving you the outline of the building. At this point we had a complete plan of the area made up of multiple polygons on the map.
The next stage is to attribute each of these polygons to define what it actually is, this does not need to be done on site. As it was approaching midday, we decided on an early working lunch somewhere in the warm.
With a steak and stilton baguette in hand and a warming mug of coffee, we fired up the laptop and started to attribute the polygons we had plotted. This is where detail is important, for example a path isn’t the same as a pavement (a pavement is on the side of the road, whereas a path goes through an open area), next is the surface sealed or unsealed? likewise a verge can only be used for the side of a public road and not the edge of a car park. The last attribute to assign is to set the Sainsbury’s building as a functional site (retail) and add the road number to it. The number on the building must be aligned to the road it is on. The image below shows the final result of our survey.
Having eaten and warmed up, with went off in search of the Old Hollow electrical sub station. The sub station is located up a small dirt track surrounded by tall trees, we attempted to get a GPS location, but as expected the accuracy was out by over three metres due to the trees. Without GPS it was back to the trusty tape measure, line of sight and measuring from other features already plotted on the map.
Next on our list were several sites that have been marked for new construction works. There were no signs of any work on any of these three sites. However, this isn’t unusual as planning permission can be granted but the developers do not necessarily start immediately. Although we did locate two new housing estates being built in Welland. It is important to keep on top of these sites, especially new housing estates as it is quicker and easier to survey a buildings foundation with accurate GPS signals before the walls are built.
Last on the list were several Derived Products, these are the familiar symbols across the map, we didn’t get the opportunity to check many of these as surveying the sub station took longer than expected. A viewpoint, such as the Worcestershire Beacon on top of the Malvern Hills, is extremely unlikely to change. However, items such as telephone boxes are being decommissioned and removed on a regular basis. Although most are removed they are also being re-roled for other purposes, such as housing defibrillators or in the case of one in Malvern, a library/book exchange. Therefore just driving past a telephone box isn’t enough to check that it is still in use.
Having finished the field surveying, we returned to Dom’s house to fill out the paperwork for the land registry surveys, upload our changes to the main OS servers in Southampton and submit the completed field customers orders and paperwork.
I’m now going to be checking the online OS Maps and iPhone OS Maps app daily looking for these changes to appear. I can now officially say “I’ve put Sainsbury’s on the map”
I can’t thank Dom and the Ordnance Survey enough for showing me a peek behind the scenes, there is so much more detail that I could have added but I wanted to keep it to an overview of the day. I hope that this post gives you an insight into the role of a OS Surveyor and that you found it as informative and enjoyable as I have researching it and writing it.
I am now wishing that I asked to do this for work experience back at school and a pursued a full time career as a Surveyor…