Tuesday 30 June 2009

Venture north

It was a hot day yesterday and forecast to be hotter today. I hate sitting in traffic in a car on a hot day, but meandering along quiet country lanes in an air-conditioned car on a hot day is rather pleasant, so that's what we did. I've been maintaining a list of the places in East Yorkshire and the progress towards completing a good standard of them. This, to me, means all public roads added, with names where possible, and the obvious PoIs, such as churches, schools, post offices, pubs and some shops. More is better, but this will give a usable map and a good framework for people to add extra stuff to.

There were some villages in the north of the county that were partly complete so we thought we would take a look at them and try to bring them to a good standard. There are also some country lanes that were missing, some of which we could take in. I like the countryside in this part of the county, known as the Yorkshire Wolds - there's always something to see. We saw pheasants, partridges, yellow hammers, linnets and a kestrel. The verges were full of flowers, especially meadow cranesbill.

The most northerly place we visited is the hamlet of Fordon. There's not much of the hamlet in the picture, but in fact there's not that much more to the whole place, but the view is great. We did venture out of the East Riding a few times to join up a few roads to roads in North Yorkshire. There was a noticeable surface change at the boundary - perhaps a good clue to where unmarked boundaries lie.

In the end we completed seven villages. All of them had had some useful work done before by other people and some by someone I have come across before. Once more his tracks are pretty good, but some of the names on roads have clearly been copied from other sources. They are right now, but it does make me cross.

Friday 26 June 2009

Freedom of Information

I can't decide where the boundary of the English counties end at the coast. Does the county end at the sea wall or cliff? How much of the beach or mudflats are part of the county? Is it only land above the tide line and if so which tide line, low, high, mean, lowest ever, highest ever? I'm also interested in how islands are dealt with. Peter from ItoWorld suggests they might be treated as enclaves, that is not joined directly to the county. Actually they could only be an enclave if they were surrounded by another county, islands don't count as enclaves, but that really is being picky. Another approach would be to extend the county boundary out from the coast to include the island then back to the coast line. I think this makes sense when the island is part-time like Lindisfarne which is only an island around high tide.

I contacted the boundary commission who replied with the now expected gibberish that they can't release this for use with OSM because it is recorded on a Ordnance Survey map and the licence doesn't allow them to release the map. I don't want the map - we are making a perfectly good map for ourselves, I want their data. At least they responded quickly and succinctly.

I tried another tack: I completed a Freedom of Information request to my local council, the East Riding of Yorkshire, to find out where they boundary is. My request was :

I want to know where the boundary of the county of the East Riding of Yorkshire ends at the coast. Does the county extend up to the 12 NM limit in the North sea? If not, are beaches on the North sea coast included in the county? Where does the boundary end in the Humber estuary? Does it abut against the boundary with North-East Lincolnshire and North Lincolnshire or is there a gap? Are the forts in the Humber part of ERoY?

I was surprised to get an email today which seemed unusually quick for the council. The email had a letter attached, so I had to wait with baited breath while OpenOffice fired up so I could read their reply. Was it worth it? Of course not, it was just an acknowledgement for my request. Only a fool would attach a document to an email that could just have been sent as an email. I wonder what the carefully thought out and worded answer will finally be.

Thursday 25 June 2009

Holderness villages

We had a ride out to the coast today and mapped four tiny hamlets in the process. The East Yorkshire coast is one of the fastest eroding coastlines in Europe, losing about 2.9 metres of cliff to the sea each year. We went to Mappleton just south of Hornsea and enjoyed a drink by the sea. There were a few people on the beach and it's not the holiday season yet, but as you can see in the picture there was a huge swath of empty beach to the south as far as I could see. I moved the coastline inland a bit, but I'm not sure of the best way to map the whole situation. It's too far for me to walk along the beach of the whole coastline and cycling on soft sand is right out, there is often no access to the cliff top and all existing aerial photos are out of date.

We completed Mappleton and Rolston on the way. On the way home we had a look at Goxhill and Seaton as well as a couple of minor roads. This is very useful because there is now a swath of Holderness that is pretty well complete from Hornsea southwards. The town of Hornsea will take some effort and there are a few bigger villages further north, but slowly the county is succumbing to the gaze of my GPS.

Tuesday 23 June 2009

Tennis, moats and ruins

It was a hot day today, about 27°C, so we returned to Howden because it would need a walk in the park to complete it. We trolled around the few remaining residential streets, then pulled up in the new car park near the Minster. The car park was so new that the ticket machines were not working so we parked for free. We wandered into the Ashes Playing Fields, which is a park, with children's playground, football pitches, a cricket ground with pavillion and some open space. At the entrance there was a map which a passerby said was upside down - it looked fine to me. It described a space in the middle as being surrounded by a moat. In this space there should be two bowling greens and a tennis court.

The moat would certainly not repell invaders as the photo shows, the tennis court turned out to be two new multiuse courts with a dazzling array of different coloured lines for each sport and two sets of basket ball hoops at each end. The park was a very pleasant place to take a stroll with a GPS.

Next to the minster is a ruin run by English Heritage. When I got home I realised that I didn't have a photo of any board or information, so I'll need to check that out again another time.

The landuse around the town was already in place. There seems to be a fad for adding the landuse to unmapped towns and villages probably to improve the look of the map at a glance. Whoever did this one just threw some lines at the map - it was completely and utterly wrong in just about every part. It's a bit better now. There was also one of the fairly rare cycleway=opposite_lane where a oneway road has a cycle lane on it that cyclists can ride in the opposite direction to the cars.

Friday 12 June 2009

On the Wolds

I've been going through the list of places in East Yorkshire that still need a first-pass mapping session. I found a few places where my list was out of date and when I'd sorted that out suddenly another milestone was passed - more than 200 of the villages and hamlets in East Yorkshire have had that first pass. There are still about seventy to go. Most of these are quite small, but there are also some towns, including Bridington, Goole and Pocklington.

Today we drove out into the beautiful Yorkshire Wolds to take in Middleton on the Wolds. We took the small country lane route rather than the main roads; the views are better, it's quieter and it's quicker. The village is quite small and straddles the A614. A disused railway skirts the village, indeed part of it has become a road. This non-railway still appears on the Mapnik map and now on the Osmarender map too. Eventually we will wake up to taking this junk off the main map and moving it to a specialist map.

Thursday 4 June 2009

River, dock and lock

We took a stroll along the bank of the River Humber, not in a scenic countryside setting, but through the city of Hull. It's amazing what you talk yourself into in pursuit of a decent map. Part of the route was along the Victoria Dock village waterfront - it's just a newish estate built on an old dock, but I expect that the spin of calling it village put the house prices up. It seems a pleasant enough place, with open spaces and a pleasant waterside walk. Further east the path runs next to part of the dockland of Hull. The first dock is Alexandra dock. Much of the dock layout is hidden behind a corrugated shed, but the entrance to the dock is through a rather large lock, the photo of it was taken on the lock gate at the river end.

The tags for lock gates and locks seem to be geared up for canals, which there are many more of. Lock gates seem to be a node and the waterway=lock applied to a way, usually a canal. I need lock gates to be a way - these gates have a substantial path over them, and the lock to be an area. I've tagged them as I want them, (what else could I do?) but Osmarender ignores the tags so now the dock is not connected to the river. I'll see what Mapnik does.

There are more huge locks on the entrances of other docks that we have yet to look at so some sort of solution is required.

Wednesday 3 June 2009

Tidy up the blog

I've been writing this blog for nearly a year and a half. It is generally about my work with and use of the OpenStreetMap. A neighbour has started a blog about our allotment site and I wondered if we could put a map on the blog. Then it hit me. My OSM blog doesn't have an OSM map on it.

Well I had a fiddle around with the widgets that were available and plonked some HTML into one and hey presto, we have a map centred on the place where we live.

I have had a widget from FeedJIT on the blog for some time. It is based on Google maps and shows the location of readers of the blog. I like the idea and it has been interesting to see where people are reading the blog (all over the world actually, which is very gratifying) but I thought having two maps was a bit OTT. I took the FeedJIT widget off and speed has returned to the page. So, FeedJIT: a nice idea but be prepared to slow down your site.

I changed to a slightly broader layout to give the slippy map a bit more room. What do you think?

Monday 1 June 2009

Life's a gas ...

... especially in Easington.

We made a determined effort to polish off the villages and roads in the south-east corner of Holderness. It was a lovely day and as the school half-term break was over the roads and villages were quiet. We started in Hollym, moved on to Easington, took a look at Kilnsea then followed the road home checking out Skeffling, Weeton and Welwick on the way. All of the villages were straightforward, the GPS reception was very poor around Easington and maybe there's a reason.

If you are looking for a policeman in East Yorkshire and can't find one I know why - they're all in Easington. There is a big gas terminal there. When you drive through Easington on your way to Spurn point (there really is no other reason to drive through) you don't see the gas terminal, but by entering from the small road from Out Newton to the North you drive past the expanse of the site yet the real size of the site is still hidden because the gas is stored in huge underground caverns dug for the purpose. About a third of the UK's gas supply moves through here. All of this gas arriving from the North sea platforms and from a brand new pipeline from Norway is seen as a target for villainous terrorists hence the hoards of police, all cruising around in four-wheel drives.

Maybe the poor GPS resolution is also connected to Jonny Terrorist, maybe it is to make it hard for them to use GPS to target a home-made missile onto the site, or maybe it was just a poor reception day.

We went to Kilnsea, from which you get access to Spurn Point, a really wonderful nature reserve. We didn't go there today, we decided to spend a day there soon and I'll use that to map the site as well as possible. Spurn point is a sand spit on which someone has added the track down the middle from the out-of-copyright maps as highway=unclassified. This made be chuckle - they've obviously never been there. The track is moved after each storm as parts get washed away and although some of it is metalled, some is made of steel ramps used by the military just thrown over the sand. Not an unclassified road at all.

We did also see a great road name too.