Fix that road name! Progress Report

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Well done to the folk in:

City of Leicester, Bradford, Darlington, Redcar and Cleveland, Hartlepool, Shetland Islands, Sheffield,  Berwick upon Tweed, Rutland and Guildford

You are our leaders in our first quarterly project.

How about Liverpool, Fife, Rotherham, and Manchester, all with over 200 road name errors, getting up amongst the leaders?

A challenge to anyone with coding skills:

Can we take the data on which ITOworld work, from where  the data shown above comes, to make it personal, so we can see who is doing the editing- similar to the daily “leader board” for Irish townlands?

We have corrected 247 road names in the last week. So if we continue at this rate we should have completed another 2,223 by the end of the quarter. Let’s see if we can build on this and make a bigger dent in the task. Otherwise we’ll still have another year and a half to complete it – and that’s without the OS Locator updates adding more corrections

Fix that road name! A brief tutorial on using OS Locator in JOSM

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Switching on the OS Locator imagery  in JOSM for missing/mismatched UK road names is a great way to see what needs to be done in any area when you’re editing. You can enable this in JOSM from Preferences, selecting the WMS/TMS button and scrolling down the list of imagery providers to the GB section and choosing OS OpenData Locator

You can then toggle between Bing Imagery and the view you’d see below

John Woodward Way Before

The green box indicates the extent of the missing road named John Woodward Way. Now that can be a good indicator of the extent of the road and if the Bing imagery is up-to-date then a toggle to that could confirm its layout. However in this case the Bing imagery is so heavily shaded that the road was not visible, even though  the building outlines were.

So a survey was necessary, but because of the adjacent pylon my GPS trace was rubbish so using the building outlines and some photographs I was able to insert the highway=residential tagged way,with name confirmed from the street sign.

John Woodward Way After

You’ll notice from the end result that I was able to improve the locality’s map by adding some addresses, traffic calming and remove a footpath which no longer exist, which is a great byproduct from fixing road names.  The rectangular box is a good fit to the actual layout: but you do need either good Bing imagery or a survey to confirm.

Fixthatroadname! reveals a surprise discovery

What makes contributing to OSM so enjoyable is the unexpected discoveries it throws at you. Today I went surveying in West Bromwich to resolve two OS Locator road name issues. Neither was in any remarkable and apart from adding a few addresses and POIs not very productive. In mitigation the weather was rather foul and not conducive either to writing notes or taking photos.

But once home and conducting some web research on the area I came across this Daily Mail article concerning the misnaming of a road named in honour of a local WWI hero, winner of the VC (Britain’s highest award for bravery).

The soldier’s name was Robert Edwin Phillips and the council had mistakenly named the road Edwin Phillips Drive . Rather than re-name the road correctly, mainly because residents objected according to the Daily Mail article, the council decided to add a supplementary plate reading ‘Commemorating West Bromwich-born Capt. Robert Edwin Phillips V.C., 1895-1968. Awarded the Victoria Cross during the First World War.’

Only three more names road names to resolve in Sandwell ( the council in whose area West Bromwich is located): I wonder what surprises are in store?

Surprise yourself – go out and survey some OS Locator name mismatches!


We’re trying to build the UK OSM community with Quarterly Projects – our first project is FIX THAT ROAD NAME.

If you’re new to all this then the first port of call should be the OS Locator wiki page.

It’s a good idea to have the OS Locator imagery layer ON during editing so you can see where there are errors as you edit. Advice on how to do this is on the OSM and OSL differences tileset page


1.Concentrate on areas you know well and can reach easily in case a survey of the road name is required

2.If an OSM road has a name that is different from the OS Locator name then it definitely should not be changed UNLESS you have definite local knowledge OR you have surveyed it.

3.If your name for the OSM road is different from OS Locator then once you’ve corrected or entered the name you need add the tag not:name= nnnnnnn where nnnnnn is EXACTLY the OS Locator name.

4.If an OSM road has no name but OS Locator has then you MAY add the OS Locator name AS LONG AS you add the tag source:name=OS_OpenData_Locator. This is because OS Locator often has an incorrect or mis-spelled name and this enables other editors at a later date to scan an area using this tag to further improve the data should this be the case. There is a division of opinion amongst veteran mappers about this: many hold that ONLY surveys are legitimate, but as long as you tag with source:name=OS_OpenData_Locator then this is acceptable as the vast majority of OS Locator names are correct.

There are some special cases which will be dealt with in a separate blog.

If you need help then either subscribe to the talk-gb mailing list. Instructions here

or email or phone your query to us using one of our contacts

And don’t forget – as you correct and add road names you’ll always find other things to improve!


Suggestion for OSM UK quarterly projects

At a recent pub meeting  mappa-mercia mappers felt that UK  OSM contributors are all busy on their own specific projects and apart from the occasional discussion on the talk-gb mailing list don’t really get together as a community. Compare that to the Irish community where there is a real drive on one large project to complete the mapping of townlands by 2016. There’s a real buzz about this with some fantastic tools and data visualisations, chat, problem solving, and  a great series of instructional videos. You feel a real part of a community if you participate.

So to try and rectify this we’re starting a campaign in the West Midlands, which we hope will be adopted by mappers all over the UK. Each campaign will last for 3 months – plenty of time to achieve something big,  work together as a community on a common goal, whilst leaving you time to work on your own projects alongside.

Task 1: Check that road name!

The first task is to add missing road/street names and to correct misspelled or misnamed roads. Reasoning? This is a basic geographic data requirement  for a map and we have some way to go in the UK to achieve completion.Until we complete this we’ll always lack credibility.

This task has been slowly ticking along but it’s currently both lonely and tedious. There’s a great opportunity to get out to some areas that haven’t been touched for some time;  come up with some new ideas to involve newer mappers, reactivate mappers who have ceased mapping, possibly even coordinating with housing developers to keep OSM right up to date. And more…. we’re looking for ideas and actions to reach out to develop a community here.

The latest release of OS Locator data gives everyone the opportunity to get out there and chase down the latest set of road name revisions. ITOworld’s OS Locator tracker shows us at 98.14% completion. There are 14,639 major issues and 2,125 minor issues (mostly involving the use of apostrophes). (You need to register to use this tool).

If we take the end of the quarterly project as  March 31st 2015 we need to correct 197 road names a day to achieve completion.  We’re so close, if we get enough momentum this is achievable. Even if we only double the current rate of completion that would be a big slice off the target and we’ll have started to build ourselves into a community that does things together.

Watch out for more blogs, posts and chat about this project. All ideas discussion and action welcome!

OSM Wiki pages: tablets of stone or beacons lighting the way?

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A long and as usual heated debate took place recently amongst the UK OSM community about the status of place nodes within large cities, prompted by a mapper changing a large number of place names to a blanket tag of place=suburb in London and Birmingham. The defence was that an OSM wiki reference that said this was the proper way to do things. Naturally, the situation on the ground is more complicated than this and the upshot was a revert. The heat and light generated by the debate and the nuances of the various threads of the argument needn’t concern us here, interesting though they were

What is more important is to concentrate on just what status the content of an OSM wiki page has.

In my opinion the content of a wiki page is:

1. as close to authoritative as possible but NOT AUTHORITATIVE

2. for guidance only: it is NOT MANDATORY

3. reflects only  the collective opinion of the editors of the page (and there may be very few editors, or very many but still not representative) and not the collective opinion of the wider community.

4.subject to local knowledge and ground surveys which ALWAYS TAKE PRIORITY OVER WIKI CONTENT

5. to be ignored only after careful thought and suitable tagging with a note= xxx tag to explain the exceptional circumstance

6.not to be used as a basis for routine automated edits: see OSM policy on automated edits which requires discussion with the community affected and the reaching of a consensus before proceeding

As ever OSM mapping is all about mapping truthfully what you see on the ground and reflecting any local knowledge you either have personally or have gathered from local residents. (Copyright-free authoritative sources can also be used – how else are we to add boundaries?)

One good suggestion made to me was that if you are in doubt about how to tag an object and the wiki isn’t clear or doesn’t fit your situation, a quick search of taginfo will let you discover how other mappers have tagged it. Or you can discuss your problem with your national OSM talk email list.

Don’t just assume the wiki is the ONLY way to do things and must be adopted whatever the circumstances.

Probably for 99% of the time the wiki can be relied on – it’s just the other 1% has so much potential for causing mayhem.

“Mapping for the renderer” is frowned upon. Should we also frown on “mapping for the wiki?”

To those who spend considerable energy and expertise editing wiki pages: thankyou. This is not to belittle your efforts, just adding a cautionary note. And I know that improving wiki pages is down to everyone but as ever it’s much more fun to be doing than documenting.

There’s only ONE Royal Oak

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I’ve meaning to visit Boscobel House and the Royal Oak for some time. Rationale: it’s relatively nearby and it’s an essential visit for anyone interested in in English History. Boscobel House sits on a 615 mile long distance path known as  the Monarch’s Way. The Monarch’s Way attempts to match the route of the flight of Prince Charles ( later to become King Charles II) after his defeat at the Battle of Worcester in 1651, which marked the decisive end of the Royalist campaign in the English Civil War and the ascendancy of Oliver Cromwell and Parliament.

Boscobel marks the furthest point North on Charles’s flight to France and exile.   Initially, Charles was led to White Ladies Priory  just a mile down the road; and after a failed attempt to cross the River Severn he ended up at Boscobel, aided and abetted by the tenants, the Penderel family. Charles had to spend a day hiding in the branches of the tree before spending the night in a priest hole in the nearby Boscobel House.  Hence the name: Royal Oak.


There’s a great summary of the adventures at Boscobel House here.  Upon the restoration of the monarchy, Charles II awarded the Penderels a pension in perpetuity, which their descendants still receive today.

So famous did the tree become in the folklore of England that Royal Oak became a favourite name for pubs and ships of the navy.  Using taginfo I found over 500 pubs named Royal Oak and over 100 roads/streets also named Royal Oak.

Souvenir hunters gradually wore away the original tree  down the centuries, so what you see today is a sapling which is a direct descendant of the original. The original eighteenth century iron railings have also been supplemented with another fence some 20 metres out from the tree to make sure this one survives.

There is a backup tree which was planted from an acorn of the original tree in the year of Queen Victoria’s  Golden Jubilee, 1887, which stands in the gardens of Boscobel House. Needless to say, both house and tree are protected by statute

The house and site are managed by English Heritage and are open to visitors

October Joint Social Meeting with Beacon Roads Cycling Club

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This month on Thursday October 2nd we were lucky to be invited to present the local work of OpenStreetMap to the Beacon Roads Cycling Club at Rednal Social Club. BRCC is active in South Birmingham and Worcestershire, with about 150 members and is a long-established club.

Andy (Blackadder) gave a thorough presentation both on OSM and reviewing the tracking/navigation tools available to cyclists. Most BRCC members currently use Strava and there was a great appreciation of the  value of OpenStreetMap which powers many of the cycling tools. Andy’s estimation of his presentation time was blown out of the window as he had to answer so many questions and comments!

Beacon RCC Presentation

BRCC members generally felt that the cycling-specific tagging schema for entering OSM data seemed to be more orientated to urban cycling and they’d like to see tagging that was more orientated towards rural club cycling that didn’t confine itself to NCN routes.

They were very concerned that there was currently no way to alert cyclists to  hazards.  There is alocal stretch of NCN Regional route 55 , Icknield Street, that they  always avoids on club rides so dangerous do they consider it to be.  There and then we edited the stretch with two new tags: cycle_hazard=yes  and paving_quality=poor.

Thanks to the Beacon Roads Cycling Club for their hospitality and interest. Hopefully in the coming months BRCC members will add their considerable knowledge of the area to OpenStreetMap.

Happy 10th birthday OSM!

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Appropriately 10 of us gathered at 6/8Kafé to celebrate 10 years of OSM. It was satisfying to see that our email campaign of contacting most users who had contributed to OSM in the midlands brought along six people to their first OSM meeting in the Midlands. We had users from Oxford,Worcester, Coventry and Stafford as well as the usual crowd from Birmingham (well….  minus a few notable examples who had very good excuses!) Thanks to everyone who gave up their time to come along,  I think we all gained something from swapping experiences  and tips and tricks for editing and tagging and data sources. Apologies to Steve Coast, our founder, who still has 12 ways in our region showing him as the last editor – we didn’t have the time or resources to invite contributors with this number of edits.

Naturally we had a cake, baked and decorated by Liz. Here’s  a Level 1 aerial image:

OSM10 Level1

I hope people remember which slice they were allocated- we’ll be expecting some edits!

In true OSM Mapping Party tradition there has to be an image of AFTER:


And of course we need to see who turned up:

OSM10Group OSM10 Andy

And finally thanks to Sal and her crew at 6/8Kafé  on Temple Row who generously donated a venue for us in their basement. Any OSMers visiting Birmingham, pop in for coffee and cake, you won’t be disappointed – beats the corporate coffee chains hand down.


An unusual find- in more ways than one!

On 31st July the mappa-mercia gang of mappers descended on Shenstone for our monthly pub meeting. It was a glorious summer’s evening which confirmed our strategy of getting out and about around the region during the summer months to take advantage of the late evenings to combine some mapping with our usual meeting . For Shenstone we had a set ourselves the challenge to see if we could map a complete village in one evening. We did cheat slightly by pre-populating the buildings from armchair Bing aerial imagery tracing. We almost got there but not quite!

To the North of the village we came across a small memorial commemorating “Shenstone Lammas Land”. Now we all believe we know what Common Land is, it being a familiar presence in rural England, but Lammas Land had us all guessing. So a quick Google search soon informed us.

Lammas land’ is land with ‘common grazing rights’, which are grazing rights belonging to those commoners who had registered the right to graze their animals on the land.

Lammas rights go back to the middle ages, but only existed between August 1st (Lammas Day) and February 1st (Candlemas), when the animals were removed to allow crops (usually hay) to be grown for harvesting in mid summer. Then on Lammas day the animals were returned to graze off the stubble.

You can read about the villagers’ 25 year legal campaign to preserve their rights here, which successfully concluded as recently as 1998.

What a coincidence to come across this piece of Lammas Land on the eve of Lammas Day!

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