Musings on tag historic=memorial

Following on from my blog recently about the tile in Birmingham Snow Hill Station to an unknown cat,  I received a lovely email from the Press Office of London Midland, the railway company that manages the station.

“I believe the old Snow Hill station (before closure in the 1960s) had a real station cat (like many railway stations) to help keep mice at bay!! When the station re-opened in the 1980s, a tile was installed in memory of the former role of the station cat.  I understand the staff at the station were keen to see it retained and this was supported by the station manager – hence the tile will be staying after the refit.”

I subsequently asked the obvious question “Did the cat have a name?” but the Press Office didn’t know. So any Midlands readers out there – do you know anyone who worked at Snow Hill station in the 1960s who might know?  The Press Office suggested tongue in cheek that “Snowy” might be a good posthumous name.

There is a Wikipedia entry for anyone interested in the history of the station.

So – on to my musings. How unusual is it for there to be memorials to animals? I know the rest of the world thinks Brits are hyper-sentimental about animals, but even here in the UK I can think of few public (civic) memorials to animals. So would anyone like to contribute about memorials to animals they’ve mapped? I’m expecting a few about famous racehorses; famous warhorses and heroic actions by rescue dogs, but I’m prepared to be surpised.

Posted in Uncategorized

Mysterious Objects: No 6 in an occasional series

Cat Tile Snowhill Station

Snowhill station in Birmingham is undergoing a major refurbishment at the moment. This tile which is curiously situated about 6 inches off the floor opposite the automatic ticket barriers ( well they’re designed to be automatic for everyone with a normal ticket but still need to be manned for travellers with passes – even those with smartcard capability – that is when the rail company bothers to staff the barriers, other wise they’re just left open)

But back to the tile of the cat. I’ve been meaning to find out its significance which is obviously high because before the tiles were stripped from the concourse the cat had the ignominy to be covered up with a  large sign reading “DO NOT REMOVE THIS TILE” so that the contractors could leave it in place. It will be interesting to see how the tile is presented when the wall gets its final treatment.

I’m always meaning to stop and ask someone in authority on the station to explain but I’m always in a rush to get somewhere so I never do. So I rely on the power of the web for somebody to let me know what it is.  Then I can tag it appropriately. This is real micro-mapping

Any offers?



Posted in Observations

Warwickshire Aerial Imagery

Warwickshire County Council have kindly provided access to aerial imagery captured during 2013. The imagery is available under the Open Government Licence and can therefore be used for mapping in OpenStreetMap. It comes at just the right time as many of you would have spotted a drop in the Bing aerial imagery (particularly when zoomed right in). It covers both Warwickshire and Coventry and can be used in JOSM, Potlatch 2 and iD using the following guides.


It can be added to JOSM using the following steps:

  1. Click on the “Imagery” menu, then on “Imagery Preferences”
  2. Click on +WMS
  3. Skip boxes 1-3. Instead jump straight to 4 and paste in the following:{proj}&WIDTH={width}&HEIGHT={height}&BBOX={bbox}
  4. Add a suitable name in box 5 (e.g. Warwickshire aerial 2013).
  5. Click OK.

The new layer can then be added as a background from the Imagery menu (as usual).


To use this imagery in Potlatch 2 simply click on the “Background” drop down menu. Click “Edit” then “Add”. The the “Name” column enter something suitable (e.g. WarwickshireCC) and in the “URL” column, paste the following:


You can now click the “X” to close the background window. You should now be able to pick the new background layer from the drop down menu.


Click the “Background Setting” button (stack of sheets) on the right hand side. Next click “Custom” and paste the following URL in the text box:


The new layer should appear automatically.


Posted in Participate

OpenStreetMap recognised by Free Software Foundation Europe with Document Freedom Day Award 2014

On Saturday evening 22nd March at the Warehouse Café in Digbeth Birmingham members of mappa mercia received the annual Document Freedom Day Award 2014 on behalf of the OpenStreetMap Foundation from the Free Software Foundation Europe, whose members travelled down from Manchester for the event.

DFD certificate


Document Freedom Day is organised every year by the Free Software Foundation on the last Wednesday of March “ for celebrating and raising awareness of Open Standards and formats . On this day people who believe in fair access to communications technology teach, perform, and demonstrate.”  So watch out for events all round the world this Wednesday 26th March.

Last year’s award went to  Die Tageszeitung  for using  five Open Standards in publishing  their daily newspaper.

Receiving the award Brian Prangle long time OSM contributor and local mappa mercia community co-ordinator said: “It’s always great to have your work recognised, so thank you, on behalf of all the hundreds of thousands of contributors to OpenStreetMap, to FSFE for their award. We’re thrilled that you see OpenStreetMap as making such an effort towards open standards and it’s especially pleasing that you position us as an ‘emerging standard’”

DFD award


A celebration is nothing without a cake, so apart from the mandatory certificate which we can share with the whole of OSM, FSFE generously provided a superb cake which we ate so unfortunately we can’t share it! But rest assured we worked hard on behalf of OSM and devoured as much as we could before heading off to a nearby pub.

 DFD Cake

“This was a wonderful opportunity to learn about the achievements and problems faced by a sister movement” said Anna Morris from the Document Freedom Day campaign. “We found that we have many common goals and ample opportunity to share skills and resources.”

DFD cake cut

We had such a good time with a lovely bunch of people from FSFE and as Anna said we share many goals and ideals so we are planning to keep the contact and collaboration going to see how we can assist each other.

DFD group

Images   Andy Mabbett,
CC-by-SA 3.0

Posted in Map Improvements, Mapping Party, Participate

Coventry Bridge Munch

Sometimes in order to build something better you have to start by taking something old down. That’s exactly what happened in Coventry this weekend. And as always OpenStreetMap was the first to reflect these changes.

Coventry Friargate

The Friargate project is a major redevelopment project in Coventry, right next to the train station. The development encompasses 37 acres and will comprise a vibrant mix of commercial, civic, leisure, residential and hotel space. Currently the site, which will also be home to Coventry City Council’s new council office, is separated from the rest of the city centre by the ring road. Although some good work was done in time for the 2012 Olympics to help connect the Friargate site and train station to the city centre, there was certainly scope for a lot more. That something more, is a new “bridge deck” spanning the ring road:

“The bridge deck is a key part of the Friargate development at the railway station and the council’s own move to a new office building on the site. The bridge deck will better connect Friargate to the city centre by removing the raised roundabout and building a 100 metre wide connection across the ring road, creating a public boulevard linking the railway station through Greyfriars Green directly into Bull Yard.”

As the quote above mentions, stage 1 of the Friargate project was the removal of the existing (road traffic only) raised roundabout. The following image is from Coventry City Councils flickr account:

Junction 6 bridge removal

 Bridge munchers at work on Coventry’s ring road junction 6.

Why I contribute to OpenStreetMap

OpenStreetMap is a free, editable map of the world. It is often described as the wikipedia of maps, but its much more than just a map. All of the underlying map data is made available for anyone to use. You can create your own map style, create mountain bike routes, and many more things that are possible with geographic data. You’re only limited by what your own imagination hasn’t thought of yet!

This weekend, whilst the bridge munchers set about tearing the roundabout bridge down, I set about making the change in OpenStreetMap. Of course I had the easy job – it took only a couple of minutes and didn’t create any rubble or dust!

Using our relaunched mappa-mercia twitter I posted a quick tweet – one that was later retweeted by Coventry City Council:


The above screenshot is taken from this Storify page created by the city council. It gives a great record of the events in the run up to, and during the bridge removal. I think it nicely sums up the benefit of OpenStreetMap!! Whilst Google Map’s change is still “pending”, the OpenStreetMap change is already live, both on our own maps, and those that use OpenStreetMap data (such as this FourSquare map).

Jump in to editing OpenStreetMap here and you can help too.

Posted in Map Improvements, Participate

Not all Notes are equal

The Notes feature available on the OSM home page is a great way to encourage non-mappers to add comments and point our errors and omissions (it’s also a great method for mappers too!)

BUT …. now all the extant OpenStreetBugs Notes have migrated over , some of which are YEARS old, it’s all getting a bit crowded and hard to differentiate new notes.

I like to view new notes and try to encourage those who have added them to add more by either amending the map where it’s obvious what’s needed or I know the area; doing a ground survey if it’s close or adding a comment where the note is not clear. The encouragement only works if the note is acted on quickly.

So I have a proposal whereby notes are differentiated by age, gradually fading in colour as they age until they turn white , (much like us really!)

 So for example new notes get a bright colour on the day they’re created, then fade at week, month, 3 month, 6 month old until they become white after a year. I’m sure that to those who code such things this is not a major task

Posted in Map Improvements, Use The Map

Poll: Licence or Addresses

Earlier this week Alex (from Mapbox) posted an diary entry on OpenStreetMap with his reasons as to why he feels that OpenStreetMap should drop the “Share Alike” component of its licence. As you would imagine, this created quite a bit of discussion both in the comments of the diary entry, but also on the “talk” mailing list. With the memory of the last licence change still fresh in my mind, I’ve refrained from adding any comment to these discussions, but I did pick up on one of the replies:

Alex states that “The reality is that OpenStreetMap is only used extensively in situations where the share-alike license does not apply, for instance, map rendering.” I’d respond by saying that’s because OSM doesn’t contain a lot of address or navigation data, not because of the license.

The reply above is taken from a longer response by Steve Coast. You can view the full reply here.

Here in the West Midlands we’ve done a lot of work to map addresses and other navigation data (see for example our gritting map), so today we’re simply asking Licence or Addresses? Submit your answer in the poll below.

Licence or Addresses?
We should:

Note: This is intended as a bit of fun. The results of the poll represent only an incredibly small part of the OpenStreetMap community and will therefore have no statistical significance. If you don’t like our poll, then don’t submit an answer.

Posted in Participate

SotM 2013 pledges

One of the things we introduced at State of the Map 2013 in Birmingham was a “Pledge Wall”. The basic idea being that our delegates make a pledge to OpenStreetMap to be completed before the next State of the Map (now known to be in Buenos Aires in November 2014). It’s been six months since State of the Map 2013, so lets see how Mappa Mercia has delivered on its own pledges and those of other people.

  • Pledge: “To complete addresses for one UK postcode region” – A pledge made by our own Brian, and one that he completed in late November for the B11 postcode region. Well done Brian! I’ve also been adding a lot of postcodes to buildings already mapped in the CV3 area.
  • Pledge: “To organise at least one mapping party” – We held a belated Christmas meet-up in Warwick in January and managed to squeeze in some mapping before the light faded. Our next mapping party will be in Worcester on Saturday 15th March. Why not join us.
  • Pledge: “Train and encourage 1 person to be an active mapper” – This one’s always harder to do in Winter as the days are short and the weather (more) unpredictable. We’re looking to work with a local community near Stratford-on-Avon soon and will be providing OpenStreetMap training.
  • Pledge: “To evangelize about OpenStreetMap in central and local government” – For me I see this this as a slow burner. Public sector is generally considered to move slowly and when you add to this the recent cut backs, its not surprising that local government is focusing on delivering their day to day work (and rightly so). It’s not all bad news though. We now have access to Warwickshire County Council’s aerial imagery (a great source for mapping in OpenStreetMap) and Coventry Council are staring to use OpenStreetMap for more of their online maps.

So some good progress after just 6 months. Here’s to some more summer mapping fun!

Posted in Map Improvements, Participate

Mappa Mercia’s March meetings

[Update 2014-03-13: The plans for Saturday's mapping event in Worcester are confirmed as an afternoon mapping followed by a meet-up at about 5pm in The Crown pub in the city centre.]

Firstly an apology. Inspired by Andy’s recent mailing list email I simply couldn’t resist in adding to the alliteration in the title of this blog post! Sorry folks.

There are two mappa-mercia meetings organised for March. Our regular first Thursday of the month evening meet-up and a Saturday mapping party in Worcester. As always newcomers are very welcome to join us and find out more about OpenStreetMap and Mappa Mercia. Try to let us know beforehand so that we can look out for you. Details on the contact page.

  • Thursday, 6th March 2014: The Bull, Birmingham at 7:30pm for our regular pub meet; and
  • Saturday, 15th March 2014: Mapping day in Worcester (details to follow).

 See you there!

Posted in Mapping Party, Participate

Re-mapping industrial wastelands

For most of the twentieth century Birmingham was dominated by car production, centred at the Longbridge site to the South of the city. Originally Austin Motors, it went through many changes of name before settling on Rover. At its height the factory employed tens of thousands of workers and covered several hundred acres. It was the birthplace of the Mini and at one time Rover had 40% of the UK market.

Birmingham City Council have a good history of the company and site here.

At its collapse in 2005, the company and site were  shadows of their former selves, but the closure was still a devastating blow to the local economy. The Nanjing Automotive Group purchased the rights to MG Rover and resumed production in 2010 on a fraction of the original site and with a fraction of the workforce.

The remainder of the site was levelled and stood empty as a stark reminder of Birmingham’s past.  The empty space was quickly subject to ambitious plans for  massive regeneration. Led by the developer St Modwen Group, a complete new urban centre has been envisaged.   It includes a new town centre with retail space, residential areas, a new park, the relocation of Bournville College, a new transport interchange and large industrial and office parks for local employment.

So lots of work for mappers as the site development rolls forward!   Bournville College  relocated there in 2011, there’s a Technology Park (opened 2007), an Industrial Park (opened 2008), hotel, bars, cafés and a Sainsbury’s supermarket (opened August 2013) already open. A new park aptly named Austin Park runs through the centre of the development. Housing is going up at a rapid rate.

Luckily local mappers have the co-operation of St Modwen Group which  makes it easy for us to gain access and stay abreast of the development schedule. It also gives us an insight into the issues associated with assigning new road names and new postcodes and the ensuing mayhem for delivery drivers waiting for satnav systems to catch up.

Naturally we’ve been busy and have the most detailed and up-to-date maps of the new town centre, and we are able to keep pace with the development as it progresses. Needless to say we have NOT  used any copyrighted plans or maps – we’ve done it all by survey and observation.

Here are views of Longbridge from Google,Bing, Ordnance Survey and OpenStreetMap (spot the best!):

Longbridge BIng Longbridge GGLe Longbridge OS Longbridge OSM

If you want to explore the area more fully  in OpenStreetMap  start here

So the methods, tools and volunteers of OpenStreetMap once again demonstrate that for keeping pace with the organic development of urban environments there really is no competition. If we can develop better  links with urban planners and developers then perhaps we can become their  natural go-to partners.

Posted in Uncategorized