I’ve been to some unusual parties in my time but I heard about one recently that really captured my imagination. The idea of a mapping party sounded right up my street, as it were, so I decided to look into the idea.
Peter Elbourne at Transition Black Isle – an organisation dedicated to cutting car use on the Ross-shire peninsula – shared his passion for this latest project with Active Outdoors.
The group is planning to produce an active travel map for the area and wants to enlist the help of the public – especially those of us who like to explore those less visited paths and tracks. The aim is to end up with a high quality map to help people plan journeys – whether to the shops, schools, work or just for leisure – that involve walking and cycling.
The Black Isle is a beautiful location for cyclists and walkers, with so many interesting and unusual places to visit, from the dolphin watching area at Chanonry Point to the Sutors at Cromarty. There is a good path network (albeit not maintained everywhere) and some excellent road and trail rides on the bike, so it would be a real benefit to be able to share all this with locals and visitors.
The mapping party gives people an opportunity to play their part in producing what promises to be a fine active map of the Black Isle.
After a quick lesson over the phone from Peter, I was able to have a go at adding some information which may end up on this publication.
The group is using Open Street Map, a worldwide open source map that allows you to register online and add specific and detailed information about any place.
I took a walk I’ve done a couple of times that starts at the quiet village of Kilmuir – and one that I had a GPS trace for – and began the task of adding information about the paths and tracks to Open Street Map.
What you learn as you go along is the level of detail you can record which could become a valuable resource on the final map. You can mark on stiles, gates and steps, indicate the surface of a path, track or road, add it to any local or national walking or cycling routes – the options are almost endless.
Knowing the detail you can include helps you work out how to record your route on the ground. So, if you’re using a GPS device you can use it to mark exact points of gates, junctions and so on. Then on the computer it’s a simple case of adding the appropriate symbol at that point.
I always considered cartography was one thing I could happily do, and this system gives you the chance to do it for real. The beauty of the Transition Black Isle project is that you’ll get to see your work on a “traditional” paper map, once enough data has been added and the next phase of the project has been worked out.
Not only do the updates improve Open Street Map, they also get added to a website called Cycle Streets, which uses the data to provide suggested cycle trips between any two destinations – a bit like Google map directions but specifically designed for bikes.
My small additions around Kilmuir may not amount to much in themselves but, with lots of people getting involved and adding their own knowledge, the map could become a hugely useful tool.
That’s where the mapping party comes in. The idea is to get lots of people recording data and then adding it to the Open Street Map, so the eventual active map will have as much detail on as possible.
It’s a great way of getting people involved... and don’t worry if the technical side isn’t your thing – Peter and others will be on hand to provide training on the system at the mapping party.
Plus, you don’t just have to stick to the Black Isle. Take a look at your area on Open Street Map and see what the information is like there. If it’s missing lots of tracks and trails that you know of, why not try adding them yourself?
The information you provide might just help the next person get out and try a walk or a cycle they’ve never thought of before.
* The Transition Black Isle mapping party is planned for Saturday September 7th. Meet at Culbokie Primary School for 10am, when there’ll be a brief introduction to the project and training for those who require it before heading out to different areas.
For more details and for confirmation of dates and times, please check the TBI website before travelling: www.transitionblackisle.org and click on the Million Miles project button.
* Open Street Map: openstreetmap.org
* Cycle Streets: cyclestreets.net