Ordnance Survey

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Ordnance Survey

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Modificato: Mar 6, 2007, 11:02am

Are they Ordnance Survey the BEST mapping agency in the world?
or do you know a better one?

I've always struggled anywhere outside of the UK to find a completely accurate detailed map of the area I'm in. I wan to see footpaths, fieldlines, forestary boundaries etc etc, yet ti seems only in the OS maps is this possible. Or am I looking in the wrong places?

Mar 6, 2007, 12:36pm

IGN do 1:25000 maps for France which are pretty good.

Mar 6, 2007, 1:53pm

In the US, the US Geological Survey (USGS) produces detailed maps, http://erg.usgs.gov/isb/pubs/booklets/usgsmaps/usgsmaps.html#Topographic%20Maps

Modificato: Mar 6, 2007, 2:33pm

If you ever go hiking in Switzerland, you should get the 1:60000 maps by Kümmerly & Frey: http://www.swisstravelcenter.ch.
Or the even smaller scaled 1:25000 by the Bundesamt für Landestopographie, those are extremely detailed and very good: http://www.swisstopo.ch

Mar 6, 2007, 2:33pm

You have to ask for the right thing :-). Of course they love to sell you the overpriced colourful hiker's map that is only partly useful in the field.
In Germany, you will have to ask for the "Topograhische Karte 1:25000" or TK25, or the "Topographische Karte 1:50000/TK50 or 1:100000/TK100" (for a larger area). These are produced by the "Topographisches Landesamt" of the Land you are in and cost about 5 Euro apiece.
Most of those Landesämter have Onlineshops such as this.

Mar 6, 2007, 2:35pm

Well yes, gotta support the economy :-)
They may be expensive (but what isn't...?), but they are the best ones for this region.

Mar 6, 2007, 3:11pm

The USGS maps aren't very good in relation to IGN and the Ordnance Survey.

I haven't seen Swiss or the German TK25 maps. Are there any images of a reasonable size online. Otherwise I will have to pop in to Stanfords when I am next in London.

Mar 6, 2007, 4:10pm

#7, here is a link that shows a bit of the content of the German TK10 and TK25 maps (pdf-file).

Mar 7, 2007, 4:18am

As a walker I think that the German map is less good than the OS maps. It doesn't have a reference grid. It also doesn't show as much detail (at least to my eye).

For an example of an OS map look at the Ordnance Survey which lets you see a small window on to a map. Type a place name (eg. Hay On Wye) into the Get-A-Map input box on the left and hit go. You will need to zoom in by choosing the large circle with a plus sign in it.

Modificato: Mar 7, 2007, 7:51am

#9, andyl: The detail should be about the same. I compared the Hay on Wye extract (which I happen to know personally, how did you know that :-) ) with my 1:25000 map of the Elbsandsteingebirge (also a touristy region with lots of paths). The icons and lines used are different of course (paths are not marked as big dots, rather as thin lines), but the info is there, including historic sites etc. Fieldlines are not in the maps I have and I think they are generally not included except if they are footpaths or fieldpaths, because they tend to change in Germany (merging of plots, etc.).

Re the reference grid: The standard TK doesn't have a printed one, only a "ruler" on top and side of the map (Gauss-Krüger coordinates), though I might have seen maps with a grid (just none of those I have at home).

Mar 7, 2007, 8:25am

Re the reference grid:

As a walker this is an absolutely vital piece of information You cannot use the map and compass together without it.

The fieldlines are also an exceptionally helpful piece of information. Yes they do change over time, but usually there is indication on the ground where they once were. It is vital to know if you should walk to the left of a fieldline or to the right.

This is exactly the differences I have found and why I wondered if they were common or not.

Modificato: Mar 7, 2007, 8:49am

I did find a link showing excerpts of the different scaled Swiss maps: http://www.swisstopo.ch/pub/down/basics/karto/blattuebersichten_en.pdf

Mar 7, 2007, 9:14am

More on the grid (#10 and #11) The 1:50,000 and 1:25,000 scale OS maps have a grid marked out in 1km squares. Each square is referenced by a notation such as NH 6643 which is the square that includes my house. The first two letters reference a 100 km square. Some people may be interested to know that there is a site http://www.geograph.org.uk/ which aims to collect a photograph of every single grid square in Britain. I'm not sure to what extent this excellent system is dependent on Britain being a small country so that distortion due to earth's curvature is not excessive.

Lug 12, 2007, 2:46pm

I just came across the first German map with a reference grid! It is one of the most recent maps by the Thüringer Landesvermessungsamt, edited by a Hiking Association in Thuringia for the "Rennsteig" Path and has a UTM grid overlay (based on WGS84). According to the key, it was introduced to help with GPS navigation (duh!).

Re: the fieldlines. I think I found one important difference in the access to the countryside between DE and UK: In Britain you have the Right of Way, in Germany you don't. Basically, every field or meadow is private property, and you shouldn't walk across it. Trying to think very hard here: Have I ever seen a hiking path crossing a field like in Wales, where the farmer had just switched off five rows in his sowing machine to make a path for the hikers across the field? I think not. Official Paths are led along roads or footpaths. So the fieldlines are not that important for hikers here and only found in the large-scale TK5 and probably TK 10 (which are used by farmers, landscape planners, foresters and others).

Modificato: Lug 13, 2007, 1:47am

I have tried to enter some of my maps here in LT, but the cataloging access seems spotty. Some USGS maps are available in the Z39.50 servers, but it can take a bit of work to find them (and when I don't find them, I'm never sure if it was just a search failure rather than a true absence):


Lug 13, 2007, 9:39am

I have a shelf of miscellaneous topo-maps, but haven't bothered to catalogue much yet, apart from recent Swiss and OS sheets that come with ISBNs and barcodes.

>1 reading_fox:

I don't know if the OS is the "best", but it is a little bit unusual in that it has for a long time been marketing detailed topographic maps as affordable consumer products for walkers, cyclists, etc., rather than as specialist resources for planners, the military, etc.

In many countries, until recently whenever you bought a "Wanderkarte", "Carte des randonnées", or whatever, it was made by a third-party publisher buying data from the official mapping agency and overprinting it with footpaths and things. As a result it was often poorly reproduced and lacked things like gridlines, magnetic deviation information and all the rest of it. If you wanted to buy an official topo-map, you probably had to go to an obscure government office between two and four on a Thursday and fill in several forms... These days, they're all copying the OS and trying to make more money, of course.

Switzerland seems to have been an exception - I've got quite a selection of civilian Swiss topo-maps going back to about 1914. And very nice they are too.

But my favourites (to look at, not necessarily in use) are the old cloth-mounted OS one-inch maps with the red-and-white cover. I don't like the all-red design that came in in the seventies! I like the rather severe effect of the black grid lines chopping the map into small squares. Swiss maps have black grid lines too, of course.

Lug 13, 2007, 9:47am

...Incidentally, it's arguable that the Soviet Military Topographic Directorate was (possibly still is) the world's best, and certainly most prolific, mapping agency - see http://www.sovietmaps.com for the scary facts. Their maps of Britain seem to have had at least as much detail as the OS, and often rather more - they don't show rights of way, but they do show which bridges are strong enough for tanks!

Lug 13, 2007, 2:32pm

I don't know if the OS is the "best", but it is a little bit unusual in that it has for a long time been marketing detailed topographic maps as affordable consumer products for walkers, cyclists, etc., rather than as specialist resources for planners, the military, etc. (thorold #16)
Well when you go in UK shops most of the OS products are as you say for 'leisure' users but I suspect they have lots of other products. When I was younger they had large scale (6 inch or 25 inch to the mile maps). I think the market for these has been replaced by a market for custom-made maps at whatever scale supplied via an electronic database and basically printed 'on demand'.

Lug 13, 2007, 3:59pm

"6 inch or 25 inch to the mile map"

Argh! This makes my head hurt...! See if I can make some decent SI units from that... ;-)
1:106 and 1:64 (or roughly our TK 10 and TK5). Yes these used to be around here too, but are now available only on special order (and the professional users order the digital version for use with GIS or CAD systems more often).

Lug 13, 2007, 8:22pm

The US Geological Survey (USGS) produces detailed topo maps for the US, but they are typically outdated by 20 years or so. Local mapping companies have taken up the effort.

For Washington and Oregon, the best source is Green Trails. Most of their maps are 15-minute maps in 1:69,500 scale, but they also have some special maps for areas like the Olympic Mountains, Mount Hood, etc. Recently they have offered a few maps for Arizona and Nevada.

Lug 14, 2007, 3:07pm

GirlFromIpanema #19: Well some of my map interests touch on genealogy and family history so I use the old maps quite a bit. The equivalents are these (and 1 inch to the mile was what walkers/used when I was a boy)
1 inch (1") to mile: 1:63360
6 inch to mile 1:10560
25 inch to mile 1:2534

The old 1 inch maps have been replaced by 1:50000 as the 'standard' walkers maps. Many areas now have 1:25000 maps designed for 'serious' walkers. But for a very short time I worked for the local council in a museum and they had access to Ordnance Survey digital mapping at almost any scale.

Lug 14, 2007, 3:15pm

'#21, PossMan: Like I said, it makes my head hurt ;-). So much that I cannot calculate properly anymore, *lol*!

Lug 14, 2007, 4:15pm

I think if you poke around the Ordnance Survey you can still get large scale maps if you try.

Landplan is 1:10000, Landline (usually data) is 1:1250 in urban areas and 1:2500 in rural. If you have a data licence then "Paper products at 1:200 to 1:10 000 scale are also available through the Superplan plotting service."

And yes it is hellishly expensive to buy a licence for a sizeable amount of data.

Dic 13, 2007, 9:48pm

Is there any such thing for Egypt? Or does anyone know where I could find a good (i.e. non-tourist fluff) map of Alexandria? With elevations?

Dic 14, 2007, 2:22am

Try Stanfords ( http://www.stanfords.co.uk/ ). They know about the maps even the Egyptians don't know about.

Another possibility, if you can get hold of them, are the old Soviet military maps - I think there's a shop in Lithuania that sells them, but it's not in my bookmarks any more.