New Forest Press Release

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Mapping Britain's Newest National Park

On the 23rd-24th September, the New Forest becomes the centre of a global mapping revolution. Contributors to the OpenStreetMap (OSM) project are going to meet with the aim of mapping as many of its footpaths, cycle tracks and roads as possible.

The OSM project was started to enable people to use maps in creative, productive or unexpected ways. The use of traditional maps is hampered by legal and technical restrictions that severely curtail their use. The aim of the OSM project is to create free geographic data, like street maps, that can be used by anyone, anywhere.

OSM contributors will walk, cycle and drive the New Forest with GPS (Global Positioning System) units recording the routes of as many of the tracks, paths and roads as possible. The tracks recorded will be put online in the OpenStreetMap.org database where anyone in the world with access to the internet can browse, name, edit and use the data in any way they want.

Collaborative mapping is an emerging and rapidly growing activity that has developed alongside other activities like geo-caching, that is being driven in part by technology (cheap GPS equipment and online collaboration tools, like OpenStreetMap.org). What makes projects like this one stand out is their ethos on knowledge production and ownership. Under open-source models the rights of authorship are de-centred and the ownership of knowledge is seen as a common resource that can be distributed and re-used without restriction or license. Opening up map making in this way has real potential to empower people to create their own knowledge and encourages re-use of cartographic resources in novel and creative ways.

The map data produced over the weekend will contribute to OpenStreetMap.org, one of the leading projects in the open-source mapping field. Currently, OSM has mapped 15,000 miles of roads in the UK, including all the motorways, along with a significant number of footpaths in Hampshire. You can see an example of OpenStreetMap-based countryside mapping at the Freemap countryside walking website

Similar workshops have been held on the Isle of Wight, Bath & Brighton. We hope that an intensive effort to build a map of the Forest in a weekend will inspire others and help to build momentum across the country. As an open organisation with no membership requirements, we welcome the participation of anyone, young or old, who will be in the New Forest on the weekend of the 23rd and 24th September. Anyone interested in taking part in the activities should contact Steve Coast (steve at asklater dot com) or Nick Whitelegg (nick at hogweed dot org)

Further information can be found on the project web site http://www.openstreetmap.org

For more media enquires contact Nick Whitelegg at nick at hogweed dot org or 07950347717.

More Background

What is OSM?

OpenStreetMap is a voluntary not-for-profit organisation that anyone, anywhere can join. The goal of OSM is to provide free map data that can be used by anyone. All of our maps are freely available on the internet at www.openstreetmap.org. Why would anyone want to do that? Aren't there are lots of free maps out there? Most of the maps that you come across on the internet or in your home are protected by very stringent copyright laws. These rules stop the maps from being used in unique and unexpected ways, stifling people's creativity and imagination.

So how does OpenStreetMap work?

Anyone with a handheld Global Positioning System receiver can start mapping straight away. You need to set your GPS to record tracks and then go for a walk or for a bike ride or a drive creating a paper trail on the GPS unit every second. Walk around some streets in your neighbourhood, making some notes about the street names and any one way streets or round-a-bouts that you find. When you get home, plug your GPS into your computer and upload the tracks that you recorded onto the OSM website. In under an hour, you tracks will appear on the website. You can then use the online tools to map roads and street names that anyone in the world will be able to see.

Why did you come to the New Forest?

Apart from the New Forest being a beautiful area, we wanted to demonstrate that it is possible for quite a small team of volunteers to achieve a lot in a small period of time. Over the weekend we hope to map as many of the Forest’s footpaths, cycleways and roads as possible. The extensive network of tracks and footpaths in the Forest also make it an interesting and useful area to map. The end result, we hope, will be a new and interactive map of the Forest of great benefit to visitors to the area.

Who can be involved?

Anyone with access to a GPS unit and a computer with an internet connection can join in. Even if you don't have a GPS, you can see what maps have been made of your area and improve them. Add street names and points of interests and make the maps even more useful. If anyone in the world can see the maps, will people be able to see where I live and where I work? When you upload a track onto the OSM website you can choose to do so publicly or privately. If you choose to upload private tracks, then only the site administrator will know they came from you. Because of the strict copyright laws it is important that the site administrator knows who contributed what.

What is GPS?

GPS stands for Global Positioning System. The system is made up of around 24 satellites that are constantly orbiting the earth, transmitting information about their position and time. The information they transmit is a type of radio wave, and can be picked up and understood by handheld GPS units or Satellite Navigation systems in cars. By comparing the signals from at least four satellites it is possible for a GPS unit to work out its position anywhere on the earth to within 5 to 10m. GPS units are not tracking devices. They only have receivers not transmitters. It is not possible for someone to track you if you are using a GPS receiver.