Archive for the ‘Geography’ Category

greater spotted woodpecker, drumming noise, woodland

The loud call or distinctive ‘drumming’ display of the Greater Spotted Woodpecker, particularly in Spring, ensures that woodlands are not free of noise.

If you were asked where the quietest place in Britain was, what would be your answer? You might say it all depends. Where there is least noise? Where there are no sounds of human activity? Are caves or disused mines included? But what about the weather; it can be noisy anywhere. The wind, the rain, and storms. And the sea is not silent, with the slamming of the waves against the cliffs. Neither is wildlife quiet, especially the screeching and chirping of birds. If you allow for the sounds of nature and look for places far away from human activity, then there must be hundreds of places in the highlands of Scotland that would qualify, and the same goes for a lesser number of places in mid-Wales, RAF training flights allowing. No, the quietest place must be all about remoteness from the racket made by us humans, and that must include flight paths of civil aircraft. If the highlands of Scotland and much of mid-Wales are excepted, then finding the quietest spot in crowded England might be more of a challenge.

anechoic chamber, salford university, quietest room

The anechoic chamber at the University of Salford, a room within a room built on rubber springs, is lined from floor to ceiling with soft foam wedges which absorb any vibrations in the air.

The quietest place ought also to be somewhere that can be visited, that isn’t private or unduly dangerous. So the further reaches of the many cave systems or abandoned mines in Britain should be discounted. And deadly silent man-made places such as the University of Salford’s ‘anechoic’ chamber (meaning non-reflective of sound), which is so quiet that you can hear the sound of your blood circulating in your head, or the quiet room at the British Standard Institute laboratories in Hemel Hempstead, where apparently fire alarms are tested; these places surely don’t qualify.

Mapping Tranquility

In March 2005, the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) published a report Mapping Tranquility that sought to define and identify not the quietest places, which as discussed above, are not what they seem, but the places which were the most tranquil. England was divided into 500m by 500m squares and each square was given a tranquillity score, based on 44 different factors which add to or detract from people’s feelings of tranquillity. It was hoped that this ambitious project would help safeguard the English countryside from future development. The top ten factors that people said represented tranquillity were:

1. Seeing a natural landscape
2. Hearing birdsong
3. Hearing peace and quiet
4. Seeing natural looking woodland
5. Seeing the stars at night
6. Seeing streams
7. Seeing the sea
8. Hearing natural sounds
9. Hearing wildlife
10. Hearing running water

As a result of the survey, the CPRE in 2006 created a national tranquillity map based on the 500m by 500m squares, and they said that the most tranquil place in England was in the Kielder Forest in Northumberland. But the exact spot was kept secret, to keep it tranquil.

You can download the tranquillity map here, and see what else the CPRE has to say about tranquil places here.

The Most Tranquil Place

kielder mires, quietest place in england, kielder forest, northumberland

This is a map of the approximate location of the Kielder Mires National Nature Reserve, in which, somewhere, lies the ‘quietest place in England’. © Ordnance Survey

However since then, Trevor Cox, Professor of Acoustics Engineering from the same Salford University, and a presenter of many popular science documentaries on television and radio, has gone to England’s most tranquil spot. The CPRE told Professor Cox which 500m by 500m square in the Kielder Forest had been identified as the spot, and he went there, trekking along forester’s tracks and wading through a mile and a half of peat bog.

In January 2014, the most tranquil place in England was described as a hillock in the Kielder Mires, two hours walking distance from the nearest human settlement, a Victorian grouse shooting lodge, and ten miles from the village of Gisland. As well as its distance from human habitation, the distance of the place from flight paths, was a key factor in making it the most tranquil spot.

The Kielder Mires 

bellcrag flow, border mires, peatland, most tranquil place in england, kielder forest, northumberland

This is Bellcrag Flow, one of the border mires in the southern part of Kielder Forest, typical of what you might see in the ‘most tranquil place in England’. Border Mires are areas of peatland up to 10 metres deep which have developed on the site of shallow lakes since the end of the Ice Age 12,000 years ago. © Les Hull / Creative Commons Licence

The Kielder Mires are formed of two deep peat mires known as Grain Heads Moss and Coom Rigg Moss. The mires are part of a collection of more than 50 recognised peat bodies known as the Border Mires which are mostly located within the boundaries of Kielder Forest. These blanket mires are rare globally, as they have been largely destroyed by plantations, drainage and grazing. The mires in Kielder are acidic, low-nutrient environments fed entirely by rain and provide refuge for rare species such as tall bog sedge, lichens and sphagnum mosses. Less is known about the natural fauna, although the area is rich in invertebrates and merlins, Britain’s smallest birds of prey, breed on the edge of the plantations. For these reasons the Kielder Mires been designated as a National Nature Reserves (NNR), a Special Areas of Conservation (SAC), and a Ramsar site, that is wetlands of international importance under the Ramsar Convention, an international treaty signed in 1971.

So Professor Cox became the first person to knowingly visit this most peaceful spot, though humans must have struggled through the mires unknowingly many times over the last 10,000 or more years. Later, Cox wrote in his book Sonic Wonderland – A Scientific Odyssey of Sound, that ‘I had previously thought of asking the CPRE if I could publish the location of the quietest place, but I realised this would be a bad idea’.

But in the 1950s, something was going on less than six miles away that had the potential to shatter the peace of the Kielder Mires.



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Over the last week an unusual number of ships have been in distress off the coasts of Europe. Ten people died when a fire broke out on board the Italian ferry Norman Atlantic near Corfu off the coat of Greece; the cargo ship Blue Sky M was abandoned by its crew off the southern tip of Italy with 970 migrants on board; the cargo ship Ezadeen was also similarly abandoned by its crew off southern Italy with 400 migrants on board; and eight people lost their lives when the cargo ship Cemfjord, which was carrying cement from Denmark to Runcorn in Cheshire, sank in the Pentland Firth, the strait that separates the Orkney Islands from the far north-east coast of Scotland. 

hoegh osaka, car container ship, solent, bramble bank

The Hoegh Osaka is reported as carrying 1,400 vehicles and 70 to 80 pieces of construction equipment, about one-third full, and was on route to Bremerhaven in Germany.

In the most recent incident last weekend, a 51,000 tonne car transporter the Hoegh Osaka was deliberately grounded in the Solent, the strait of water between the Isle of Wight and the mainland of southern England, when it developed a list after having left the port of Southampton. Fortunately no lives were lost and the 24 crew members and the pilot have been taken off the ship, with only two of the crew suffering minor injuries. The Hoegh Osaka is currently beached with a 52° tilt on a sandbank, Bramble Bank, which is in the middle of the Solent.

And just over six years ago, in the early hours of 11 November 2008, the 40-year old Cunard liner Queen Elizabeth 2 was forced aground on Bramble Bank by strong winds on her approach to Southampton Docks. It was her last visit to Southampton prior to before becoming a floating hotel in Dubai. Fortunately the tide was rising and four tugs were able to pull her clear of the sandbank, and she docked only 90 minutes late. 

BrambleBankMapBramble Bank, otherwise known as ‘The Brambles’ is an arrowhead-shaped sandbar in the central Solent which is often uncovered during the twice-yearly equinoxial tides. At other times it is a significant navigational hazard or a useful escape for smaller vessels from the huge ships that come and go from Southampton. The bank is moving very slowly westward and it is marked at its south-eastern limit by the Brambles sea pile, which is a meteorological station, and on its western limit by the West Knoll buoy. 

bramble bank, sandbank, solent, cricket match, equinoxial tide

Last year, the match was held on Thursday 11 September. However in 2013, the Brambles sandbank didn’t appear but the game still went ahead with water lapping around the player’s ankles, and towards the end, their knees.

On a lighter note, Bramble Bank is renowned for the annual cricket match that is held there during the late summer equinoxial tide, usually at the end of August or in early September. The game dates from the 1950s and the Royal Southern Yacht Club based at Hamble on the mainland plays the Island Sailing Club from Cowes on the Isle of Wight. The teams and their supporters arrive at the sandbank in an armada of small boats, with the busy shipping lane not far away, just as the sandbank is first exposed. The uneven surface of the sandbank with some sand and large puddles at best, ensures that the game is more a social occasion than a serious cricket match. The game never lasts long as the tide returns after about an hour. There is a 360°view of the 2014 cricket match here and a lively report here of the 2010 game in the Daily Telegraph.

The Brambles cricket match has been described as ‘quintessentially English’ with the victor of the game being pre-determined as the two clubs simply take it in turns to ‘win’ the match, regardless of how the match progresses. Conditions allowing, a temporary bar, the Bramble Inn, is set up to dispense Pimms, though more often than not the bar remains on one of the boats. Bramble Bank was referred to during a debate on a licensing bill in the House of Lords in 2003, when a government minister was asked which licensing authority was responsible for Bramble Bank and other sandbanks like it, which were exposed only two or three times a year. An answer was apparently not forthcoming.

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centre of great britain, centre of united kingdom

If uou click on this map of the United Kingdom, you can see two small pink circles which, very roughly, mark the centre of Great Britain (including its 401 islands) and the centre of England.

If someone asked you where the centre of Great Britain was or for that matter where the centre of England was, would you know? Or more to the point would you care? The centre of Britain must obviously be further north than the centre of England, as Britain includes Scotland, of which there is quite a lot. And the centre of Britain is likely to be further west than the centre of England because of Wales.

Northern Ireland is not included in the centre of Great Britain as the country we are part of is the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, that is Great Britain doesn’t include  Northern Ireland. Well to add to the other obscure geographical posts that I have written previously, here are some answers.

centre of britain, dunsop bridge, millstone grit, whitendale hanging stones

The weathered stones of an outcrop of Millstone Grit called Whitendale Hanging Stones north of Dunsop Bridge. The wooden post marks the exact centre of Great Britain.
© Tom Howard/Creative Commons Licence

The nearest village to the geographical centre of Britain (including its 401 islands) was officially recognised by the Ordnance Survey in 1992 as being Dunsop Bridge in the Forest of Bowland near Clitheroe in Lancashire. However in 2002, the Ordnance Survey calculated that the exact point is at Whitendale Hanging Stones (grid reference SD 64188 56541), near Brennand Farm, 4½ miles north of Dunsop Bridge. The measurement calculates the point at which a two-dimensional object – think of a cardboard cut-out of Great Britain – would balance horizontally on the head of a theoretical pin, that is its centre of gravity.

centre of britain, dunsop bridge, phone box

The plaque in the BT phone box in Dunsop Bridge that marks the centre of Great Britain.

BT also installed its 100,000th payphone at Dunsop Bridge (not by coincidence surely?) and included a plaque to explain its significance. The plaque reads ‘You are calling from the BT payphone that marks the centre of Great Britain.’ The telephone box was unveiled by the explorer and writer Sir Ranulph Fiennes.

The geographical centre of England was calculated by the Ordnance Survey in 2002, again by finding the centre point of the two-dimensional shape made by England. It is in a field close to Lindley Hall Farm near Fenny Drayton in Leicestershire (grid reference SP 36373 96143).

centre of england, lindley hall farm

A post next to a hedge in a field of Lindley Hall Farm near Fenny Drayton points to the exact centre of England.

In June 2013, a 6ft high ‘monument’ made from a railway sleeper was erected on the side of the field with a sign pointing to the exact point, 492ft into the field. According to a BBC report at the time, the owner of the farm, Stephen Farmer, said it could become a tourist attraction in future, explaining that ‘It’s a position on the map, the same as Land’s End [and] John O’Groats. People go to see their marks and have their photos taken so I think it wants to be known to the public, where it is.’ As the field and the path to it are privately owned, Mr Farmer will presumably have to allow public access to the monument if he wants to put it on the map. Incidentally Dunsop Bridge is roughly 95 miles north-north-west of Fenny Drayton.

Some people argue that the furthest point from the sea should be considered the centre of Britain. The Ordnance Survey has found this point is just east of Church Flatts Farm, about a mile south-east of Coton-in-the-Elms, Derbyshire. Haltwhistle in Northumberland also claims, less convincingly, to be the centre of Britain based around it being on the mid-point of the longest line of longitude (the vertical line) on the mainland of Britain. The town even has a Centre of Britain Hotel!


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flannan isles, isle of lewis, outer hebrides, scotland, atlantic ocean

The Flannan Isles are 20 miles west (to the left) of the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides.

St Kilda is well-known as the isolated archipelago 40 miles (64 km) west of the Outer Hebrides in Scotland in the North Atlantic Ocean. Following crop failures and illness, the remaining population of 36 people on the only inhabited island, Hirta, was evacuated in 1930. St Kilda became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986 reflecting both its natural and cultural significance. However there is another much less well-known group of remote islands off the Outer Hebrides, which is the location of an enduring mystery which occurred in December 1900, when all three keepers of the lighthouse on an island there vanished without trace.

The Flannan Isles (or Na h-Eileanan Flannach in Gaelic) or Seven Hunters lie 20 miles (32 km) west of the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides. Not as far out to sea as St Kilda, but further north. And since the automation of the Flannan Isles Lighthouse in 1971, no one has lived there, although the islands became a Site of Special Scientific Interest in 1983. The lighthouse, and a ruined chapel dedicated to St Flannan, is on the largest island, Eilean Mòr (Big Isle).

eilean mòr, flannan isles, lighthouse, atlantic ocean

A huge inlet on the north side of Eilean Mòr looking east towards the lighthouse. The walk to the lighthouse up the slope on the right is steep, but it is insignificant compared with these cliffs. © Chris Downer/Creative Commons Licence

The lighthouse was constructed for the Northern Lighthouse Board (NLB) between 1895 and 1899 near the highest point of Eilean Mòr at a cost of £6,914. All the materials in the building of the 75 feet high lighthouse had to be hauled 150 feet up cliffs from supply boats. The lighthouse was first lit on 7 December 1899. There was no wireless communication, the only form of communication being a series of semaphore-style balls on posts which could be seen from the Hebrides on a good day.

Other than its relative isolation, it would be little different from most of the lighthouses built off the coasts of Britain were it not for the events which took place just over a year after it was commissioned. In December 1900, the lighthouse was manned by a three-man team (James Ducat, Principal Keeper; Thomas Marshall, Second Assistant; and Donald Macarthur, Occasional Keeper), with a rotating fourth man (Joseph Moore), on leave on the Isle of Lewis.

On 15 December, the steamer Archtor on passage from Philadelphia in the United States to Leith near Edinburgh noticed as it passed the islands that the light was not working, and this was reported three days later on docking at Oban further south. The scheduled relief ship for the lighthouse, the Hesperus, which was based in Stromness in the Orkney Islands, had been due to visit on 20 December but it was delayed because of rough weather and did not reach Eilean Mòr until noon on Boxing Day, 26 December. When they arrived, ominously, none of the lighthouse keepers were there to welcome them ashore, the flag was not flying, and none of the usual provision boxes were ready on the landing stage for re-stocking.

When Joseph Moore was put ashore, alone, he found the gate and main door to the lighthouse compound closed, the beds unmade, the clocks stopped, and no trace of the keepers. He returned to the landing stage to tell the captain of the Hesperus, Jim Harvey, the bad news. Moore then carried out a further search with two of the crew. The lamps were trimmed and refilled, the lens and machinery had been cleaned, the washing-up had been done, and there were cold ashes in the grate. But a set of oilskins belonging to Donald McArthur was found suggesting that the keeper had left the lighthouse without them, which was surprising considering the severity of the weather. Other than that, an overturned chair by the kitchen table was the only sign of anything amiss in the lighthouse. Outside, on the rest of island, the three lighthouse keepers were nowhere to be found. They had vanished. (more…)

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How well do you know the counties of Britain? At one time every town and village in Britain was located in one of 92 counties, with many of the names of the counties ending in ‘shire’. Where was Banffshire, Cumberland, Huntingdonshire, Montgomeryshire, Sutherland or Westmorland? And Middlesex? Well that used to include most of London north of the Thames including Westminster and the West End, apart from the City of London. And where are the counties of Barsetshire, Hallamshire, Midsomer, and Trumptonshire?

From 1888 to 1965, local government in England, Scotland and Wales was based quite closely on the boundaries of historic counties but as a consequence of the numerous reforms of local government since then, few local authorities now have an area anything like the historic county in which they were previously located.

britain, historic county, mediaeval, saxon, wessex, association of british counties

The division of Britain into 92 counties goes back to mediaeval and feudal times starting with the division of the Kingdom of West Saxons, now referred to as Wessex, in the 8th century. All the historic English and Scottish counties were established in one form or another by the 12th century, and the Welsh counties by the 16th century.
© The Association of British Counties

Although twenty-seven county councils still exist in England, most cities and many large towns are not governed by the county council for the area in which they lie. Portsmouth and Southampton once part of Hampshire are now unitary (all-purpose) councils in their own right. The same goes for Blackpool and Blackburn in Lancashire, Bristol in Gloucestershire, Maidstone in Kent, Peterborough in Cambridgeshire, Plymouth in Devon, and so on. The list is long. And in Scotland and Wales, historic counties were merged from 1974 onwards, so for example Powys County Council in Wales was formed from three historic counties, and Highland Council in Scotland was formed from the whole or part of seven historic counties.

Many public agencies, such as some police and emergency services, and voluntary bodies such as wildlife trusts, are still based on historic counties and are named after them. And so too are cricket teams and local radio stations. But in 2010, the Royal Mail deleted county names from its Postcode Address File database, which lists every address in the UK. There is an interesting article here on the BBC website about the confusion over historic and administrative counties.

The Association of British Counties (ABC) exists to promote ‘the use of the historic counties as a standard geography for the UK’, and you can find out more about its aims and the counties here. You can use the map above to find the historic counties mentioned at the start.

One notable exception to the diminution in the status of historic counties is Rutland. Once the smallest county in England, and first mentioned in 1159, Rutland (motto Multum in Parvo or ‘much in little’) was abolished in 1974 and it became part of Leicestershire as a district council. In 1997 however, Rutland became a separate county again, and the council has the name Rutland County Council.

There are lots of counties that you won’t find on the ABC map. Here are some of them, most coming from literature or TV, and a surprising number from the novels of Agatha Christie.

warden, anthony trollope, barsetshire, michael sadleir

The Warden, the first of Anthony Trollope’s novels set in Barsetshire, was published in 1855. This is Trollope’s drawing of Barsetshire first printed in Michael Sadleir’s Trollope: A Commentary in 1927. Sadleir was a British novelist, literary historian and book collector, who specialized in 19th century English fiction, notably the work of Anthony Trollope. Sadleir later re-drew the map so as to make it more consistent with the descriptions in the Barsetshire books

Barsetshire – the setting for the series of mid-19th century novels Chronicles of Barsetshire by Anthony Trollope, Also as the setting for the series of 29 romantic and satirical novels by Angela Thirkell, and as the supposed location of St Trinians School in the original comedy films

Borsetshire – a county in the Midlands, location of the village of Ambridge in the long-running BBC radio drama The Archers

Diddlesex – used in the satirical Punch magazine in the 1840s as the abode of an ex-servant who becomes rich, and in the 1890s to Parliamentary consideration of the ‘East-West Diddlesex Railway Bill’. Also the ‘North South East West Diddlesex junction’ song in the Gilbert & Sullivan opera Thespis, referring to a shadily run railway company

Downshire – the location of the village of St Mary Mead in The Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie

Ffhâgdiwedd – a county borough of South East Wales, the setting for the science fiction and mythological novel Waliens – Close Encounters of The Welsh Kind by R W Finlan and Darren Bowker-Powis (more…)

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The Nile in the Ancient World

ptolemy, geographia, north africa, mountains of the moon, lunae montes, nile

This map of north Africa by Jacob d’Angelo (author) and Nicolaus Germanus (artist) based on Ptolemy’s Geographia, was published in 1467 in Bavaria. The Mountains of the Moon are shown as Lunae Montes in the bottom right of the map, with rivers flowing north from the mountains to several large unnamed lakes.

The success of ancient Egyptian civilization from as far back as 4000 BC came partly from its ability to adapt to the conditions of the Nile River Valley. The predictable flooding and controlled irrigation of the fertile valley produced surplus crops, which fueled social development and culture. The Greek historian Herodotus, who lived in the fifth century BC, wrote that ‘Egypt was the gift of the Nile’.

The Nile in north-east Africa is 4,160 miles (6,695 km) long and is the longest river in the world. The Nile’s two major tributaries, the White Nile and the Blue Nile, meet near the Sudanese capital of Khartoum before flowing 1,857 miles (2,988 km) through the desert to the Nile delta on the Mediterranean Sea near Alexandria in Egypt. The longer White Nile rises in the Great Lakes region of central Africa, and its most distant source is considered to be the Ruvyironza (or Luvironza) River in Burundi.

Finding the source of the Nile fascinated the Ancient World. Herodotus, Alexander the Great, and the Emperor Nero all puzzled how the river could flow through thousands of miles of desert without the support of a single tributary. Both the Greeks and the Romans tried to find the source of the Nile, but failed.

Ptolemy’s Map

In the 1st century, a merchant named Diogenes is said to have travelled inland from Rhapta in East Africa ‘for a twenty five days’ journey and arrived in the vicinity of two great lakes and the snowy range of mountains whence the Nile draws its twin sources’. He reported that the natives called the mountain range the Mountains of the Moon because of their snow-capped whiteness. These reports were accepted as true by Ptolemy, the 2nd century Greco-Roman mathematician and geographer living in Alexandria. Ptolemy wrote a cartographic treatise, Geographia, on what was known about the world’s geography in the Roman Empire at the time.

Only copies of the original maps in the atlases in Ptolemy’s Geographia survived, so early Renaissance cartographers produced maps from these copies based on the coordinates in the original text. In the maps of north Africa, the source of the Nile, as depicted by Ptolemy, are rivers at the foot of the Lunae Montes, or Mountains of the Moon, which flow into two large unnamed lakes.

The Search for the Source of the Nile

nile, white nile, lake victoria, blue nile, lake tana, mountains of the moon, lake albert, uganda, democratic republic of the congo

Map of the River Nile showing the source of the White Nile at Lake Victoria and the Blue Nile at Lake Tana in Ethiopia. The Mountains of the Moon lie south of Lake Albert along the border of Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

It would be another 1,700 years before an expedition commissioned by the Royal Geographical Society set out from Zanzibar in 1857 to ‘find’ the source of the Nile. It was led by the British explorer Richard Francis Burton with John Hanning Speke as his junior. Burton was an army captain and intelligence officer in India; blunt, bold, enigmatic and resourceful (though he was to be seen later as a slightly disreputable intellectual). Speke had also been in the army in India as a lieutenant. He was said to be upstanding, charming, and fanatical about fitness, and he had been a surveyor and a naturalist. Speke had already been on an expedition with Burton to Somalia in 1854, and although their qualities appeared complimentary, they had not got on well. Their personalities turned out to be totally incompatible, and a poisonous rivalry developed between them.

In February 1858, the explorers, each suffering ill-health from a variety of causes, reached the southern shore of Lake Tanganyika (known to the Arabs as the Sea of Ujiji), which Burton was convinced was the headwater of the Nile. After three months, they started back towards the coast but they heard of a large lake to the north. By now Speke had recovered and he set off with a small party, but without Burton, to find the lake. After 200 miles, he reached the southern shore of Lake Victoria (known locally as the Sea of Ukerewe) in August 1858. After calculating the height of the lake above sea level, he concluded intuitively that this lake, and not Burton’s, must be the source.

He then hurried back to Burton to announce his great discovery. Burton demanded what proof Speke had that it was ‘the’ lake. Speke suggested that they should both go and investigate the lake’s true extent, but Burton rejected this. This was a tactical blunder by Burton. Speke began to see the ‘discovery’ as his own, and perhaps Burton’s scepticism reflected his fear that he had made a fatal mistake.


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How do you decide what is the most featureless place? The Cambridge dictionary defines featureless as ‘looking the same in every part, usually in a way that most people consider to be boring’. Even the wildest parts of Scotland or the flattest fen in East Anglia have a ditch, bridleway, stream or hill to break the monotony.

Over ten years ago a listener to John Peel’s Home Truths show on Radio 4 asked about boring places in Britain. This triggered the search for Britain’s most boring place. The BBC turned to the Ordnance Survey to see if looking at maps would provide the answer on the basis that their large-scale maps show almost all features in the landscape. Maps are divided by grid lines into squares that are a kilometre wide and tall, and features are identified by various symbols. The obvious thing to do therefore was to find the grid square that had the least symbols in it. Was there a completely blank square among the 320,000 squares in the widely-used Landranger map series? This series of maps are at a scale of 1:50,000, that is one centimetre on the map is 50,000 centimetres on the ground, which is half a kilometre.

map, featureless, britain, ordnance survey, grid square, pylon, electricity, overhead line

This is how it looks on a map. The blue square in the middle has nothing in it except a single electricity pylon (the v-symbol) and the bit of overhead line between pylons.
© Ordnance Survey 2013

map, featureless, britain

The blue spot in the middle of this map, to the east (right) of Goole, marks the location of Britain’s most featureless place.
© Ordnance Survey 2013

After setting a computer to look at every one of the squares, the Ordnance Survey came up with answer! A field in the East Riding of Yorkshire is the most featureless place in Britain.

The square kilometre of farmland on the outskirts of the village of Ousefleet, just south of the River Ouse, near Scunthorpe, has nothing in it except a single electricity pylon and some overhanging cable. The square at grid reference SE 830 220 (the south-west corner of the square) on OS map 112 is as near as cartographers can get to a completely blank square in the Landranger map series.

featureless, britain, pylon, electricity, overhead line, ordnance survey, grid square, farmland

This is what the most featureless place looks like on the ground. The electricity pylon and the overhead line to the left lie just in the kilometre grid square, and that’s it. The rest is flat farmland.
© Roger Gilbertson/Creative Commons Licence.

Philip Round from the OS said at the time ‘We’re not saying it’s the dullest place in Britain. It might be the most fascinating place on earth but on our Landranger maps it has the least amount of information. No ditches, streams or buildings are shown on this particular scale of map. That’s quite some going, considering the low-lying areas of East Anglia and remote parts of Scotland.’


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