James Derrick's diary

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Sustrans improves the Coast and Castles route around Blyth in Northumberland, England

Posted by James Derrick on 12 January 2013 in English (English)

After going out and about on two wheels around Blyth, I noticed that the Coast and Castles long distance cycle route, NCN1 has moved. It no longer threads North West through the South Beach estate and across the River Blyth with the A189, and follows the coast. View NE from the new NCN1 towards Blyth Harbour

New shared use paths go past Blyth Harbour and through Ridley Park, then West along a new Hairpin Greenway (dedicated to the late Laura Ferguson). Sustrans have invested a lot in clear signage, down to having a 'Turn Back' notice if you follow the old route past Blyth Asda! Start of New Route sign

As you'd expect, I've surveyed the new routes and mapped the changes in OpenStreetMap with just the big relation change to move the NCN1 route over to the new ways pending. CycleStreets still beats Sustrans own slippy map, IMHO.

The new route is great for long distance cycle tourism, and has improved foot paths into shared use cycleways. This route is more focused on recreation and with the excellent signage, will be much easier to follow than threading through housing estates.

For my regular commuting to Newbiggin by the Sea, I still wish that the 'Cramlington Connection' project and the Cycleway to Nowhere along the A189 hadn't ended in the wilderness.

Location: North Seaton, Ashington, Northumberland, North East England, England, United Kingdom

Cramlington - Northumberlandia, the "Turf Tart" is unveiled

Posted by James Derrick on 2 September 2012 in English (English)

For several years, I have been cycling past a series of open cast coal mines to the West of my home town of Cramlington. The Banks Shotton Surface Mine has created a few jobs, and now is getting national intrest as the spoil heap has been imaginatively been formed into a visitor attraction in the shape of a female figure:

Northumberlandia, (or the "Turf Tart" to her friends :-) ), is close to opening to the public next week after the Princess Royal cuts the ribbon in Monday.

The extent of the 400m landform and the nearby live mine site has been mapped from Bing imagery for some time, however the detail of the many paths, view points, and hard landscaping forming the face itself needs boots and GPS on the ground to capture in its full glory.

Anyone fancy a mapping party in Cramlington? :-)


James PS A few features have been added by eye as a taster of the curves to come.

Location: Fisher Lane, Shotton, Northumberland, North East England, England, United Kingdom

Mapping improvements made possible by [[Bing]]

Posted by James Derrick on 7 December 2010 in English (English)

The donation of good quality aerial imagery by [[Bing]] can make a real difference to the detail it is possible to map in OSM.

After mapping roads and main points of interest using various physical GPS methods, I thought the map of [[Cramlington]] Northburn looked pretty good. All the roads were well geo-located, and some building outlines were mapped where their location could be inferred from GPS tracks.


As you can see, good imagery opens up the possibility of including mapping right down to individual houses. Details mapped via GPS stay put, however previously inaccessible features such as complex building outlines make a dramatic appearance! After a bit of work gathering house numbers, searching for a house number and street in the nominatim gazeteer search now goes straight to the individual building.

With enough effort, it is quite possible to achieve a level of detail better than Ordnance Survey 1:10k Street View using [[Bing]] tracing. The hard part is putting in enough effort - tracing and tagging at this level takes a lot of time to get spot on.

Two estates done, another thousand to complete... :-)

Location: High Pit, Cramlington, Northumberland, North East England, England, United Kingdom

Sustrans Connect2 Bedlington and Cramlington Connection

Posted by James Derrick on 27 December 2008 in English (English)

Judgling from a very muddy survey expedition today, Sustrans have a lot of work on to link [[Cramlington]] to Bedlington via the old Humford Mill stepping stones over the River Blyth.

The project publicity concentrates on the exciting river crossing, but the section to the South leading to East Hartford will be the real challenge.

The first section starts out in a plantation NE of Hartford. Dropping down a flight of wooden steps, the path lowers down to the flood level of a small river and turns into a muddy swamp.

Heavy rains must swell the 1m wide stream considerably as man-made rubbish hangs in scrubby trees. A small metal bridge crosses the water and the adventure proper starts. The path hugs the side of a V-shaped dean cut by water and the sound of the flow is never far away.

The Council improved the path many years ago with wooden posts forming steps up the steep valley side and small foot bridges crossing drainage pipes. Nature has worked unseen on these foreign structures and most are rotten.

Several large trees now lie across the wet path adding to the obstacle course of briars and muddy scrub. In one spot, a topped trees have formed a considerable dam and forced the water to eat away at the bank path.

Once through the dean, the much larger River Blyth takes control of the terrain and things level out. 18 stepping stones take you across to Humford Mill and on to the first bit of tarmac. This is an ideal cycling spot, with a car park and a quiet road leading up hill to St Cuthberts Church in Bedlington main street.

A information board proclaims this area as Bedlington Country Park, and if Sustrans can get through the mud, fallen trees and scrub, this will be a great cycle route. It avoids both Plessey and Bedlington bridges which have steep hills with narrow bridges that cars have trouble staying on, making cycling rather dangerous.

Location: Horton Dean, High Pit, East Hartford, Northumberland, North East England, England, United Kingdom

Night cycling in Blyth

Posted by James Derrick on 27 October 2008 in English (English)

To celebrate mapping Cramlington by bicycle, I decided to treat myself to a new steed. After Wiggle delivered a large box containing a new Focus Red Falls, I have been itching to get out and about on the newly mapped Cramlington Cycleway Network.

Tonight, I decided to ignore the 7C air temperature and winter night to do something different. Starting at Cramlington, I followed National Cycle Route 1 down past Horton Grange, and through new housing developments to Blyth Adsa. What is normally a horrible place to visit by car (bad traffic!), is well appointed with excellent cycleways.

Coming back though Bebside, I decided against the easy route and turned off past an old civic amenity site to follow an old road pre-dating the modern A189 trunk route.

Pedalling along on tarmac being slowly reclaimed by nature, my head torch was the only shaft of light piercing the winter night. Slowing only where a flash of hedge showed a sharp bend, the cold night was quickly forgotten as the exhilaration of exploring the unknown took hold.

The orange sodium skyglow of Cramlington confirmed the Garmin GPS was pointing true, as eerie pinpricks of light appeared. Ah- horses have white eyes!

The glow from The Three Horse Shoes pub looked inviting, but I left the empty picnic tables and headed for home.

Hathery Lane is now mapped. Unused by vehicles for many years, but a great short cut for cycles.

Location: Sunderland, United Kingdom

GPS logging on the Grand Union Canal

Posted by James Derrick on 27 April 2008 in English (English)

As a break from mapping my home town of Cramlington, I uploaded a short trace made aboard my canal boat cruising the Grand Union Canal.

Navigating a 57" (17m) boat along a narrow waterway is actually not that difficult as the typical speed is a mere 4mph (6km/h) and after 150 years of development, most hazards have been resolved. Although the UK canal network extends throughout country, a typical day's cruising may only encounter a junction every few days.

So, if navigational hazard avoidance and routing are easy peasy, what role is there for digital mapping and GPS?

Well, canals were planned in the 18th Century when roads were terrible and many towns did not exist. What may have been a busy coal mine wharf has been forgotten and is now the middle of nowhere. The feeling of traveling along a secret route is one of the main charms of canals, except when you run out of toothpaste need to find a shop on foot!

Mass market GPS navigation devices have useful Points of Interest, but usually omit waterways and public footpaths to concentrate solely on roads. Other digital maps may include canals, but exclude details such as bridges and locks which are used as reference points.

The ability to add domain specific features to the OSM map and then render the result for your needs is a killer feature, and one that got me started mapping cycle routes in Cramlington.

My short trace around Blisworth Tunnel on the Grand Union Canal was limited to half an hour by the the rainy weather rather than the capacity of my Nokia N800, but logging once a second at 4mph gives impressively dense data points.

The current canal data is missing several sections from Norton Junction to Wedon Bec, but it's good to see that one of the best pubs I visited is mapped. The Narrow Boat on the A5 (Watling Street) is included, along with amenities such as pharmacies in nearby towns.

If only there was a tag to say the pub food is excellent, but don't sink too many excellent pints of Bombadier as the steps leading back down to the canal are very steep...

Location: Nether Heyford, South Northamptonshire, Northamptonshire, East Midlands, England, United Kingdom
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