OpenStreetMap

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: 52.226, -1.061

Comment from James Derrick on 28 April 2008 at 18:17

Thanks Skywave - I'd seen the tailored map rendering for Cyclists, but not this one for canals. Looks like there is some very useful canal mapping going on.

I have seen other canal mapping sites, but none with the Creative Commons license for data:
http://www.canalplanner.com/ is commercial

canalplan.org.uk/ has excellent data but looks to be going commercial. It is based on Google Maps making it hard to run locally, although the WWW server module may be portable.

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