Recent diary entries
National Cycle Network route 8, aka Lon Las Cymru, is now completely mapped on OSM.
This was the first long-distance NCN ride I ever did, from Cardiff to Holyhead. But at the time I only had a little 1500-point yellow eTrex, which would have run out of puff after about a day... so I didn't get a track. One of my main reasons for rectifying the New Popular Edition properly was so I could use it in Potlatch to trace this route from memory!
Since then, I've cycled a few bits again (notably the Taff Trail), benefited from others' GPS tracks on the same route, and walked/driven a few bits when in the vicinity, too. The other weekend, when in North Wales, I took the chance to walk the one remaining lacuna, the housing-estate route through Llanfairpwyngwyngylletc.
NCN 8 isn't just one route, though: it has "braids", or alternative routes. One is for the section from Machynlleth to Dolgellau, the other from Dolgellau to Porthmadog. When I first cycled it, I'd followed the mostly on-road routes (it was the first outing for my Ridgeback and I wasn't too confident about its off-road capabilities), via Corris and Harlech respectively. But the other week, Anna and I decided to tackle the other braids.
Holy cow they're good - but tough. Machynlleth to Dolgellau follows some lovely winding minor roads for a while, then takes the "Black Road" over the hill to the Mawddach estuary. This is exactly as foreboding as it sounds. It's a long, steep slog up to the top, where the tarmac gives out. From there it's a very exhilarating but rough descent, which was some serious stress on the brake blocks. Fortunately there's an outstanding bike shop in Dolgellau (not the posh-looking one, but the one in an old garage) which reinstated my stopping power and, better still, unbent my back wheel.
From Dolgellau, after another minor road interlude, NCN 8 goes into the mountain bike heartland of Coed-y-Brenin. For a long while it's forest tracks with MTB routes on them, all very pleasant and quite innocuous - there's even a cafe-cum-bike shop. Ok so far.
Then you start to leave the mountain bikers behind, and the track gets steeper, and rougher... and rougher. And eventually becomes what is technically known as "rough as fuck". Until then there'd only been two places on the NCN where I'd had to dismount, due to steepness (Aberllefenni on the other NCN 8 braid, and the hill out of Princes Risborough on NCN 57), but this one was definitely dismount-due-to-complete-lack-of-surface. As you can imagine we were starting to think "is this the right way?".
Turns out this is Sarn Helen, an allegedly Roman road allegedly running the length of Wales (no-one seems quite sure), and clearly no maintenance has been done on it since Roman times. Actually, though, it was great. After a bit of pushing and a picnic at the top (remind me never to buy a Spar sandwich again, they're even rougher than the track was), we got back on the saddle and really started to enjoy it. (That's the diary entry position, if you want to take a look.) The surface really picked up for the descent, happily, and it was a cracking ride down onto a little minor road to Trawsfynydd - which is a surprisingly attractive village, despite the presence of knackered old Soviet-style nuclear power station.
And we were going the right way, too. The signs at both ends confirmed it. So I've mapped what the signs say - and not the other route, which is shown on pretty much every NCN map I've seen (including the Sustrans website), but which definitely isn't where you're signposted. I note that the official Lon Las Cymru map has just, this week, been republished so it'll be interesting to see what that shows.
�So it's all on there. But I haven't bothered putting most of these braids in a relation, because it turns out that, in due course, they're going to be renumbered NCN 82 as part of Sustrans' plan to remove duplicate braids on the NCN. (Quite a sensible renumbering, as it'll eventually make NCN 82 a really stunning long-distance route up the west of Wales, from Pembrokeshire to Bangor.)
Cyclists love OSM (and OSM loves cyclists).
An anonymous happy cyclist has uploaded their tracks of National Cycle Route 8, Lon Las Cymru - the Welsh national route from Cardiff to Holyhead. I cycled this a few years back, but without GPS (I only had a yellow eTrex at the time, and the memory would have filled up too quickly), so had mapped what I could remember from NPE - in fact, wanting to do this was the initial reason I added NPE to Potlatch. Over time I've been refining it whenever I've revisited an area (Brecon last weekend, Cardiff a month or two ago) but there were still some gaps.
The mystery cyclist's GPS track has meant that it's now almost entirely complete. Only a small bit in Llanfairpwyngwyngyll (etc.) remains to be done, plus two alternative braids which we might cycle this Easter.
Thank you mystery cyclist, whoever you are.
We went to see the ducks, and flamingoes, and ducks, and long-tailed tits, and ducks, at Slimbridge, where there are some ducks, last weekend. It seemed a shame not to have the GPS switched on while walking around, really. So I've made a start at mapping the place.
All the twitchers were very excited about some big white lump of a bird that was sitting on a hillock. It looked a bit pissed off to me. Maybe it was the Venezuelan grumbling bird.
Slimbridge does have a rather splendid observation tower that permits the mapper to photograph the near vicinity. Consequently the bit near the tower is better mapped than the rest...
Anyone feel like rendering leisure=bird_hide?
Last weekend Anna and I finished cycling (in stages) from London to Fishguard on National Cycle Route 4.
The two bits we'd not covered were Swansea-Carmarthen, and Pontypridd to Newport. Very different from each other: Swansea-Carmarthen was almost entirely flat and traffic-free until the final miles, with 21km of glorious, wide 'Millennium Coastal Park', a peaceful railway path, and some judicious connections including a landmark new bridge.
Pontypridd-Newport was a more typical NCN mix. A railway path was followed by a bit of ducking and diving around housing estates to end up at Caerphilly Castle; a bit more housing estate led to some lovely new winding riverside paths, a railway line on the side of a valley (excellent views), and finally a typical NCN selection of country lanes. Oh, and a really annoying gap in the route at Newport, which we didn't know about until having tried (and failed) for about 1hr30 to find where the route had gone.
So NCN 4 is now pretty much complete on OSM - the first long-distance route to be so. Newport is obviously a lacuna; there's a 100-metre or so gap in Carmarthen, too, where the route seems a little imperfect awaiting a new section for Connect2; and there's a short gap in Pontypridd, too. On bits that others have mapped, a couple of streets are missing near Greenwich, and there's a tiny break in North Bristol. But none of these are more than very short gaps. More useful is that several 'braids' of NCN 4 are fully mapped, offering attractive alternative routes: the most significant is the North Wiltshire Rivers Route, a mostly traffic-free detour with some superb cycling along the Ridgeway.
So you can now use OSM as your free guide to cycling all the way from London to West Wales. Enjoy!
(And I took the opportunity to map the missing section of NCN 8, Lon Las Cymru, into Cardiff. Both this and the Pennine Cycleway, NCN 68, are also approaching OSM completeness.)
We have lots and lots of lovely relations in the OSM database these days (as well as some fairly nasty ones) but they're not always shown on the map of your choice.
Yesterday we were in Melton Mowbray, and we thought we'd drive back via the Wreake Valley, partly because it's lovely, partly because I used to live in Rearsby and haven't seen the place in years.
I was slightly surprised to find that the road along the west side of the valley has been designated, and fully signed, as NCN 48 (the promising-sounding Fosse2 project) - so our old house now has an NCN route past it. (The next place we lived is about half a mile from NCN 63; then the next is about a mile from the National Byway; and our boat is moored a few hundred yards from NCN 54, too. Just need to get that route through Charlbury...)
I was even more surprised to return home, check on the (usually very comprehensive) Sustrans website, and find that the route is still marked as "proposed" there. So in one small way, OSM's NCN mapping is now more up-to-date than the official one!
For some time the C2C, Sustrans' most famous route, has been the most obvious omission from OpenCycleMap. Many of the long distance routes are now either complete or getting there - the Pennine Cycleway, Lon Las Cymru, the West Country Way, NCN 1, NCN 4 - but the C2C has remained only sporadically mapped.
When I tried to cycle the C2C the other year, I, er, fell off and mashed my face up. Other people are more competent than me and one chap has kindly allowed us to use his GPX tracklog.
So I've uploaded it and am working to map it with the help of NPE and existing, partly-tagged roads (ahem "only map places you've been" splutter). If you too are better at not falling off than I am, and have cycled the C2C, do join in.
Cycled from Charlbury to Cheltenham yesterday, having plotted an interesting-looking route on an OS map which turned out to be interesting in several ways - not least the passability (or otherwise) of several "tracks" which were in fact varying levels of quagmire. I'm trying to identify an NCN standard route from Charlbury to the other side of the Cotswolds. This wasn't it - well, not in its western sections, at least.
Despite that, I got to the outskirts of Cheltenham in sufficient time to be able to detour to Gloucester (and back) along NCN41, mostly unmapped until now, which turned out to be one of those uninspiring routes pieced together from housing estate roads and cut-throughs.
One of the most enjoyable OSM distractions is mapping utterly random bits of America, courtesy of Yahoo! imagery (which you all know about) and what is possibly Potlatch's best secret - OpenTopoMap, public domain US cartography.
The streets are all there already, of course, courtesy of TIGER. But rivers, tracks, disused railways and so on can all be added from Yahoo and OpenTopoMap, greatly enriching the map and providing a fun form of virtual tourism.
I've just enjoyed a virtual visit to the town of Potlatch, Idaho, and started tracing the River Palouse.
This post used to say 'test post thing', but now it says 'you can edit your diary entries now'. :)
Astonishing progress on the cycle map recently - I see route 41 has arrived east of Warwick, a bunch of stuff around the South Coast, some new routes in Scotland, loads of regional routes in Cheshire, and no doubt a load more I've not spotted. I've added NCN52 north of Nuneaton and the proposed route of NCN46 between Ledbury and Hereford. Good weather + long evenings = cycle mapping, clearly.
Took advantage of the wonderful weather and long evenings by going for a ride from Burton out to Ashby, Coalville and Loughborough - taking in as much of NCN52 and NCN6 as I could.
NCN52 is now done from the village of Heather to its northern terminus. NCN6 now has a continuous route from Foxton (near Market Harborough), through Leicester, Loughborough, and Derby, to Nottingham- bar a few hundred yards in Blaby (southern Leicester). Some lovely cycling, too - though the route through Coalville is definitely incomplete: a lonely Sustrans milepost stands in the town centre by an impressive bridge over a (barely used) railway, but there's no signposted route either side!
...got round to mapping the footpath around the back of our house.
It's not like we've lived here for eight years, and I've been involved in OSM for three-and-a-half, or anything like that.
One year old yesterday... seems like at least ten. Your mileage may vary whether this is a cause for celebration or commiseration, but I've enjoyed writing it, so far!
Two comments from an hour-and-a-half's mapping this balmy May evening:
"'Scuse me! 'Scuse me!" - angelic little cherub.
"Hello?" - me.
"He" (pointing to second angelic little cherub) "says my ass is really fat. Is it?"
(On railway phone) "Oh, hi, yeah, this is the duty crossing keeper at Clay Mills. Hi. We've had a suicidal male reported. No, I've not seen him anywhere. I've got two police trapped the other side of the crossing. No, no sign of him. It was his family phoned up, said he might be heading this way. Ok, well I reckon we just lift the restriction."
Ah, Burton. There's nowhere like it. Apart from perhaps a big steaming pile of shit next to a river somewhere.
Just got back from cycling NCN 68 - the Pennine Cycleway from Derby to Berwick-on-Tweed. Best Sustrans route I've ever done, bar none. And with eight days at one trackpoint every other second, there's a lot of mapping to do...
Quite a productive morning (after I eventually found the cafe!)... but then I lost half my notes, so had to retrace my steps in the afternoon. And by then it was time to go and catch the train home. Gah.
Still, for the benefit of anyone else sniffing around the same area, I've done the area I signed up for on the board (39), and a bit of the one to the south: the Rea Valley Drive estate, the Wychall Farm estate, the Fairway and the roads off it, and connected it back to the A441.
I've updated the Garmin cycle map script to cope with relations, and be a bit less fussy about the XML in planet.osm. It's in svn as usual.
You can now also download a prebuilt UK-only cycle map if you don't want to faff around with building your own.
In preparation for Long Bike Ride starting a week on Sunday, I did a hilly fifty-something mile stint on the NCN today - from Chepstow to Abergavenny on route 42, then on to Hereford on route 46.
Great fun even though I was utterly, utterly exhausted by the end of it and my legs still haven't recovered. Granny gear was engaged as early as the climb out of Chepstow, and Route 46 in particular is one for the "hills mean picturesque!" brigade (as opposed to "hills mean pain!"). I especially liked the extremely narrow road around Skirrid Fawr (it didn't quite get to the top, but felt like it) where, at one point, I had to 'reverse' to let an agricultural truck past - the road was that narrow. Of course, it helped that I was then rewarded with a lovely smile and a twinkly wave from the young female blonde ruddy-cheeked Welsh hill farmer who was driving said truck.
I was, however, a little miffed to find that all my effort to get to Hereford station for 5.50 (I think I made 5.48) was rewarded by a crap uncomfortable train with no buffet that was scheduled to wait at Shrub Hill for 15 minutes and Moreton-in-Marsh for 25. I mean, it could at least stop somewhere where there are shops. Or a takeaway.
I've started to use route relations for non-NCN cycle routes, such as the National Byway, and the Four Castles Cycle Route near Abergavenny. The concept fits really well. Just need to add a bit of Potlatch code to search for relations by name that aren't nearby...