b-unicycling's Diary

Recent diary entries

Busman's holiday

Posted by b-unicycling on 26 September 2021 in English (English).

Last week, I went on a short holiday to Co. Cork, and since I seem to be a workaholic, I did A LOT of mapping. One of the things I had on my to-do list was mapping local bus routes, because I personally depend on them (because I care about the planet and don’t drive) and because they are barely mapped. Part of the reason being that some of the bus routes are fairly new. Obviously, I didn’t want to spend all my days on the bus, so I only mapped the ones I actually needed to take to get from one accommodation to the next. That was Youghal to Timoleague and then back to Cork (because the first trip was during the week and the second on a Saturday, so the bus schedule was different). I had met two women in my accommodation in Timoleague who were also only travelling on public transport, one from Dublin, one from California. They both agreed that it was very difficult, because the timetables aren’t available or do not match the actual departure time of the bus. Also, to book a ticket for Bus Éireann (which is not even possible for all their buses), you need to know the exact name of the bus stop you’re going to. You’re not gonna know that unless you know the bus stop. Some of the bus stop names refer to landmarks which are gone (pub/ shop names). So you end up asking a lot of locals to find out where the bus leaves, because a high percentage of local bus stops don’t even have a sign to mark them as bus stops. So anyway, I made a start on the routes 237, 239 and 253 using OSMTracker for Android. I guess it would be good to add payment method as well, because most of those buses only take cash and some buses (in Dublin) only take the exact change, which is something important to know.

Obviously, I did way more mapping like vacant buildings, benchmarks and jostle stones (overpass-turbo) as well as addresses (Youghal needed it).

Location: Timoleague, The Municipal District of Bandon – Kinsale, County Cork, Munster, P72DX23, Ireland

mapping holy wells

Posted by b-unicycling on 27 August 2021 in English (English).

On my Facebook page OSMForHistoryBuffs, I’m following a group about holy wells in Ireland, because that is one of my peripheral interests when mapping. People post there about holy wells they have visited, often with a number of photographs. Sometimes people ask for an exact location and are given a googlemaps pin (ugh). When I feel like it, I try to find out where these holy wells are and add them to OSM, obviously I try to avoid the GoogleMaps pin. Often enough, the wells are on the British War Office layer and can be made out on Esri imagery anyway. Sometimes I do then post a link to OSM in that group saying “I’ve added it, look here”.

I’m not sure it is gonna make anyone start mapping, but at least OSM will be better than GoogleMaps as regards to holy wells.

Location: Shanakill, Tralee Rural ED, Tralee, County Kerry, Munster, V92 N9FT, Ireland

mapping rural bus routes in Ireland

Posted by b-unicycling on 5 May 2021 in English (English).

When I moved to Ireland from Germany four years ago, I found it hard to adjust to the lack of public transport and the lack of transparency. I don’t have a driver’s license, so I kind of rely on it and I don’t mind it too much, even though it is inconvenient when there are only two buses a day. But this low frequency would require more transparency, IMHO, i.e. it should be easy to find out when and WHERE the buses leave. But no, that is a well kept secret in Ireland in my experience. Most rural bus stops have no signage whatsoever, so you have to rely on asking locals where the bus stop is. Or when you go somewhere, you have to ask the driver at arrival, where the bus stop for the return travel is. But you might forget. Or you might be shy. Or not speak the language.

Today, I went on a 15 min journey (yes, really far) on the bus. When I was waiting for it to arrive, I noticed two other companies’ coaches/ buses waiting. One of them serves the whole Republic and has a website, the other one not at all, at least I couldn’t find it. How do people know when the bus leaves, let alone where? I’m sure there are other people like me who want to travel eco-friendly, and, if they’re traveling as tourists, might want to meet locals by using public transport rather than hiring a car. (This was our means of transport, when I was traveling Turkey with two friends and I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.)

The only way I see how to map the routes is actually take the bus and record all the stops and the route it takes. Really basic stuff, but I think it would make public transport more accessible. I’ve started today, but I only went as far as the first stop, so I’ll have to go the whole route another time.

Location: Kilkenny No.2 Urban, The Municipal District of Kilkenny City, County Kilkenny, Leinster, Ireland

Mass rocks

Posted by b-unicycling on 19 April 2021 in English (English).

As one of my efforts to improve the mapping of heritage features in Ireland, i started a proposal to be able to map mass rocks recently. I thought they were only “a thing” in Ireland until yesterday, when my aunt in Germany shared a photograph of the hilltop of the Sonnenstein on WhatsApp. In front of the massive cross that she probably tried to take the picture of, I discovered a boulder that looked suspiciously like a mass rock, but I could find no information online about it and it is only mapped as natural=stone. The area around that hill is a Catholic enclave in what is really core Lutheran country. So I sent an email to the tourism office of that parish/ area, asking whether they knew if it was a mass rock (which I translated as Altarstein in my email). I just got a reply from them (I’m still waiting to hear back about an email I sent 3 weeks ago to the Bishop of Ossory about holy wells) today and my suspicion was confirmed. It was put there in the 1950s (so under communist rule, when religion was frowned upon, to say the least) and is still used.

I’m very excited and I hope my proposal gets approved, so I can map this mass rock.

Location: Holungen, Sonnenstein, Landkreis Eichsfeld, Thuringia, Germany

improving tagging of historical features in Ireland

Posted by b-unicycling on 20 January 2021 in English (English).

I’ve come to notice (and it wasn’t a surprise) that rural areas and especially the historical features there (castles, churches, standing stones, dolmens) in Ireland are somewhat poorly tagged. Now, to be fair, I haven’t compared with other countries, but I think a lot needs to be done there. The main reason is probably that OSM is still not known enough in Ireland amongst the demographic that is interested in this area of history, but I’m trying to tackle that with my YouTube series.

Another reason is maybe simply the lack of appropriate keys and values in Ireland, which results from too few people trying to map them. I will try to propose several keys/ values which I think are both essential for tagging historical places and features and will also entice new mappers to use them in their locality.

The first one are guard stones, which are by no means limited to Ireland, but there happen to be dozens in Kilkenny and it was suggested by a non-mapper that they could be included. The voting process is open now.

The next one will be ogham stones for which the proposal is open and the voting will start within the next couple of days.

I would also like to tag former building uses like creameries and RIC barracks which are now often re-used or derelict. Creameries were the social hub of the village or town where everyone would meet and exchange the latest gossip, so they played a vital part for the locality and have historical value through that.

I have used castle_type=towerhouse wherever I knew from having been there or could see on the satellite view it was one. There is no official tag, but castle_type=userdefined is allowed.

Another feature worthy of tagging is sheela-na-gig (see on Wikipedia), I’m just not quite sure if it should have its own icon. :D

OSM for historians

Posted by b-unicycling on 10 January 2021 in English (English).

If anyone is interested, I have started a series of YouTube tutorials to help historically interested people discover OpenStreetMap and learn how to use OSM, uMap etc. I’m using Ireland as an example, but some things might apply to other countries as well: YouTube Playlist

I started with the “basic basics”, because the majority of people in Ireland have not heard of OSM unfortunately.

Covid and shop survey

Posted by b-unicycling on 30 December 2020 in English (English).

The historical society I am a member of does surveys of their main shopping streets about every ten years and I suggested they do one after Covid, because it will affect and has affected the high streets already. They’re not the fastest to realize projects, so I just started already, because OSM will benefit anyway. I’ve done High Street, Kieran Street, parts of Patrick Street and today Rose Inn Street. I’m using a combination of StreetComplete and osmtracker, because StreetComplete doesn’t allow for adding shops etc. But it allows to add housenumbers, which is about time. I’ve noticed that very few shops have their opening hours on the door, so if they’re still open, I usually go in (all masked up, of course) and ask. Sometimes, I have to do that for house numbers as well. I’m looking forward to the streets being less busy (the advantages of lockdown and shops being closed, ironically), because the sidewalks are often very narrow in Kilkenny and surveying takes a lot of time and I don’t like being in the way.

Location: Kilkenny, The Municipal District of Kilkenny City, County Kilkenny, Leinster, Ireland

guard stones/ jostle stones

Posted by b-unicycling on 5 December 2020 in English (English).

Apart from taking part in the OSM Ireland project to map all buildings on the island, most of my constributions are of historical features. I’m also always trying to convince other historically interested people of the merits of OSM. So when a friend and fellow member of the Kilkenny Archaeological Society asked me whether jostle stones (Wiki link) could be mapped on OSM, I said “sure”. Only slight problem being that there is no key for them - yet. So I started a proposal on the OSM wiki. Please join the discussion and the vote, once it starts.

While I was preparing the proposal, I asked around in my family if someone could send me pictures. I was 90% sure my aunt in Leipzig, Germany lives in a house with guard stones, because it used to be a printing house in the 19th century and has a huge gateway. She didn’t think so, but she checked, and there are. I just thought it was funny that I remembered them being there (I haven’t seen that house in about two years) and she has been living there for at least five years and never noticed them.

It took us a while to find out the name for them in German - there are actually a few. I put all my hopes unto my grandmother who used to work for the Heritage Council, and she did deliver. She didn’t know right away, but she knew where to look it up. It’s curious, that very few people know the name for them, even though they are omnipresent in historic town and city centres. At least that is the situation in Ireland and Germany. But raising awareness might keep the word(s) in the collective vocabulary a bit longer.

I think it would make for a nice Heritage Week project to map jostle stones (that seems to be the Hiberno-English word for it) in Kilkenny or even the whole of Ireland. It could be a way to get new mappers with a local history background. Or people who map for visually impaired map users.

Mile Bushes

Posted by b-unicycling on 7 September 2020 in English (English).

While I was collecting fieldnames in my area, my landlord gave me the name of one of his family’s fields as “Mile Bush”. Apart from thinking that it must be a mile from Kilkenny, I didn’t think much of it. Some weeks later, I got fieldnames from a different friend a bit to the east and my friend gave me locations named “Mile Bush”, both being bends in the road, and both being a mile from Kilkenny (1 and 2). It doesn’t actually matter whether it’s an Irish mile or a statute mile, both will bring you into Kilkenny. So I posted on Facebook, if anyone knew any other ones, and another one at the border between Kilkenny and Carlow was pointed out. That one is a mile to Old Leighlinbridge. I consulted O’Kelly’s “Placenames of County Kilkenny” and found another one near Rosbercon, which I had the fortune of visiting today (I don’t drive, but a friend drove me to New Ross to look for benchmarks and we took the scenic route back). This one does actually have a bush or rather a tree growing there with a sign saying “Mile Bush”, so I added that to the map today. There is a townsland in Clare (?) according to with Milebush in its name. These are the only ones I have found so far, but I’m convinced there must be more. People 200 and more years ago surely asked “Are we nearly there yet” as well. ;-)

Westmeath Field Names Recording Project (Ireland)

Posted by b-unicycling on 11 July 2020 in English (English).

I finally got in contact with the person responsible for the Westmeath Field Names Recording Project (Aengus Finnegan) last week. I asked him whether it would be possible to use the data collected by them and to add them to OSM and he saw no problem saying they were published on logainm under Creative Commons license. So I have started transfering the data, but it is slow going, because I don’t have a list of townlands covered by the project, they don’t have one on the website. Also, they didn’t mark the fields as areas, but just with markers, so it is tricky to know where one field ends and the next one starts.

I believe they used the Ordnance Survey 25’’ map which was finished/ published in 1913. Of course, field boundaries have changed since then, i.e. fields have been merged into bigger ones.

But with all the complaining, it is great to have them available for OSM!

Location: Fore East ED, The Municipal District of Mullingar — Kinnegad, County Westmeath, Leinster, Ireland

Field names: lucky map find (Ireland)

Posted by b-unicycling on 29 May 2020 in English (English).

Luckily, I’m well connected with the right people (at least in this case), and people know my obsessions about benchmarks and field names. I had been surveying Cramersgrove in Co. Kilkenny and a friend said that “we” (in this case Kilkenny Archaeological Society) had a c 1815 Coghill Estate map in our archives with field names on it. Again luckily during lockdown, I have a key to the archives, because I was doing some work there at the beginning of lockdown, so I had a root around. The problem with those maps is that they are all rolled up and you don’t know what’s on them until they’re unrolled and not all of them are labelled. But I found the right one! And it does have field names on it and some match the ones I got from the farmer who lives there now. His great-grandfather must have been purchasing that land about the time that map was made. That should be well out of copyright and I should be allowed to add the historical names. If there is a tag…

The field with the pin is Bonnahilla on the 1816 map. A bit of a different spelling to Bawn na haille.

Location: Ballyfoyle, The Municipal District of Castlecomer, County Kilkenny, Leinster, R95 HH99, Ireland

Fieldnames: don't forget HerStory

Posted by b-unicycling on 28 May 2020 in English (English).

It occured to me today that when “we” are out inquiring about field names from farmers, we usually only get the names on the farm we are on or maybe neighbouring farms. I think what is very important to consider is asking the wife in the house (if she’s not already the informant) about her homestead. It’s likely that she grew up on a farm as well. And she could be from some remote area that the surveyor (“we”) is not likely to get to any time soon.

Of course you have to be prepared for that eventuality. Going out to the farm with FieldPapers of that farm won’t be any use for the wife from further afield (pun not intended). Taking a laptop, praying for good broadband and using OSM there and then might be the better strategy. If she doesn’t remember, she might still have a brother or nephew on the home farm. Once the contact is established, a FieldPaper atlas could be sent to him. She will be able to explain it to him in their own words rather than in our mappers’ lingo.

This is all academic so far; I haven’t had a chance to try it. Yet.

field names and how to tag them (Ireland)

Posted by b-unicycling on 27 May 2020 in English (English).

So, after I got a couple more field names from yesterday’s farmer, I went and ran an overpass-turbo query for fieldnames by looking for landuse=farmland, landuse=meadow and landuse=orchard plus name=*. It came up with about 700 results and i zoomed into most of them.

Here is what I found how to do better in my opinion:

  1. Don’t tag a whole farm as “landuse=farmland”. If Old MacDonald had a farm, line out every field in it and tag them individually as “landuse=farmland” or “landuse=meadow” or whatever they are.
  2. Don’t ever use “name=field” for a field. Obviously, it is a field. You can call a spade a spade, but don’t name tag a field as a field. Especially, don’t tag eight fields in a row as “name=field”. Names are used to differentiate between two or more similar items. if you had five dogs in your family, you wouldn’t refer to them all as “dog”.

Anyway, I had to bring the number down to 670 by correcting all this. That is very few field names indeed. And it should actually be lower than that, because some village greens are tagged as “landuse=meadow”, when there should be something like “leisure=green”. In my understanding of the English language, a meadow is the land adjacent to a stream or river, but then again, I’m not a native speaker.

Sorry for getting so angry.

Location: Kilkenny Rural, The Municipal District of Kilkenny City, County Kilkenny, Leinster, Ireland

More field names

Posted by b-unicycling on 26 May 2020 in English (English).

I have befriended this farmer who has given me a lot of field names today. His family has been on the land for five generations, so some of the names are in Irish, but we both had no idea how to spell them. So I spelled them how I would spell them and then looked the townsland up in Owen O’Kelly’s Book “Place-names of County Kilkenny” and tried to match them up, but my Irish is really bad and not sufficient for such a job.

I also found a benchmark on his land which I had overlooked earlier.

I have another list of 80 odd field names I got today from a different townsland (Ruthstown) and it looks like I got all the fields in that townsland. I have my work cut out for me. I hope DeBigC and Sascha are gonna be pleased. I am.

Location: Ballyfoyle, The Municipal District of Castlecomer, County Kilkenny, Leinster, R95 HH99, Ireland

field names as records of history

Posted by b-unicycling on 15 May 2020 in English (English).

So, I had made this umap of field names done in Ireland using overpass-turbo (learning so much, it’s amazing!), and I noticed someone had done tremendous work in Bannow Bay, which is where the Normans first landed and there are some very interesting field names there. There is a Chapel Field and one was Roche’s Field, a common Norman name in Wexford. It just goes to show how much history is captured in those field names. And also The Blue Bell, how cute is that?

And I have actually been there and like many other mappers, I do go into OSM when I visit a place and might add a few things. So I knew for certain that these were recent additions. I much appreciate Sascha’s contribution. I wish him success in continuing his work there. Maybe I’ll get a chance to add some in Cullenstown, not too far from there.

Location: Bannow ED, The Borough District of Wexford, County Wexford, Leinster, Ireland

Tutorials on FieldPapers

Posted by b-unicycling on 14 May 2020 in English (English).

Exciting, first entry: So, I’ve been interested in fieldnames in Ireland for a while. Maybe because it’s so exotic to me, because I’m not from a farming background and I’m not aware they exist in Germany. Maybe because it’s oral history and highly underrated by scholars and taken for granted by farmers, i.e. they don’t see the value in their personal heritage (“Sure, that’s just the name we use, like.”).

I’m also a member of Kilkenny Archaeological Society and always on the lookout for group projects that might bring new members into the society or just a bit more engagement with actual people rather than books or bones.

Anyway, being a newbie on FieldPapers, I thought I’d give it at try. I had got a glimps into FieldPapers during the talk Ciarán gave. I liked the idea that a group of people could work together, maybe even in a school project. Gotta get them mappers young!

The first video is about how to make the atlas, the second about how to use the png files in the iD editor. I thought JOSM was a bit too techical and scary for beginners. It’s also not terribly more useful for field names than the iD Editor is. I had made a tutorial before that of just using the iD editor.

I had sent links to a couple of historical and archaeological societies I found on Facebook, the ones that did reply (lockdown + expected demographic = non responsive) were throughout postitive about it and shared it on their page. I just picked some random ones where county names came to mind. I should send out a few more to the Wesht, before it’s too late.

Location: Abbey Creative Quarter, Kilkenny, The Municipal District of Kilkenny City, County Kilkenny, Leinster, Ireland