by Gary on 4th May 2021 / 2 comments

Discover the countryside around you

Plan your perfect route

With 2021 looking like it's going to be the year of the staycation, many of us in the UK are going to be discovering new places. If you are doing it right, then you may be back again in 2022, 2023 ...

However, if you turn up somewhere new, or even if you have time to discover somewhere local, how do you get the best out of your time, or in corporate-speak - 'How do you get the most bang for your buck?' (So glad that's behind me)

Well, if you're in the UK, we have the Ordnance Survey Maps App.

The Pin image for our post - 'Getting the most from your Staycation'
Why not Pin it for later?

Why the OSMap App?

How will it help me?

Well, for a relatively small outlay of £23.99 a year* for the premium addition, you have a new world at your fingertips. In this post, I will cover that in more detail, but in summary, it will help you discover routes near a given railway station, find public car parks in the countryside, decide the gradients & distance you want to cover, and most importantly - is there a pub on the route. There's obviously a lot more, and I'll cover that as we go.

*Alternative Options: There is the free option, all you need to do is register, but you do have limited functionality or you can opt for £2.99 a month, but it works out more expensive over 12 months

A golden field of freshly cut and rolled hay bales under a wispy blue sky
Freshly rolled hay in the countryside

The OS Map App is available on web-based for PC's & Mac's, and there is an app offering for iOS & Android. I'll cover desktop & iOS usages in this article.

Trust me when I say with this app, with all the experience of Ordnance Survey behind it, you'll get to see the world around you in a new light. In particular, it will help you discover something new.

Where to stay in the heart of Kent

- The Woolpack Hotel - Located in the centre of Tenterden, this historic inn offers delightful rooms within traditional surroundings. A delicious full English breakfast is included in the price.
- The George Hotel & Brasserie - Choose the George Hotel for a beautiful stay in the heart of Cranbrook. The historic building is full of character and offers a delicious breakfast.
- The Dog and Bear Hotel - Located in the picturesque market square of Lenham. They offer cosy, stylish bedrooms, open fireplaces & local seasonal fare in their traditional restaurant.

Country walks near me

How the OSMap App will help you

As you may or may not know, Janis & I live in a small village in the county of Kent (That's the very southeast corner of the UK, if you didn't know).

You may have caught our post on our Local War Memorial, and our day trip around Northern France to find their commemoration in the CWGC cemeteries scattered around the region

Well, with the power of the OS Map App, it allowed us to explore the network of footpaths, bridleways & byways that surround us, as well as understanding the terrain, and more importantly, the gradients (we live in the shadow of the North Downs)

An introduction to the OSMaps App

I sit at a desk for a lot of the day when I'm not travelling, in front of my trusty PC, so I often start with the web-based version at https://osmaps.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/

As I mentioned earlier, I am using the premium addition; the free version will have limited functionality, but that's okay I'll include screenshots. I'll start with the standard view of the southeast of England. I've switched on the weather in the 'places' menu too, and it shows I'm sitting inside writing this on a lovely sunny day - what am I mad?

A desktop screenshot of the OSMaps apps stand view of the county of Kent
The standard view of the southeast of England

Now, let me touch on that places menu. This provides you with a wealth of information for planning a trip, from car parks, places to stay, beaches, and some items I found pretty obscure. I had to look up the definition of a Marilyn (a mountain or hill with a relative height of at least 150 metres)

There are 7 different layer views; Standard, Aerial, National Park pathways, Greenspace, National Cycle Network, OS Leisure Maps & Aerial 3D. A couple of the layers then cycle through different scales. The OS Leisure Maps, for example, provide 1:1M, 1:1250k, 1:50k & 1:25K.

A desktop screenshot of the OSMaps apps 1:50k view of the area surround Eccles in Kent
The 1:50k view of Eccles in Kent
A desktop screenshot of the OSMaps apps 1:25k view of the area surround Eccles in Kent
The 1:25k view of Eccles in Kent

That's pretty impressive, and you did see that correctly £23.99 for an annual subscription that you can stop at any time.

Are you starting to see how this can help you get a little more from your staycation?

* All Ordnance Survey screenshots ©Crown copyright 2021 Ordnance Survey. Media 058/21 

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Is the OSMap App good value?

Are you not sold already?
Well, I think it is, but I guess I still need to sell it to you.  Let me create this hypothetical scenario for you.  You're planning on coming to the southeast, specifically Kent, for your staycation.
The Harbour at Margate on a bright day at low tide. Some boats are stranded on the sand banks and others partially floated. You can see the Harbour arm leading to the lighthouse at the tip of the Harbour’s edge.
The little harbour in Margate, Kent

You saw our post on Margate; you thought it looks lovely, but you wanted to opt for a Holiday Cottage to give you some flexibility to explore.

Well, you like the look at the Beach House at Westgate.  Let's take a look at the OS Maps app.

A desktop screenshot of the OSMaps apps 1:50k view of the coastline from Westgate-on-Sea to Margate in Kent
The 1:50k view of Westgate-on-Sea

You can see you're not in the wilderness, and Margate is only a short distance away,

Check the Map Legend and;

A desktop screenshot of the OSMaps apps 1:50k Map Legend
The 1:50k Map Legend
Wow, there's a nearly traffic-free tour along the coast path to Margate, but is that realistic for the family? Let's find out.

Escape for a few days

Are you in search of a tranquil hideaway to relax and unwind in, while you discover the beautiful British countryside?

Browse through the handpicked properties and unique retreats at Holiday Cottages.

Planning your First Route

Getting the most out of the OS Map App
Creating a route is as easy as it should be. Select Routes, a pop-out menu appears on the left, and you select 'Create New Route'. Click on points along the route, and in no time, you have your answer. Check the left-hand pane again, and you can see it's 1.91 miles. At the bottom, you also get the gradient profile and happy days; it's as flat as a pancake.
A desktop screenshot of our planned route from Westgate-on-Sea to Margate on the OSMaps
Our planned route from Westgate-on-Sea to Margate

There's also more information, it's about a 38-minute walk, but if we take the bikes it's 9-minutes. You can now save your route

That route is now available on all your devices

OSMaps app on the Smartphone

Because I'm not dragging my laptop around
Well, the good news is the app is seamless across platforms. When I check my routes in the OS Maps app on my phone, it's there. Again, on the smartphone, I have a selection of layers I can load, and my route is not tied to the layer I created it on.
An iOS screenshot from OSMaps of our route details
Our route - now on our smartphone
The route details on our smartphone
The route details on our smartphone

And if you're worried about data consumption on your device, well, you can download the base map. If you expand the route, you can see additional information such as the terrain profile.

Of course, you could have created the whole route on your smart device or tablet; there's no need for a PC. I'm just sitting at my desk, dreaming of a box of fish 'n' chips by the sea.

A small portion of Fish 'n' Chips in a cardboard container by the sea at Margate, Kent
Fish 'n' Chips in Margate

Printing Maps from the OSMap App

Because I'm old school

Actually, there are many practical reasons why you would want to print the map out. The most likely one is that your device has run out of charge (surely not, you must have a USB battery pack)

Well, the good news is with the premium version, you can print out up to A3, I think most of us will be satisfied with the A4 option, but it's good to have the added option should we know anyone with an A3 printer.

Why would I want an annual subscription to OSMaps?

Let me take you back to the beginning
Take a look at the area around where you live, turn on some of the place markers (perhaps leave Marilyn's unchecked), is there anything that intrigues you? Or if you live in a city, what about jumping on a train out to the countryside. Lets say the hour or so journey from London to Shoreham in Kent, deep in the Darenth Valley
A desktop screenshot of a planned route in Shoreham in Kent
An idea of a potential route
Well, there's plenty of options, and I even see a couple of pubs.  However,  I did say it was in a valley. Look at those contour lines.  And now, let's look at the Aerial 3d versions with those contour lines turned on.
You're going to earn that pint, I think.  And another feature of the OSMaps app.  The 3D fly-through.
So what do you think? Could a subscription be for you?

So is that everything?

What else can OSMaps do?

Not by a long shot; there is so much more. However, I couldn't fit it into this article. I haven't explored all the features yet, and I have some other ideas for how we can use the app to improve our travel planning. I guess that means there will be another post with some tips on using the OSMaps App.

Until then, another Staycation shot.

A motor cruiser navigating the River Medway at dusk under a deep red sky
A motor cruiser on the River Medway, Kent

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