I’ve just spent the morning walking some of the local footpaths around my home. This is not an unusual activity, I do a lot of walking close to home, but this time I had a purpose. I was trying to walk all the footpaths inside certain OS squares. The reason for this is explained in the video below, from the Ramblers.
So, I thought, rather than walk aimlessly along the same, easy to reach paths, I’ll adopt all the squares round my house and walk them methodically. I’m not much of a ‘joiner in’ normally, but I actually really liked the sound of this project and even though I’m not a member of the Ramblers, I decided to sign up to the project (it’s free and you don’t need to join the Ramblers to take part) and see how many squares I could tick off.
There’s a website to support your activities (you can find it here) and here is where you find squares, adopt them and submit your reports. There’s also an app for smartphones, but more on that in a minute. You can adopt up to 10 squares at a time, which is more than enough I think, and you can even adopt squares that have already been adopted – nothing wrong with more feet on the ground and more eyes open for problems.
The website shows squares you’ve adopted in pink and once you’ve walked all the footpaths or bridleways and recorded anything of interest, both good and bad, you ‘complete’ the square and it turns green. On my travels today and my walk last weekend I managed to complete nine squares – identifying 32 different features of interest and walking 14km on the paths themselves.
My activities actually got me onto the Leaderboard – for a fleeting time I’m sure, but nevertheless, I was pleased. I had a good day, exploring quite a lot of new paths in an area I thought I knew well and had fun identifying items of interest, broken stiles, missing signs and so on. I attached photos to most of the entries I made and I think this could be a valuable future resource – on a par with the Geograph project, providing they make the photos available at the end of the project.
The Leaderboard is interesting – sorted by Features Recorded or by Km Surveyed you see the people who are actually participating in the way I think the Ramblers would want people to be participating. Sort it by Squares Completed and you get a different picture – a number of people seem to be adopting and completing squares with no Rights of Way in them – no paths to walk, just squares ticked off, which seems a little pointless. I think the right approach is quality rather than quantity!
The mobile app is definitely what I would call a v1.0 app. It’s a first attempt and it sort of does the job, but it’s a long way from polished. It downloads the squares you’ve adopted and it lets you add notes and photos to the square and it allows you to share your results via Facebook and Twitter. Which is OK for the time being, but I hope they continue to develop the app, even though the project is only due to run until the end of the year.
If you need an excuse to get out and walk some local (or not so local) paths, then this may be just the incentive you’ve been looking for and you help identify problem paths and perhaps help to get those problems fixed. Just don’t go adopting ’empty’ squares!