The Ordnance Survey explore websiteBritain’s official mapping agency has launched a website for you to share your favourite routes.

Ordnance Survey (OS) hopes the new site, explore, will quickly become a hub for anyone planning an outdoors trip. As well as plotting a route on OS maps, contributors can leave comments and photographs of their favourite walks, cycling routes or even canoeing courses.

The Ordnance Survey explore website 

The site is still in a beta format, so there may be an odd glitch to iron out, but there are already quite a few routes loaded including, somewhat surreally, a route description in French of a walk to Durness Beach which the author says was used by John Lennon during holiday visits to his aunt.

The site is free to use, though you have to register to upload routes and comments, and the licence allows printing off of up to ten screengrabs of a route. Maximum scale of the maps is 1:50,000 and not all of the routes are of a challenging, outdoors nature. One of the popular routes, for instance, is a pub crawl itinerary from Southampton University union calling at six watering holes – suspiciously close to the OS offices, we think!

There are some longer, less alcohol-oriented walks and cycle routes on the site and, of course, the variety should grow as more contributors add their favourites.

Bridget Kendrick, head of the OS explore team, said: “We’re very excited about building an online outdoor community and hope visitors will enjoy using the site.

“We want to foster an environment where users can interact, share and create an online destination for all outdoor enthusiasts. I think we’re on our way to achieving that. It is currently a beta version though, which means we want to hear feedback from users and visitors so we can make explore the online destination of choice.”

Some of the comments on the site’s blog suggest the OS still has some work to do on that front. The terms of the site specifically forbid hypertext linking to the site, so anyone who posts a route on explore can’t actually link to it from, say their own website or Facebook page. There’s disquiet, too, with the fact that you assign to OS the right to exploit any of your routes commercially, though the agency doesn’t try a complete copyright grab.

The OS is notoriously protective of its own copyright and has resisted any slackening of rules. Geographic information systems are big business these days and are used by many bodies from local authorities to marketing companies. The OS also operates very strict rules for licensing its products and as a Government ‘trading fund’ says it has a duty to maximise income from its business.

You can try out the explore site and then let us know what you think. How about some more foreign language descriptions of the haunts of dead celebs? Or a guide to whisky stops on the West Highland Way? Over to you.