Tuesday, May 8

Trig Point Bagging

Before the advent of cheaply available GPS technology Triangulation Points (aka Trig Points or Trig Pillars) were the bees knees when it came to the 'Where the hell are we?' question.

For many of us today, they still define the top of a hill, or provide a specific point to aim for. Or just to rest the back against; To keep out of the wind.

The joy of trigs, those lumps of concrete sat patiently attendant in lonely places, is their timelessness. But in reality they are less than 100 years old, and came into being to support the 1935 exercise to accurately map Great Britain.

An abbreviated history of their role can be found in this article by Nicholas Crane (of BBC TV's Map Man fame)

When the Ordinance Survey announced the demise of the trig points back in the 1990s the backlash caused them to think laterally, which turned out quite a wizard idea. For a large organisation - almost unique!
The OS decided to offer adoption of said trig points. And not to exclusive organisations. But to those that cared about them. The walking public at large.

Questions were raised in parliament, answers given, and a code of practice drawn up.

My particular orphan (TP7066 - Woolsbarrow Hill in Wareham Forest, Dorset; SY892925) was formally introduced to my family in July 1994.

Prior to that I'd been a frequent visitor due to its exceptional location on a hill fort overlooking the Purbeck Hills to the south. At that time the surrounding land was covered by pine forest, situated as it is on Forestry Commission property. Over the years logging operations have removed most of the woodland, and with it some of the hidden mystique of this area, especially when one of the many conservancy operations decided to denude the hill top.

But for me it's still a special place. A place I've sat for hours watching the clouds; A place I've introduced to others; Never a place I've stayed overnight, but hey, who knows what the future will bring?

It's by no means the nearest trig point to me, like this (the one with the parrot buried nearby; Don't ask!) or this or this or even this as ideally placed as it is overlooking the sea.

But old '66 has been an old friend over the years. And one that I enjoy returning to again and again to renew old ties.

If you want to find out what's nearest to you I'd suggest starting with Trigpointinguk.com a web-based labour of love, which currently has a database of 7,419 pillars. It's a small percentage of the 750,000 'lower order benchmarks' once used by the OS. A grand start.

Now how far do you think that the idea of depositing dull slabs of grey concrete in lonely places would get today, if it was to come up?


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