Welcome to Hertfordshire Walker

CPRE Hertfordshire double award winner 2022

Creating a walk

Willow Lakes
Willow Lakes
One of the regular users of Hertfordshire Walker asked how long it takes to plan, map and publish one of our routes. So I worked it out. The whole process takes about 12 hours. For anyone interested, here's how it works.

Preparation = three hours


Screen grab of the Hertfordshire Walker Google map showing all starting points
We have a map showing all starting points
The first job is to decide on a new area of Hertfordshire to explore. We have a map showing all the starting points for our walks, so I usually open that in order to look for gaps.

We try to avoid walking through built-up areas unless it is absolutely necessary for creating a loop or accessing areas we would like to visit.

To plot a route I use the Ordnance Survey (OS) app (and sometimes OS maps) to search for public rights of way that cross open countryside and, if possible, pass a pub.

The following screenshot, taken from my OS app, shows countryside near Essendon in Hertfordshire. The green lines are footpaths or bridleways. The blue tankard marker is a pub, The Woodman at Wildhill.

Screenshot of the OS app
Screenshot of the OS app
I then use the 'plot a route' function on the OS app or on the OS site to create the first version of the new walk. You simply click along the footpaths, bridleways, and byways until the walk is completed. Other GPS navigation apps offer similar functionality.

When the outline for the walk is complete I give it a name and mark it as private (because I need to test it before making it public). Once saved, the app shows the distance and the elevation of the walk. I make a note of these details to add to the walk's directions later in the process.

Maphub
Screenshot of the MapHub site
Once the route is saved I then export the associated GPS file and save it on my desktop. I then go to the free MapHub site, create a new route, import the GPS file, give the walk a name, then save.

Still on the MapHub site I then zoom in on the new map and carefully plot a new route over the OS route imported earlier making sure that every bend and turn is accurate. It's important at this point to zoom in as much as possible to ensure that no detail is missed. I then save the new route again, delete the imported OS GPS route, and make a note of the new distance (because it will have changed).

The next job is to add more information to the MapHub map. At this point I add markers to show the start/finish point(s), junctions, any points of interest, and pubs. We have a page which lists all the pubs on or close by our routes.

I then visit the Hertfordshire County Council (HCC) Rights of Way (ROW) page and open the 'definitive map'. According to HCC the map is: "A legal record of public rights of way in Hertfordshire". It is also available in a Google Maps version so you can check as you walk.

Screenshot of a HCC ROW map
Screenshot of a HCC ROW map
Working with two pages open on my desktop I then compare the HCC ROW definitive map with the new route. The HCC map shows the number of each ROW including the parish name. I make a note of each to include when writing the directions for the new walk later. Every ROW in Hertfordshire has a parish name and number, those that run along parish boundaries sometimes have two.

I then return to the new map in MapHub and measure the distance between each point along the way as well as making a note of the compass points for the direction of the route.

Using a text editor - I use the free BBEdit - I start writing the script. BBEdit enables me to include basic computer code written in html. I create a new line for each marker point used earlier on the MapHub map.

I then add basic information such as direction, distance, ROW names and numbers and leave a space at the end of each line for the location of junctions.

Next I open the What3Words (W3W) location tool and study the new route using their satellite image option. At each junction in the walk I click on the spot on W3W, save the reference, copy the link, then paste it into the script in the (location - ) box at the end of each section.

Screen grab of W3W showing some of the Hertfordshire Walker location points
Screenshot showing some of the location on W3W
At this point the script is a simply a set of instructions and information without any description. That comes later after the walk is tested.

I then save all the work in the OS app, MapHub, W3W, and in my text editor, then print out copies so that I can check the details against the actual route when testing the walk.

All the above takes about three hours.

Fieldwork = five hours


We then set off for the walk. My wife, Ellie, looks after all the mapping and navigation as we test the route while I make notes and take photographs for every turn. I always try to take a few extra photos in order to pick one that is an attractive representation of the walk.

We feel it is important to walk every inch of every route to ensure that the GPS directions are correct and that what looks possible on the app and map is actually doable. 

As we walk the route we are continually checking the accuracy of the GPS files. Ellie wears a GPS tracking device so that she can record a new version of the route. She sends this to me after the walk so that I can upload it to MapHub to check the route we created before setting off on the walk. I then merge the two making adjustments where necessary before saving the final version.

Always check the signs against the numbers on the definitive map
We always check the signs against the numbers on the definitive map
As we walk we check the signposts along the way, saving W3W references at all junctions and particularly at complicated turns.

At all times we are prepared to re-route if necessary. Sometimes we have to retrace our steps and have a rethink. We have often found that we have walked up to nine miles when testing a six mile walk.

We once received a message from a walker who described herself as a “mum with two kids and a dog”. She pointed out that one section of a walk on Hertfordshire Walker went along a road with no pavement and that she had struggled to keep her two children and the dog safe from speeding cars.

We went back, tested the walk, and realised that it was not safe. So we rerouted the walk to avoid the busy road. We now apply the “mum with two kids and a dog” test to all our routes, which means that we avoid busy roads or lanes where there isn’t a pavement for pedestrians.

Occasionally we will include a short section of lane in order to create a loop, but we are always careful to make sure that it is not busy and that there is at least a grass verge for people to step onto if traffic approaches.

If the route is starting or finishing at a pub, or passing one along the way, and if that pub is open, we will often pop in to check it out. However, because we start early, many of the pubs are not open when we are passing, so we have not tested all the pubs we have listed on Hertfordshire Walker.

Allowing for all the stopping and starting mentioned above, a six mile route could take up to five hours to complete. The last thing you want to do is rush it and miss important details along the way.

I also like to stop and check birdsong using the free BirdNet app and identify wild flowers using the free Google Lense on my phone, so that delays us a bit, too.

Processing = four hours


Once home the new information has to be merged with the earlier work and the webpage for the walk created. I have a large screen on my computer and can have several applications open at the same time which makes the work easier.

I open the map created before setting off on the walk and upload the new GPS, see where it differs from the one created online or in the app, then adjust where necessary. It is important to make sure there is just one GPS route after this process - the correct one - and that all others have been deleted. This is because anyone downloading the finished product needs to be confident it is accurate.

I then copy the link to the GPS route from MapHub in both GPX and KLM and add them to the directions.

The next task is to download the map and format it so that it will work on the online version of Hertfordshire Walker and the mobile version.

It is important to give full attribution for copyright purposes. That is why every map used on our site has the copyright details included. All the photographs and text on Hertfordshire Walker are released under the Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0 licence.

I resize the map using Google Photos then insert it into the tool I use to build the site. I use Google Blogger, which is free of charge.

I then have to rework the script with the directions jotted down when testing the route, paying particular attention to difficult junctions where care is needed to describe twists and turns so that people don’t get lost.

The next task is to add the photos which were taken along the way, format and resize them, upload them to the webpage, add the attribution and necessary tags then save.

I then enter W3W references for every junction or landmark, open the HCC ROW map again and make a note whether a path is a footpath, bridleway, byway, or permissive path.

I then go through all the computer code that supports both the online and mobile versions to ensure there are no errors and that the walk page renders perfectly.

Proof reading the text is one of the most important parts. Most people find it hard to spot their own mistakes. A second pair of eyes is valuable. Once I am happy that everything works as it should I then publish the new walk.

But that's not the end of it. There are six more actions needed to ensure that the website and mobile version are updated properly. There are various pages and boxes on Hertfordshire Walker that need to be changed. There is a page for ‘All our walks’, one for all the ‘Pubs on our walks’, our ‘Walks map’ page, and three boxes on the Hertfordshire Walker website, one on the left which shows the distances of the walks in the collection, another on the left which shows a list of all the walks, and one on the right which shows a list of all the pubs on the walks.

We sometimes find there is a point where the new route doesn’t work or there is a detail we are not sure about. In such cases we always head out again before publishing the walk to be sure everything works.

Once we are happy with what we have produced we then have to add a description for the new walk, set the start/finish location, and add tags to show the distance and the pubs on the route. The new walk is then published.

I then share it on our Hertfordshire Walker Facebook page and on our Twitter page, and, sometimes, if we have really good pictures, on our Instagram page. We also share on Nextdoor from time to time.

The processing takes about four hours, added together with the three hours preparation and the five hours field work the total comes to 12 hours.

As you may have noticed I use tools that are free-of-charge. The only cost of running Hertfordshire Walker is the annual registration of the URL, which is £15 a year. So we don't charge for people to use and enjoy Hertfordshire Walker. All our walks are free-of-charge and always will be. There is no need to register or share any personal or banking details. Just download the walk you want, have a great day out, and let us know how you got on.


6 comments:

  1. Thanks for this. I am interested that you initially plot your routes on the OS maps site as I have taken to mapping them there when I am looking at them for myself. I refer back to your route when I do it and make it public. Have I been duplicating your routes? I don't think they have appeared on my searches there.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi TCB,
      I don't make my OS versions public because, at the point I make the I have not tested them, and I wouldn't want to publish something untested. So that will be why you won't find them in OS.
      David

      Delete
  2. My word l never thought you both put in do much time and effort to create these walks. I am so grateful to you both as l have lived in Hertfordshire my entire life and have discovered areas of it for the first time using your app. I just can not thank you both enough.

    Thank you.

    Barry Walker

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Barry, really nice of you to say that. Thanks. It means a lot. Our walks will always be free to download and enjoy online and on mobile. We don't have a paid-for subscription app, but instead prefer to share our hobby totally free-of-charge with fellow walkers like you. Thanks again for the feedback. Dave & Ellie

      Delete
  3. Is it worth going back and updating them? I understand it is more work for you. I hope you're ok with me labelling the routes I add and linking them to your site?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi TCB,
      I guess I could upload them to the OS app once they have been fully tested. It's just finding the time. :-)
      David

      Delete

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