Marhofn 212.12 - May 2010

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We Are Scientists

Chris Crocker

Last year I described the evolution of the Database of British Hills and our aim of making it a definitive source of hill data. Graham Jackson gives more background in an interview on YouTube at:

So how far have we come in meeting our objective? The expanded editorial team of Graham Jackson, Simon Edwardes, George Gradwell, John Barnard and I spent the first half of 2009 preparing version 11. This featured several new lists and, for the first time, col height, col location and drop. Simon used his IT skills to bring out a relational version of the Access database. We hope that people who have tried this version will agree that it's an advance on the previous format, as almost any subset of hills can be queried in the search dialog. For the present we are releasing updates in both formats, as some users have been customising the non-relational version and it is the only option for anyone still on Access 97. We would like to ditch the non-relational version at some point as it complicates the updating process, so please get in touch if you feel strongly about that. The Excel version will stay.

Towards the end of the year we welcomed Mark Jackson to the editorial team. Mark is of course the compiler of the list of Humps, and he took a keen interest in the database after we'd introduced them in version 11. This brings the team to six, which is large enough to give each of us a specific role but not too large to prevent us from reaching a consensus. Most weeks there's a discussion about something or other. It might be a query on a specific hill, or a point of policy, e.g. whether to add a space after the apostrophe in Gaelic hill names. Simon has created a change control database to facilitate the updating process, to replace the less formal procedure that sufficed when Graham and I managed the database on our own.

So what are our plans for 2010? We expect to complete the drop data for the next version. The missing drops are for hills in non-prominence based lists such as County Tops and Birketts, so in a sense they don't matter, but they are needed to add completeness and prevent records with blank fields being returned in searches on drop. We have also undertaken the mammoth task of overhauling all the col data. We acquired drop data from three main sources in the preparation of v11 and found many points of difference; generally >5m but occasionally more. There are still many hills for which we lack a col location, and some where the location may be incorrect. George, Mark and Graham have been busy filling in the gaps, and although the recently released v11.4 is far from complete in this regard, it's a significant improvement on v11.3.

Meanwhile we are starting to think about version 12. We plan to add SubCTs and SubGTs, and perhaps Yeamans and Donald Deweys. The Yeamans would pose a conundrum; do we go with the historic list - much the easiest option - or the updated list posted on the RHB group? The second option raises several issues: who would maintain the list; should we add the extensions to England and Wales (Clem-Yeamans); to what extent have the Humps superseded Yeamans amongst baggers; and what does Dr Yeaman think. Ultimately we have to satisfy the needs of our user base, so if you're a Yeaman bagger we'd like your view. The nearest parallel we have is with the Buxton and Lewis list, after a correspondent pointed out some additions based on the two-contour rule. Fortunately Gwyn Lewis resolved the issue quickly by saying that the published list would not be revised.

The Database of British Hills is downloadable from A web-based version is accessible at

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