Marhofn 230.13 - May 2011

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The Hills Database version 11.5

Chris Crocker

The Database of British Hills is currently in version 11, introduced in 2009. Various updates to the data and improvements to the functionality of the relational database have taken it to v11.5, which may be v11.6 by the time this goes to press. The change control database has been running since January 2010. It is publicly viewable at but only members of the editorial team can create change requests. Other than corrections to grid references arising from 10-figure GPS measurements and associated amendments to the Observations and Survey fields, all changes go via this route.

In 2010 we put the database under a Creative Commons licence. We have always allowed use of the data for non-commercial purposes, but a growing number of requests were coming in for commercial applications. Some, like Graham Haley's iPhone app, were of obvious value to hillwalkers, but a consensus emerged to make the data available to anyone who wants it. It was in any case unclear whether we would have rights against unauthorised use, as data is not copyrightable (databases are, but only if they show sufficient intellectual creativity). It took a while to tie up the loose ends, but the outcome is that we now offer unrestricted use of the database. The licence, the least restrictive of the six offered by Creative Commons, states clearly what users can do with the database and what we demand in return, backed up by legal code.

A major expansion of the database is planned for later this year. The feedback from the 2008 user survey was invaluable for planning v11, so we launched another survey at Christmas. There were many helpful suggestions from the 87 respondents, who were united in their approbation - thanks guys, it makes our efforts feel worthwhile! The results can be accessed at So far we plan to add Scottish 500m hills, lots of subs, and a comprehensive set of Irish lists including Irish Humps and 500s. Reluctantly, we are discontinuing the non-relational Access format as it is taking too much effort to maintain separately. However, we are concerned at the drop in the number of Access users since 2008. We are exploring the possibility of issuing the database with an Access 2007 run-time licence. This would offer users without Microsoft Access the power of the relational database, which offers searches by ranges of height and drop, totals climbed, multi-user logging and much more. Meanwhile we are continually improving the quality and completeness of the existing data. Much of this is made possible by the army of volunteers who supply us with GPS measurements. A welcome development in 2010 was the launch of OS OpenData. The maps are accessible at and Simon Edwardes has used the API on his hill-bagging site. The most exciting product is OS VectorMap District, which is displayed at zoom settings 8 and 9. This shows many spot heights not present on 1:25000 maps. The current version is 1.0 alpha, but the OS has announced an upgrade in late 2011 so we can anticipate some improvements (contours and the ability to read off grid references would be nice). Expect to see more changes as we revise old data.

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