Rural Maps has been nominated in the creative media category of the 2017 Rural Business Awards. The business, operating from a converted barn in the South Downs National park near Winchester, produces maps for other rural businesses including farms, land agents and shoots.
The business was started in 2013 by Anthony Pelly, who trained as an architect before recognising that maps remain vital to farms and other businesses working on the land. “People need maps to manage contractors, employees and visitors. Understanding what is on and below the ground is essential when wielding vast agricultural machinery. Many farmers only know where their water pipe is buried when they hit it,” he says.
The insight has resulted in a series of map styles, some highly functional, some decorative, but all printed. “When I started this company my expectation was that I would have to focus on providing PDF maps, but fewer than 10% of clients want digital versions of the maps,” he says.
“They still want print.”
The draft quality maps are produced by PlanPrintIt, an online company specialising in plan printing from premises in Northamptonshire. It offers a fast and efficient service at a reasonable price, says Pelly. Its functional maps are produced by printed.com on waterproof substrates for practical use by farmers and land agents and their contractors.
A third category of map is the version for display, printed and frequently framed by AC Cooper in central London. This company is using Epson printers to produce Giclée quality prints on Hahnemühle’s William Turner mould-made paper. AC Cooper director Jason Smith says that the company can frame the finished prints for display. Examples have found their way to lodges on sporting estates around the world. The company usually works with ad agencies and photographers producing high quality photography and artist quality prints.
Those for Rural Maps come close to qualifying as art. The information contained will go much further than the basic information available from Ordnance Survey. “Behind the basic information about roads and location of buildings we get from OS data, there is more complex information about how the land is being managed,” says Pelly.
Rural Maps will use aerial images to identify the land use in each field, tree species and will discuss with land owners the names used for individual fields. The position of tracks and smaller buildings, poles, ponds and ditches is identified which helps with any calls to emergency services. Utility and emergency services will frequently have only rudimentary information about these assets.
By providing precise location information on the map, the emergency services can be guided to the right spot. The reverse of the map will include a list of numbers to call from a user who gets into difficulty. This includes position of defibrillators.
When producing the maps, Pelly says he is often given old maps the landowner has previously been using. Some of these were drawn 100 years ago. “We draw everything on a single digital file which can be updated as required and which is used for the printed versions,” he adds.
The sporting estate maps will include stand positions for guns and the direction of the day’s drives, becoming a decorative as well as usable product. River beats are also shown.
Pelly believes that as self driving equipment becomes more widespread in the industry, there will be a demand for accurate mapping of fields. While GPS driving systems can be extremely precise, they cannot see electricity or telephone poles. “Utility companies are not doing enough to share their records and to work with us and farmers in this respect,” Pelly says.
For the moment, print reigns supreme. Perhaps it is the inconsistency of mobile phone signals in open fields or woodland, perhaps traditional thinking by its customers that is responsible. It is perhaps also because a printed map is part book, part manual and part artwork.
The judges in the Rural Business Awards described Rural Maps as “a fantastic idea” and a “unique, quality product”.
Rural Maps has been producing maps for farmers, for land agents and others that need to find locations in the countryside. This includes country estates organising shooting and other events. The maps can range from the highly functional to the highly decorative printed on the finest paper and framed for shooting lodges and the like.
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