No Man’s Land trig pillar | Braunton, North Devon

Happy 80th Birthday to the Trig Pillar

On the 18 April 2016 the humble trig pillar became an octogenarian. It was 80 years ago, on the 18 April 1936, that a group of Ordnance Survey (OS) surveyors began the formidable task of re-mapping Great Britain using a network of trig pillars as the basis for the triangulation mapping process.

Over 6,500 trig pillars were originally built for the project, with their unique design providing a solid base for the equipment used by the survey teams during the 26 years it took to create a highly accurate map of the country — yup, without the trig pillar we wouldn’t have our well-used and well-loved OS maps.

Although trig pillars are redundant today for mapping purposes, due to the arrival of modern Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) technology, the 6,000 trig pillars still visible in the UK have become iconic symbols of the British outdoors and regularly feature in photos by triumphant walkers when they reach a summit.

Our local trig pillar is a mere 1.5 kilometres from our front door in a field frequented by sheep rather than walkers — there may be a reason, unbeknown to us, that it’s ominously called No Man’s Land. But those who do nosy at this unusual concrete pillar perched at the top of the field will be greeted with glorious coastal views west across Braunton Burrows and Saunton Sands towards Hartland Point, south to the distant high Tors of Dartmoor and north to the rolling moorland of Exmoor. It may only be 136 metres high — a mere baby compared to its tallest cousin, Ben Nevis (1,345m) — but to see these panoramic views it’s well worth the short climb.

We’re delighted to be helping OS celebrate 80 years of the trig pillar (#TrigPillar80) by encouraging people to take part in the Trig Pillar Trail Challenge. Our founder, Tor McIntosh, nominated her favourite trig pillar to visit on her local outdoors adventures in North Devon — an elusive one hidden behind a dry stone wall — and you can reach this trig by following this 4-mile circular walk around Baggy Point [editor’s note: best done at sunset on a clear evening]. And once you’ve bagged this fairly easy trig you’ve just got another 24 to go to complete the challenge… (you can see the interactive map featuring all the challenge trigs here).

If you’d like to find out more about our Slow Adventures then head over to our adventures page, or sign-up to our newsletter and join our gathering of folk who prefer to unhurriedly explore the great outdoors.

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