Can I use OpenStreetMap for my community lockdown wellbeing project?

I am a member of a small community tree planting group in Seaford, Sussex, UK. During lockdown, we’d like to get our group members and others in the town involved in a project to map green corridors in our town during their daily walks. Potentially, we’d like people to be able to record verges suitable for tree planting, record wildflowers, record significant trees, and create trails through the town for walks or green routes to school. The main thing is that it should be collaborative and fun, easy to use, cheap or free, but ultimately will have real benefits as this will feed into a lottery funding bid (already in progress) to enhance green corridors and plant trees. We’d like to be able to share the information on a website so people can try out the walks, add to the walks, add information etc.

I’m totally new to OpenStreetMap. Will it be able to do some or all of this? I’m willing to do the work and study to learn to use it and teach others, but don’t know if it’s the right platform to use.

Thank you so much in advance for your help and advice!

Hi & welcome,

OpenStreetMap is very useful for mapping a lot of detail, but some other things are slightly more ephemeral and I would suggest other tools which can be complementary.

The typical things I add in OpenStreetMap are the following:

  • Trees. I map individual street trees (including saplings). In parks or other spaces I tend to try & have a plan because it’s often quite hard to be systematic. A useful rule of thumb is that one can map about 30-60 trees in an hour depending on how much information one collects. I usually like to add the species and ideally breast high girth (either in metres or with units explicitly)
  • If a street is lined with trees but I don’t have time to map the individual trees I add tree_lined=yes. This is useful because one can come back to it. There are several cities round the world where trees have been added from council tree registers. Vienna is a good example.
  • Verges. I normally add these by adding the tag verge=both|right|left|none. This is mainly because it is very fiddly to add individual verges. The information can be used to represent streets with verges when needed. Other information can be added in a similar way to the more extensively used sidewalk tag.
  • Other patches of grass (urban commons). I usually map these with landuse=grass. I don’t have a handle on the smallest area but imagine its about 100 square metres.
  • Hedges are always worth mapping even in urban areas. As for trees it is worthwhile to know the predominant species. I use dominant_taxon (e.g., with Crataegus monogyna for Hawthorn, Fagus sylvatica for Beech, Ligustrum ovalifolium for Privet) or dominant_taxon:en (with Hawthorn, Beech, Privet etc).
  • Urban shrub plantings are worth marking, but I’m not absolutely sure of what tags are most appropriate.
  • Flower beds, planters etc can be marked with landuse=flowerbed.

Generally mapping individual wild flowers is something OSM is not suitable for (fine for large landscapes dominated by a plant, but not individuals). For this type of general collection of presence of wild flowers I would recommend the use of iNaturalist either as a web application or an app on the mobile phone. There are other similar apps (PlantSnap, Flora Incognita etc), but iNaturalist is widely used and it’s automated suggestions are reasonably reliable for the British Flora. It is also suitable for anyone from complete beginners to experienced botanists and is good for collaboration (you can set up a project in a defined area which people can join). The other advantage is that iNaturalist is good for all other wildlife too, so if people see creepy crawlies they have a change of identifying them too

For finding wildflowers in peoples own gardens the Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland have a web page app ( for recording these flowers. Adding information here has the advantage that the data can be used scientifically to help conserve our wild flowers. There are associated twitter has tags and I imagine stuff on facebook. On Sunday evening WildFlowerHour share pictures of wildflowers on twitter (website may be down at the moment) and there’s plenty of help from expert botanists with identification.

One group who are doing great work on urban trees are the Bristol Tree Forum, they have an extensive approach to documenting trees in Bristol through a web site

One issue you will encounter is that the main map on OpenStreetMap is quite a general one (although very detailed) and some of the things you will wish to map may not show up. As everything is there in the data there are multiple possibilities of presenting that information depending on how deep you want to go. The allows different data sets to be shown with an OpenStreetMap background: specific data (for instance streets with verges can be extracted from OSM via the overpass-turbo and added to specific map on umap). For more elaborate mapping the usual route is to use QGIS (free open source software), but that may be rather daunting.

I’ve written rather a lot here, so I’ll call off for now.

Jerry aka SK53

PS. I actually have a friend in Seaford so may mention it to them
PPS. Have a look at Bexhill-OSM ( and Evesham Mapped ( Both are sites created by OpenStreetMap contributors to provide much more detailed information from OSM for a local area.

Hi Jerry,

Thank you very much for your detailed reply and for taking the time to do this. This is all really helpful and I’ll look at all the links and examples you’ve given over the next few days. Yes please mention me to your friend in Seaford! Our group is called Trees for Seaford and you can find contact details via our website or Facebook page.