I work on a golf course that is built on old farm land. We have old clay drains from the turn of the 20th century and lots of additional drains that have been added in the meantime years.

No maps have been produced and we are constantly discovering forgotten work. Our problem is that we cannot remember all of the lines on which they run so would like to start mapping as we are probing, rodding and digging.

Please can someone suggest a free software that we can use to produce maps?

We just need to plot lines on either maps (or preferable aerial images) of the land with some sort of way of locating them in the future. Either using datum points (trees etc) or GPS (though we will only have our mobile phones to get our co-ordinates.

The golf course in in Wales, UK.

  • How are you planning to collect the data? Are you looking for a mobile option where you take a tablet or something outside to collect, or are you thinking of writing down some information and then drawing the lines on a desktop program like qGIS? More information can help us provide a better option.
    – Branco
    Commented Dec 12, 2014 at 17:27
  • Thank you for your reply. I would like to plot our drains on a desktop computer/laptop. All of the drains we have found and layed so far have been in straight lines so as long as our mobile phones can gather accurate gps co-ords we could find the start and end points of the drains and draw a line between the two. Many of the old drains are in furrows and will almost certainly show up on an aerial image so we could also 'sketch' them into the software. Failing that, but assuming the software can give us an aerial image we can use points such as trees to measure from. Commented Dec 12, 2014 at 17:48
  • 2
    You've tagged your question with QGIS, so haven't you already answered your own question? Or is there something about QGIS that doesn't work for you? Are you asking about where to get data (basemaps or imagery)?
    – Chris W
    Commented Dec 12, 2014 at 19:05
  • Would Google earth be an option for you?
    – dassouki
    Commented Dec 12, 2014 at 19:06

2 Answers 2


Based off your comment, here is my suggestion...

You can use QGIS to create a map of the drains. There will still be some things you will need to work out, but this program will work very well for creating a simple map for you to reference.

I would suggest finding some aerial imagery to use as a guide. You can check your local government and work your way up the hierarchy until you find someone that has relatively recent (leaf-off in case there are a lot of trees) imagery. You could then load that up into QGIS as a reference.

If you're getting GPS locations from your phone, you can write down the lat/long information and trying to find those particular locations in QGIS. They will not be as accurate so it will be nice to have an aerial image to help you find the correct locations.

You should be able to create a simple map using the two items. However, the map will not be as accurate as you can make it. It would work as a general reference so you have a very, very general idea of where something would be located. You may be able to create the maps, but the person using them might need to wander around a bit before finding the actual drains later on due to inaccurate GPS coordinates.

There will be other issues you will need to consider as well. With imagery, you will need to consider possible alignment/measurement issues depending on if the image is in a coordinate system or just a plain image. You would also need to worry about the inaccuracy of whatever GPS unit you're using to collect. Plus, you would need to worry about how to properly use the software and tools to get the best result.

  • You can also plug in USB mouse GPS and collect field data with QGIS.
    – user30184
    Commented Dec 12, 2014 at 19:49

If you have a smartphone, you can do this using all free software. Install and use the My Tracks app on your smartphone. (Click here for Android, or here for iPhone.)You can use this to record a line along the old clay drain by walking along it.

You can then transfer the lines you create to Google Earth on your computer to store and view them as KMZ files. If you can see the drain clearly on Google Earth, you could just trace it there, and skip the whole step of creating the line on your phone first.

Here's a link that explains how to draw lines (ie. paths) in Google Earth: https://support.google.com/earth/answer/148072?topic=2376756&ctx=topic

There are other options for what you want to do (QGIS, etc.), but this one seems like the simplest solution to me. There is a much steeper learning curve with QGIS or other software and it seems like your objective is fairly simple, so it seems like a simple solution would be best.

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