How three words can communicate any rural location

Logo: what3words
Image: what3words
Image: what3words

what3words is a new global addressing system that has given every 3m square in the world a unique 3 word address. Now, people can refer to any precise location using just three words from the dictionary. For example, ///officers.barrel.uncouth is the starting point of a popular walking route from Grosmont to Whitby.

The company was created after co-founder and CEO Chris Sheldrick felt the struggles of poor addressing in rural areas. Coming from a farming background, Chris recognised that when it comes to describing where things are in the countryside, things can get really complicated. Many places like field entrances, stables and damaged trees have no address at all, and postcodes tend to cover unhelpfully broad areas.

“Growing up in rural Hertfordshire, I used to wait by the roadside to flag down delivery vehicles that would otherwise sail past our farm entrance. The fact that we had no simple way to describe an exact location troubles me to this day. What if a fire had broken out in a barn, or if someone was caught in running machinery?”

Image: what3words
Image: what3words

This summer, many of the UK’s Police, Fire and Ambulance services announced they were using the what3words system to save lives, precious time and much-needed resources. Forces are urging members of the public to download the free what3words app so they can be found more easily in an emergency. The campaign particularly resonated with those living and working in rural communities, where poor addressing remains a daily issue. But as more people become aware of the system, 3 word addresses are steadily helping to make the British countryside less frustrating, more efficient and safer for everyone.

Already, what3words has been used many times to effectively get emergency assistance to vulnerable people in remote locations - from lost walkers to injured runners and horse-riders. The system was even used to help Dorset & Wiltshire and Hampshire Fire and Rescue Services rescue a glider pilot, who had crashed up a 40ft tree. For Rural Crime Officers around the country, what3words is also being seen as a major step forward in the reporting and tackling of rural crimes, such as hare coursing, machinery theft and fly-tipping.

Image: what3words
Image: what3words

Aside from emergency response services, what3words is used by rural communities all across the UK. From the UK Power Networks now accepting 3 word addresses for those reporting issues with power lines, to horse-riding app Huuffe to Lee Valley Park, who’ve placed signs around the park to guide visitors. 

Farmers like Jeremy Perkins, Livestock Breeder of TwoMills Herd have been quick to embrace the technology. Jeremy has made a record of the 3 word addresses for all his field and farm entrances. He uses what3words to get his locum vet to the exact location of an animal in distress or needing attention.

He says: “I use a 3 word address to mark the easiest place for my vet to access the remote river meadows where my sheep and cattle handling systems are located. As my home farm is way off the official SatNav postcode what3words was useful when I needed to direct a vet to one of my barns in the middle of the night for a difficult calving.”

Jon Collins, Senior Landscape Consultant at Maydencroft, struggled to communicate the precise location of trees that needed felling. Now, his team uses what3words to accurately locate these - rather than resorting to printed maps.

Around the world, people are finding more and more ways to use what3words. From the millions of drivers who can use what3words to navigate more accurately in Mercedes-Benz and in Ford vehicles, to those navigating crowded cities using the technology. Its other partners span industries including logistics, e-commerce, automotive and mobility, postal services, humanitarian and emergency services, asset management, travel, and navigation.

How to download what3words

The what3words system is available in 45 languages. Individuals can download the free mobile app at and or they can access the system at

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