diamond geezer

 Thursday, October 15, 2009

Marking the meridian

Downham
xvii) There are lovelier parts of London than the sprawling estates of Downham, but the Greenwich Meridian sensibly attempts to pass through via the remains of an ancient forest. A zigzag strip of footpathed woodland remains, somehow, which the meridian line duly crosses three times. The first crossing is outside a row of squashed cottages, the second close to a lonely bench and dog waste bin [photo], while the third is a little more secluded [photo]. Along this narrow leafy corridor, part of the long distance Green Chain Walk, I stood and watched two parakeets squawking shamelessly in the upper branches of a zero-located oak.
xviii) At the foot of Bromley Hill, close to yet another roadside pub converted into a McDonalds, there's a rather ordinary parade of shops [photo]. Off licence, pizzeria, minimarket, that sort of thing. But just beyond the Tandoori restaurant, outside the Cleartone Dry Cleaners, is one of the southern meridian's rare pavement markers [photo]. It's a labelled rectangular stone with a precisely aligned groove pointing directly towards the front door of this esteemed laundry establishment, now under new management. So new in fact that when I arrived the owner was on his hands and knees in front of the shop painting the woodwork in alarmingly bright shades of pink and purple. "Don't mind me," I said, "I'm only taking a photo of that slab". So he carried on painting, and I got my close-up photographs [photo], and his shop gets an unexpected plug on this blog today.
xix) If you've ever wondered where Millwall FC have their training ground [photo], it's nowhere as inner-city as the Den. Instead the Lions head several miles south to a very green playing field in the Ravensbourne Valley and practise kicking footballs across the meridian.

Bromley
xx) Don't get your hopes up. The Meridian's not going anywhere well known like Bromley town centre. Instead it slinks through the western outskirts, almost edging into Beckenham, to various places you've never been. Like the Warren Avenue Playing Fields. This is a kickabout space for local sportsmen not good enough to play for Millwall, with a very ordinary square sports pavilion positioned almost perfectly on the Greenwich Meridian [photo]. There's also a desperately unloved children's playground consisting of little more than an ex-roundabout and three decaying swings [photo]. The latter, if given a lick of paint and shifted a couple of metres to the east, would make for a fine (and extremely cheap) meridian sculpture. But no need, because there's a real one coming up almost immediately to the south.
xxi) On Farnaby Road, at the precise point where the gardens make way for a golf course, a stumpy metal post lurks beside an overgrown fence. It was put there by the Ravensbourne Valley Preservation Society to mark both the millennium and the meridian, and still presents two mirrored faces to west and east [photo]. Few pedestrian visitors pass this way and the neighbouring bus stop offers only a token service six days a week. Be in no doubt, most local residents cross the meridian by car.
xxii) Ravensbourne Avenue is quintessential stockbroker country. A mile of detached homesteads alongside a golf course, stretching from one commuter-friendly railway halt to another. Ideal for bonus-blessed workers, ladies with golden glows and the recently retired. The street's not right at the top end of the affluence scale, as you can tell by the minimal gaps between neighbouring villas and the relatively narrow front gardens. But the gardens are prim, and the hedges are perfectly clipped, and the curtains of the spare bedrooms twitched invisibly as I walked by. Living on the meridian adds no value to the cluster of white-fronted villas in the centre of the road [photo], but I bet the local estate agents could talk it up as a desirable interior feature.

See also:
Marking the meridian (N) - my blog from five years ago, crossing London north from Greenwich (and 50 photos)
Marking the meridian (S) - my blog from this week, crossing London south from Greenwich (on one page, in the right order)
I know that what you really want is an accurate map showing the path of the Greenwich Meridian across England. So here's one (zoom in for London)
And what of meridian markers across the rest of England? View a lineful in my special gallery here.


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