diamond geezer

 Friday, October 16, 2009

Marking the meridian
(a week-long trek due south from Greenwich)

Shortlands / Park Langley
xxiii) After crossing the Bromley South railway line just west of Shortlands station, the Greenwich Meridian gets proper suburban. Residential street after residential street, occasionally flats but more usually houses, and increasingly houses with more garden than house. I traipsed up and down hills, and wandered along winding avenues only to retrace my steps, all in an attempt to follow an invisible line through the neighbourhood. I kept hoping that some interesting feature might lie along the zero line of longitude but I was disappointed. Enid Blyton's house on Shortlands Road? Missed. The hilltop Celtic cross of the Shortlands War Memorial [photo]? Close, but not quite. Anything that wasn't a house, a road or a garden. Absolutely not.
xxiv) I was briefly excited, strolling along Hayes Lane, to discover an entire London suburb I'd never heard of before. Park Langley doesn't have its own station, nor any terminating buses, and therefore risks non-existence in the eyes of anybody living more than a few miles away. This 100-year-old neighbourhood (southeast of Beckenham) dates from an age when "estate" meant "quality", and boasts a thousand or so detached properties laid out along gently curving streets. The meridian clips the first house on the southern side of Top Park, at the entrance to the Park Langley Conservation Area. Immaculate clusters of bright orange flowers surrounding each ornamental street tree, still blooming brightly even in October [photo], provided convincing evidence that local residents have both pride and considerable time on their hands.
» And on, and on, crossing aspirational avenue after aspirational avenue, more of the same, very des res, highly unaffordable.

West Wickham / Coney Hall
xxv) After traversing the West Wickham Sports Grounds, and crossing the final stretch of the railway line to Hayes, the Greenwich Meridian nudges the playing fields of Glebe School. Most secondary schools have a wooded hideaway right at the bottom of the playing field where the smokers usually hope to hide out, and that's the part we're talking about here. Staff and pupils have marked the meridian's passage with not one but two special markers - one a 7ft stone pillar, the other a squat dish-shaped compass a few metres away. Or so I'm told. It's impossible to see any more than a glimpse of either monument through the trees from the adjacent footpaths, so my attempted photograph is worse than useless [photo]. Don't worry, I took it on a Sunday when the school was deserted, and pupil privacy in Meridian Corner is assured.
xxvi) You know the roundabout in Coney Hall where Glebe Way crosses Addington Road? The roundabout sponsored by Profascia Direct Ltd, purveyors of UPVC fascias, flat and tile roofing? The meridian crosses it. [photo]
xxvii) One final within-London meridian marker can be found at the Coney Hall Recreation Ground. It's likely that you'll never ever visit this recreational plateau, not unless you have a penchant for obscure 1930s suburbs, or ever choose to walk section 4 of the London Loop long distance footpath. The zero-degree post resembles a sort of OS triangulation point, except made from considerably cheaper materials, and with a lumpy hemisphere protruding from the top [photo]. Two sides are inscribed with not very much writing, and the whole thing looks like a couple of hefty kicks from some local youth would cause it considerable damage. Thankfully, when I visited at least, local youth were much more interested in kicking a football around instead. Alas they were deliberately ignoring the nearby goalposts and had chosen to play up close to the meridian post, which made photographing it slightly awkward. But I sort of managed [photo]. And then rapidly made my exit.

New Addington
xxviii) The last place the meridian hits before exiting the capital is the overspill estate of New Addington. The very top of New Addington in fact, which is about as far from desirable as the borough of Croydon gets. The precise location is at the summit of King Henry's Drive, and then south through the grounds of Addington High School. I considered visiting for a final photo, but there was no convenient footpath from Coney Hall and the Sunday afternoon bus service was less than enticing. So I resisted. So you'll have to make do without a picture. I suspect that's no great loss.

And then, continuing south...
Surrey: the M25, Oxted (passing through Paydens the chemist), Lingfield Park racecourse (almost).
W Sussex East Grinstead (there are various stone markers at East Court, and the town's coat of arms features a vertical white line representing the meridian - also home to Meridian FM)
E Sussex: Sheffield Park (on the Bluebell railway, plaque on station wall), Chailey (meridian stone erected 1953, see map), Lewes (another near-hit on a town centre), Peacehaven (the Meridian Monument looks out over the English Channel).
France: (the French don't believe in our meridian, but it goes from Normandy to Lourdes anyway).
Spain: from the Pyrenees south to (just outside) Benidorm, then into the Mediterranean.
Africa: Algeria, the Sahara, Mali (straight through Gao on the the river Niger), Burkina Faso (through the northern town of Dori), Togo (just a tiny sliver in the northwest corner), Ghana (through Lake Volta, reaching the coast at Tema).
The Atlantic Ocean: the Equator, more than 5000 miles of ocean.
Antarctica: Queen Maud Land
South Pole

www.flickr.com: my Meridian (south) gallery
There are 50 photos altogether. That's the lot, so why not have a flick through?

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