I thought this might be a good time to walk the Greenwich Meridian. Not all of it but the three miles through Tower Hamlets and Newham because that's easily accessible. This blog loves nothing better than following an invisibleline across a landscape, and the Greenwich Meridian is about as important as an invisible line gets. It's also annoyingly ambiguous as there have been four marginally different meridians at Greenwich over the years, each aligned with a different telescope, while modern GPS systems use a separate line approximately 100m to the east. I'm going to be following the Bradley Meridian because that's what the Ordnance Survey use, plus it's the most likely to have been marked with plaques, brass strips and other markers. We'll be passing at least a dozen of these. [map][photos]
Brunswick Wharf [51.507°N 0°W]
The Greenwich Meridian skims across the Thames and enters North London with a flourish. A large tiledcircle with a compass at its centre marks the spot, cleaved in two by a thin bronze strip stretching across the promenade. Stand by the railings and you can look due south down the edge of the North Greenwich peninsula past a jetty and a driving range towards the observatory on its hilltop, possibly with a boat cutting through the water inbetween. This spot used to be covered by the BrunswickHotel, one of two hostelries built to cater for those travelling though Blackwall by steamer. Initially it was the more upmarket of the two, famed for its whitebait suppers, but by 1900 it was left serving low quality beer to dockers and in 1930 it was demolished.
It's nice here, a quiet corner of the Thames Path with a sweeping river view. A locked gate labelled 'Jubilee line replacement boat services' prohibits further westward progress.
Prime Meridian Walk [51.508°N 0°W]
When the East India Import Dock got filled in they built a power station on it, and when that was demolished Barratt Homes got first dibs. Here they built the Virginia Quay estate, a stepped stack of very-1990s flats, and their architects had the forethought to recognise the passage of the Greenwich Meridian. The entire zero degree line is free of buildings and laid out as an attractive beech-linedavenue. called Prime Meridian Walk. This rises gently from the riverside to cross Newport Avenue, then acts as an alleyway between a playground and the back of a Nisa supermarket. In total it runs for 250 yards which is the longest you can walk along the meridian anywhere in north London... or would be if only someone hadn't positioned a car parking space halfway along.
Sexton Court's back garden fence also aligns with the meridian at one point, so technically it's impossible to walk the precise line here too.
East India station [51.509°N 0°W]
East India is one of a handful of London stations which lie on the Greenwich Meridian. Both of the elevated platforms are crossed, at the far eastern end, the precise alignment apparently once painted across the track as a red line (alas long faded). Conveniently an extension of Prime Meridian Walk continues beneath the viaduct, narrowly missing a large concrete pillar, so passage is a lot easier to see at ground level. Better still the meridian line then heads straight up the front of a 25-storey residential block, the Elektron Tower, whose footprint was deliberately nudged so as not to block the Greenwich Observatory's laser. Vertical meridian markers are rare but here there are two, one on each flank of the tower.
Greenwich Observatory's green laser fires along the Airy meridian where the line up the side of the building follows the Bradley meridian, in case you were wondering how both can be correct.
East India Dock Tunnel [51.510°N 0°W]
The western portal of this short modern underpass (linking Aspen Way to the A13) aligns pretty much perfectly with the meridian, but is not marked.
Telehouse [51.511°N 0°W]
When the East India Export Dock got filled in the London Docklands Development Corporation turned it into an administrative estate. Tower Hamlets built their new town hall at one end and one of London's first data centres opened at the other. The London Internet Exchange (LINX) started out in 1994 as the home of Pipex and today, as Telehouse, is the centre of most of the UK's data networks. The British hub of the main transatlantic fibre cable between Europe and North America lies somewhere inside this campus of chunky windowless buildings, which means it's highly likely today's post passed through Telehouse before it reached your screen. And yes, there is as much security around the perimeter as you'd expect at such a strategically important location.
Telehouse have plans to expand onto the adjacent Travelodge site, which is why the Travelodge is moving to a site by the Aspen Way roundabout, which is why that mysterious red cycleway has suddenly appeared alongside.
East India Dock Road [51.512°N 0°W]
I hadn't spotted either of these plaques before, which just goes to show the power of research. The plaque on the wall is dated 28th February 1991 "and commemorates the widening of the East India Dock Road". The road had been in existence for almost 200 years as a thoroughfare connecting London to south Essex, but needed to become a dual carriageway hereabouts to cope with Blackwall Tunnel and Docklands traffic. The closest plane tree was planted, the plaque tells us, by the Minister of State for Transport, a Tower Hamlets councillor, an LDCC board member and the managing director of Telehouse. The granite rectangle embedded in the pavement may or may not be of a similar vintage, and reads The Greenwich Meridian Line 0° Longitude Established 1884.
A matching granite slab can be found on the same alignment on the opposite side of the road (but without a matching plane tree).
• Today's 10 photos can be found here
• Tomorrow we continue from New Village Avenue