22-Jan-2006 -- It's Craig's fault. He told me to follow the adventures of intrepid bikers Des, Dick and Stephen and it's from their excellent website and their plans to tag 49°N 90°E that I first learned about the Confluence Project.
I saw immediately that confluencing has the makings of an heroic undertaking that has to be done.
Which is why on a cool but dry winter's day I'm here on the edge of a field in Suffolk, UK. This is the closest CP to home and judging from the OS map and the notes of previous visits, is easy to locate just off a public footpath. Which suggests it's a perfect place to lose my CP virginity. So I've driven down with a basic CP hunting kit: wellie boots, 1:25,000 Ordnance Survey-based Multimap print-out, a Gizmondo and one other useful bit of kit (see below for more details).
As I arrive a lone golden plover flies over and drifts of lapwing make their way to the coast. Gulls and rooks forage in the short-cropped fields and in the hedgerows fieldfare and redwing - visitors perhaps from some northern CPs - alert the tits and blackbirds in the hedge to the approach of a hunting sparrowhawk. This is intensive arable farming country: mostly open fields with few hedges or trees to get in the way. Easy enough to walk in winter, but more of a challenge in summer when the crops are grown. And you can forget trying to make your way across a field of oil seed rape between June and August unless you're prepared to cut your way through. Believe me, I've tried.
Anyway, the crop this year is winter wheat. Which means it's easy to detour from the path to as close as I can get using the GPS functions of the Gizmondo. “Gizzy” is actually a games player that doubles as a Sat Nav - hence its GPS capability.
But I'm new at this and can't seem to get an accurate fix. Even when I'm standing still, the co-ordinates are changing. Panic. Maybe the satellites are on the blink – or falling from the sky. I look skywards, but see nothing unusual. What to do? I circle around, eyes fixed on the display screen, figuring that at some stage I must cross the sweet spot. As if by magic 52 and all the noughts pop up. I freeze, but then they're gone. Shortly after, I see 1 and all the noughts – but they too vanish to be replaced by a whole lot of 9s. 5 minutes of this and I'm exhausted (and dizzy). Enough. I'm for sure within 100 metres, and that's the standard, after all. So I make the mark, and get the photos. It's in the bag. My first CP! And I don't even care if anyone has seen me wandering like a demented lost soul and called the authorities.
P.S. The other useful bit of kit is a Confluence Hound. A bit like a cross between a truffle hound and a setter, Confluence Hounds are specially bred to “point” to confluences. Mine is called Pip. Here's the hound at work looking at the CP.
P.P.S. My family think I'm out of my tree. Except, possibly my daughter Hannah: she is in Australia at the moment, but later this year will be in Mali. I'm hopeful that she and I (or just me) will manage a couple of Confluences there. By then I plan to have acquired a “proper” GPS.