04-Jan-2009 -- In December 2008 I finally moved to Lille in France, which will be my home for the next four years. Most of my previous CP visits had been in Yemen, or in other bits of the Middle East, and - if I'm honest - I was finding it tricky to summon up the enthusiasm needed to go CP hunting in cold, fieldy Europe. But one can only be separated from one's passions for so long, so I thought I'd start 2009 off with a visit to the closest point to my new house.
The closest point to Lille, France, turns out to be 51N 3E, near Staden in Belgium. So despite being less than 40 km away from my house as the crow flies, this Confluence felt like more of an adventure already. I set out, feeling a bit more inspired, on a freezing Sunday afternoon armed with my GPS, a flask of tea and a good woolly.
Despite the change of country, the drive was a simple one: I followed the signs to Roeselare (Belgium), then turned onto the N36 towards Staden. A bit of trial and error on farm lanes around Staden eventually got me to the house mentioned in some of the previous reports. The house has a small garden to the rear, bounded by a hedge. Beyond the hedge is a large, unbounded field, with nothing growing in it at this time of year, obviously. Walking in the field got me to 7 m away from the target, and it became clear to me that 51N 3E really does lie on private property.
Although within the DCP's 100 m limit, I like to get all zeros if at all possible, so I knocked on the front door. Not speaking Dutch, I managed my explanations to the Flemish couple who live there in a mixture of French and English (and rued the fact that there is no 'letter to landowners' in Dutch on the DCP website...) They were very curious, and said that the previous owner (Mrs Dezilter) had told them about the 'special' spot in the garden, but she had had no idea why foreigners had come to photograph it. So the couple were happy to have the mystery finally explained to them.
We then walked out into the garden together, where I took the photographs. To the North is a small outhouse/shed construction, to the West and East some hedges and garden plants, and to the South is the house itself. If you forget your compass, you can use the extremely convenient weather vane on top of the roof.
Afterwards, the very nice and very hospitable couple posed for a picture, and invited me inside. There we looked at maps to show why their garden was so special. They told me that they had bought the property about two years ago, and had been renovating it at weekends. Ultimately, they would like to turn it into a guesthouse - so perhaps future confluencers will be able to stay the night almost on top of their conquest..!
As an aside, this is the 7th visit report for this CP, and there has been some debate about the point's exact location. However, the last three reports - and now mine, making four - all place it in the garden (as does Google Earth, in fact), and I think there is now little doubt that 51N 3E really is a 'garden' rather than a (much more common) 'field' confluence. However, the garden itself is not very large, and photographs taken at different points within the garden can have quite an effect on the shot (compare, for example, my pictures with those of Jan Liska in visit 6. These were taken, as far as I can tell, only around two metres apart). And any pictures taken from over the hedge, in the field, give a totally different (and, in my opinion, misleading) view.
So all in all, it was a good afternoon's drive and confluence hunt, with the chance to cross a frontier and meet the CP 'owners' thrown in. The owners now know all about the DCP, but please do remember to still ask permission before entering their land. And, if the two owners are reading this on the DCP website, why not consider making your own 'Confluence visit'? - it would be a record as the shortest distance travelled to a CP (my guess is about twelve metres from your kitchen table!)