12-Oct-2002 -- At last, a confluence visit in my own country. I was orienteering on Cleeve Hill, the highest point in Gloucestershire, and only 6 km from the confluence. Visiting 52N 2W was an obvious thing to do after my run.
The Confluence is behind a small village, Alderton. Alderton is very much the stereotypical southern English village, timber framed thatched houses, around a medieval church and with a pub. This time the pub is also half timbered and thatched, it was also closed. Pint thwarted, it was down to work. An easy trip round the back of the houses on the bridleway to Dumbleton (great name, I once lived in a 300 year old house called Dumblehole, 40 miles to the northwest.). The confluence appeared to be, as expected from the other visits, in a small field beside the track. The field was currently not in use. No crops and had not been grazed this year. Given its proximity to the village, it is obvious that it will be developed for housing one day, once planning permission is finally obtained, a difficult task. The neighbouring field was fresh cut and an enormous forage harvester was parked 40m from the confluence. Soon after recording the confluence the big harvester was driven away.
I passed by the harvester and hopped the fence through nettles to do the dance in the long grass of the neglected field. Of the four sides to this field, one was a field of barley stubble awaiting the plough, the neighbouring field had grown maize. Corn does not ripen in England, but is still a common crop, cut green and fermented for winter cattle feed. The crop had just been harvested and half ripened cobs were lying about. All other neighbouring land was occupied by the gardens of Alderton. This was a very easy hit, memories of Canadian bushwhacking are starting to fade with the scars.
There was a fine view. Alderton is in a valley bottom surrounded by outliers of the Cotswolds. England is divided in two by a southwest to northeast band of hills. The rock is a golden jurassic limestone and a prized building material. I spent the morning on nearby Cleeve Hill, the highest point of these hills and in these parts there are numerous outlying hills beyond the long escarpment. Immediately above the confluence is wooded Alderton Hill, trees just starting to show autumn colours.To the south other outliers, Langley Hill, and Oxenton Hill. Some of the tops are still rough grazing for sheep, and rich in rare downland plants. This was once a rich wool producing land, wool money built the big churches. The valley floor is now mostly arable. In the far west I could clearly see the long 400 metre high Malvern ridge.
There were sounds as well. Mewing buzzards (Buteo buteo), numerous pheasants (Phasianus colchicus) and the calls of a flock of yellowhammers (Emberiza citrinella). Frequent whistles were heard from a nearby preserved steam railway. Two family groups were enjoying a walk in the sunshine, somebody was giving their lawn a late cut. 2002 was a poor summer in England, but September and early October gave a long warm dry spell. The grass was still growing and nearby vineyards were anticipating a fine harvest.
In Britain 2 degrees west has a very special significance. Our national mapping agency have chosen this line of longitude as the base line for their maps. This is the one place where the Ordnance Survey maps are not distorted by the transverse Mercator projection. Here and only here a grid line coincides with a meridian, running from Berwick on the border with Scotland to Purbeck on the south coast. Unfortunately the meridian was fixed on the OSGB1936 datum and runs about 50m to the west of our confluence. The OS mark confluences with a blue cross, and they are always some distance from the WSG84 point. The line of 2 degrees west runs the full length of England, is marked on every map and is an obvious challenge for the explorer. Sure enough it has been walked.
Nicholas Crane describes his epic journey in his book Two degrees West (ISBN 0-14-027236-4), a must read for confluence baggers. An amazing feat, despite the best efforts of topography and landowners he never left a strip 1km either side of the meridian. His walk over, he then wrote the narrative to end all narratives, a great read. A book for every confluence hunter's library.
The Ordnance Survey map of Alderton can be seen here: