29-Apr-2003 -- I, Joseph Kerski, Geographer at the US Geological Survey in Denver Colorado USA, visited latitude 52 North, longitude 0 East, near Royston, in south-central England one fine spring day. As I had been been in the United Kingdom attending the conference of the largest geography education association in the world, that of the Geographical Association, followed by a presentation at the International Geographical Union's Commission on Geographical Education, I thought that the perfect end to these two excellent conferences would be a a confluence visit. Furthermore, this was not just ANY confluence, but one that lies on the Prime Meridian. My visit last year to the Royal Observatory at Greenwich sparked the interest I have had ever since in visiting a confluence on the Prime Meridian. Fortunately, I was not to be disappointed.
I find it fascinating to compare the means by which visitors make their pilgrimages to these confluences around the globe, and the seasonal differences for a single point if multiple visits exist. In my case for this confluence, I chose to take the 7:51am train from Kings Cross Station in London to Royston, a village to the north of the confluence, and hike in from there.
The faces of the inhabitants of the village of Royston betrayed no awareness of the fact that their village lay on the Prime Meridian, yet I was tingling with excitement as I walked silently among them. After a 25-minute walk through the City Centre from the train station, I struck out toward the southeast on Barkway Road. The road was surprisingly well traveled for a country road, and I had to be alert to jump up on the "verge" whenever a car appeared. Nevertheless, it was an exceedingly pleasant hike, up a substantial slope to get out of the village, and again up again after passing by a large, well-kept horse ranch. Upon reaching a road called "The Joint," I turned west and south through a field of rapeseed plants in full yellow bloom. Although I tried to walk along the few tracks made by farm vehicles through the field to avoid trampling the plants, I could not help but be struck by the brilliancy of their color, accentuated by the intermittent shine of the sun through a patchwork of April clouds. Now covered with little bits of yellow flowers, I struck a course due south after finding the Prime Meridian. I leaped one ditch and walked through a field of grass, now becoming quite muddy before arriving at a patch of woods and the public footpath identified by a previous visitor. A course due south here would require a hike through the dense forest, but by crossing into the Western Hemisphere, I skirted around the forest and came upon The Field. One visitor remarked that the confluence was "another field." Let's all be thankful that we haven't yet paved over every confluence and that fields still abound.
The confluence lies about 5/6 of the way across the field, near its southern edge. I marveled at how different this confluence was from my previous one earlier in the month in the desert of southern Nevada USA. The terrain in this area of England is quite hilly, although the field containing the confluence is flat. In the distance to the east, one can see the village of Barkway. The field is planted with grass that grows in clumps approximately 20 cm high. The field is bounded on most sides by patches of forest, just beginning to fully leaf out with the arrival of spring. I arrived there at approximately 10:30am local time, nearly two hours after I had begun walking at Royston. The air temperature was approximately 18 degrees C with a brisk breeze blowing out of the west. I saw no animals at the confluence but saw plenty of pheasants, horses, cattle, and sheep on my hike from the village. I spent about 30 minutes at the site, shifting the GPS to obtain the "perfect photograph," and enjoying the English countryside immensely before my journey back to the USA.
I passed some wonderful purple flowers hiding in the patch of forest as I prepared to walk back to Royston. Wanting to make one more memory, I journeyed back to The Joint Road the way I had come, so that I could enjoy the blazing yellow fields for the last time. It turned out that I was to make two more memories. I turned to the west along The Joint upon exiting the field, and found a scenic footpath that took me all the way back to Royston. Although I lost the trail several times, it took me through a quarry, sheep, a horse ranch, woods, and fields that wound up and down vista-filled hillsides and valleys. I arrived back in Royston at 1:30pm local time, and visited the grocery store and the one-lane main street before boarding the 2:20pm train back to London. Upon my arrival there, I deemed the 9 hour odyssey a success, and despite the blisters on my feet, one of the most wonderful of the 11 confluence visits I have enjoyed.