08-Apr-2004 -- Each confluence visit is unique, but a visit to the Prime Meridian is extra special. On a fine April morning, I Joseph Kerski, together with colleague Gordon Spence, successfully visited 51 degrees North Latitude, 0 degrees Longitude. I was in the United Kingdom for the annual meeting of the Geographical Association . As the focus of my visit was for geography education, it seemed appropriate to cap off the meeting with a confluence visit.
This confluence expedition well illustrates the power of exploration and geography of bringing people together. I admired Gordon for his goal of visiting all confluences in England, Wales, and Scotland. He has a degree in International Studies and has traveled extensively to many countries. After corresponding with him for the past 2 months, we had agreed to meet in Canterbury to make a dash for 51 North, 1 East. Upon his arrival in Canterbury at 6am, Gordon told me that our appointment with the boat captain was delayed until 11:30am, leaving us with several precious hours to squeeze in another confluence visit. Was I willing? But of course!
I had never met Gordon Spence before, but we were soon chatting most amiably, drawn together by our love for exploration. We traveled westward and southward through Kent, East Sussex, and West Sussex Counties in beautiful southern England. I was immediately impressed that Gordon uses a Windows CE handheld computer running NavTech in-vehicle GPS-enabled navigation, complete with moving digital map and voice directing him which way to turn. We turned west from highway A275 and wound through a few one-lane paved backroads to two country homes and
the granary that Gordon had photographed during his previous visit here. We stopped the vehicle at about 7:50am local time. The trail to the southwest was slippery from last night's rain, but the air was refreshing and the hills a verdant green. We turned left at a field planted in grass and walked along its edge. To our left, the bluebells were just beginning to emerge in the woods. After a short 15-minute walk, we reached the confluence
at about 8:50am local time. It was interesting to see the various forms that the confluence dance took Gordon and I, and how far apart we stood, each following our own GPS receivers. The local time seen on the photograph of my GPS is North America Mountain Time, seven hours behind.
The confluence lies on nearly flat ground, dipping ever so slightly toward the east. The confluence lies in a field of grass, which was about 16cm high during the time of our visit. The confluence point is on the northeast edge of the field, about 12 meters from the edge of the woods. The temperature was a mild 8 C at the time of our visit, a spring morning, with puffy clouds moving rapidly across the sky. As had been the case at 52 North on the Prime Meridian when I had visited it during 2003, this confluence, too, has a track parallelling the Prime Meridian, about 10 meters west of it, which can be seen in the site photograph. We stood there speculating on the fact that few land confluences exist along the Prime Meridian. Gordon has been to all three in Great Britain, at 51, 52, and 53 North; I have now visited two. We spent about 20 minutes enjoying the site. We saw no animals at
the site but did hear many types of birds, including the distinctive sound of a woodpecker.
As we walked back out the way we came, we realized that one of the homes near the granary was a few meters from the Prime Meridian. Did its inhabitants realize the importance of the location of their home? Gordon sells real estate and we speculated whether homes bisected by a line of latitude or longitude should be appraised at a higher value! We were treated to a passing of the historic steam train before leaving the area. We stopped at the train
station immediately after the confluence visit, which is a five-minute drive to the south. Next, we headed east for our appointment with the boat captain who would take us on an adventure on the high seas to 51 North, 1 East.