M25 to The River
For the purposes of CabbieBlog London starts – and ends – at the M25. So to start following the Meridian Line we have to commence at precisely that point on the motorway at 51° 40’ 53” N if you were driving clockwise it’s just after the A112 bridge. Now I’m not suggesting park up on the hard shoulder (there isn’t one!) and climb up the steep embankment there to Walk the virtual Line. But should you decide . . .
On your left is the Eastern Hemisphere while the western world, and therefore civilisation as we know it, is open to you should you turn right.
As we tramp across Quinton Hill Farm I should offer a note of caution when the Meridian was being discussed in 1884 the French wanted it for their own, but we had the support of America, and as with other battles with Europe, the Yanks came to our aid and we got Greenwich Mean Time. Europeans tried recently to have the honour taken from Greenwich but again were unsuccessful, that as we shall see later was achieved by your mobile phone.
After stomping through Gilwell Park the first tangible evidence of the Meridian, as if to make up for any sign before, are two obelisks on Pole Hill, the tallest hill in north-east London. On one there is an apology:
This pillar was erected in 1824 under the direction of the Reverend John Pond, MA, Astronomer Royal. It was placed on the Greenwich Meridian and its purpose was to indicate the direction of true north from the transit telescope of the Royal Observatory. The Greenwich Meridian as changed in 1850 and adopted by international agreement in 1884 as the line of zero longitude passes 19 feet to the east of this pillar.
Now as you stand by the obelisk and move 19ft east as instructed, then continue in that direction for another 334ft, now the Meridian runs through your head. Modern GPS has taken account of the Earth being not perfectly round, which affects the gravitational pull and the planet’s bulge. Accurate measurements have only been made possible with satellite technology.
All this is to say that instead of forking out £9.50 to straddle the Meridian at Greenwich here you can do it for free and have a great view of Essex thrown in.
But we can’t hang about admiring all that Essex has to offer from this vantage point, we must move on. Next negotiate Chingford Green, Chingford Hatch and Highams Park, it’s station is just yards from the line, contemplate that the next time the train’s delayed.
Cross the North Circular Road via Hale End Road Bridge, for the more pedantic among you with the exact line is to your left, via a slip road and 8 lanes of fast moving traffic.
Continue down Fulbourne Road and Wood Street, when you reach Wood Street Station you’re pretty well on the money, in fact, a prosaic concrete slab outside the 14th Walthamstow Scout Group testifies to you straddling two hemispheres.
When Wood Street reaches the Lea Bridge Road it splits for vehicles entering and leaving a roundabout, stand in the middle and the line passes through you. Note how the traffic circulating around the roundabout seem unconcerned as they enter and leave each hemisphere, the local authority really should erect a sign, they did, after all, declare the borough nuclear free.
In 2000 The London Borough of Waltham Forest took seriously they had the Meridian Line through their neck of the woods. As a result, dozens of faded yellow and green signs populate the pavements.
This one in Peterborough Road is only slightly out at 00° 00′ 92″ W. The actual line runs through Whipps Cross Hospital and as far as I can ascertain has done nothing to mark the Meridian’s presence, nor, it should be said, the fact that David Beckham was born here.
Yomping on south our next obstacle is the relatively new A12 which, it seemed to me, was constructed to give easy access to the Olympic Village and to speed up the opportunity to join the jam to enter the Blackwall Tunnel.
Crossing this obstacle by means of the B161 Cathall Road gets us bang in the Meridian button. Likewise, the small St. Patrick’s Cemetery on your right where Mary Jane Kelly, the Ripper’s last victim; Timothy Evans, wrongly convicted of murder at 10 Rillington Place, whose body, when he was given a posthumous pardon, was reinterred here; and over 12 members of Alfred Hitchcock’s extended family.
Unfortunately, the cemetery appears full so any desire to be buried with one’s head in the west and feet in the eastern hemisphere are dashed.
Trekking south we come to Stratford Station where according to Diamond Geezer the conveniences at the bus station needs a marker, for the Meridian passes through one of the cubicles.
At this point, I would suggest you get the train to East India station on the Docklands Light Railway, for between Stratford and there is a wasteland of gas works and industrial buildings.
East India station is 00° 00′ 08″ W just a stone’s throw from our intended position.
Walk out the station into Newport Avenue right into Jamestown Way and 100 yards along this road is the Meridian Line, it is also the furthest south we can get without a boat.
Next time we go Sarf of The River heading towards Greenwich, even if the observatory is in the wrong location, and then we strike out for the M25.
If you remain unsatisfied or lazy and really, really want to enjoy a close-up physical manifestation of the Meridian Line, simply don’t park your car but pop off at J25 or J26 and head for nearby Waltham Abbey, where the vertical centre of the earth is in fact marked out by a symbolic blue arch within the Abbey Gardens.
East India DLR station: The elevated nature of the DLR, so typical of this area, is shown with this view of East India station. A westbound train is just arriving. The road is Blackwall Way, and the distant high building is the HSBC tower at Canary Wharf. By Nigel Cox (CC BY-SA 2.0)
St Patrick’s Cemetery, Langthorne Road, Leytonstone, London E11 by John Salmon (CC BY-SA 2.0)