by Nicholas Crane
An English Journey
You know Nicholas Crane from off the telly. He's the chap with the brolly who walks a lot. Anyway, back in the last millennium, he set off on foot to walk along the line of longitude two degrees west of Greenwich (the central meridian) from Berwick-upon-Tweed to the Dorset coast (plus or minus one kilometre either side). This line of longitude is particularly important for a number of reasons, namely: (a) it runs the entire length of England; (b) it is the line of longitude upon which the Ordnance Survey's National Grid is based; (c) because of this, it is the only line of longitude shown on Ordnance Survey maps (oh yes it is—thanks to the use of the Mercator projection, none of the other so-called northing lines points directly towards the North/South Poles); (d) it passes just 200 metres west of my house.
I was very temped to buy this book when it first came out, but, for some inexplicable reason, I didn't. So I ended up having to buy a second-hand copy off Amazon. And I'm delighted that I did, because Two Degrees West turns out to be a stonkingly good read. Crane must have carried out an awful lot of research for the book, as it is packed full of interesting snippets that he couldn't possibly have known beforehand. He does, however, make one howler, confusing Yorkshire's highest hill, Whernside, with the somewhat lower, and, therefore, inappropriately named, Great Whernside.
A running theme of the book is how the quality of English country life is gradually declining as more and more rural facilities (pubs, post offices, shops, etc.) go out of business. Over a decade later, the process continues.