13 March 2009
Quirky stuff on maps - 1
I spend a lot of time looking at maps while cycling, usually trying to find out where I've gone wrong. I don't need a satnav to take me the wrong way down a one-way lane and across a stream with no bridge; I can do that myself with an OS map.
And when I notice quirky stuff, I always want to cycle there. Maybe it's a place with a funny name like Wetwang. Or a strange geological phenomenon like the sandy tendril of Spurn Point four miles out at sea. Or the fact that the (arbitrary and much hated) county of Humberside had two villages called Wold Newton, one at its northernmost end, the other at its southernmost - inconvenient if you cycled to the wrong one.
Or maybe it's just, well, quirky. Here's four odd things I've noticed while browsing the map, lost:
1. The Two Great Tothams
(Make sure it’s the OS map view being displayed, not the road map.) Two separate villages in Essex, both called Great Totham, right next to each other. The result of some ancient factional split? Do they have a Real Great Totham and a Continuity Great Totham?
I cycled there to see what it was like, and sure enough, each village is signposted separately and identically. OS Landranger 168 is your map.
(Image produced from the Ordnance Survey Get-a-map service. Image reproduced with kind permission of Ordnance Survey and Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland.)
2. Two Goose Greens
More doppelgangers in rural Essex. Just a few kilometres from the twin Great Tothams is a pair of Goose Greens. (?Geese Green.) Find a village called Tendring; the first GG is a kilometre north, the second two kilometres or so north of that. With confusion like this, it's a wonder we ever got the Falklands back. OS Landranger 168 again.
3. An aerial river
Near Littleport in Cambridgeshire is this odd snake of contours (again, select the OS map view). They're the course of an old river whose banks were maintained as the land on either side slowly drained and sank, resulting in the river being higher than surrounding land. OS 143.
4. The only British place-name with an X
Only one place-name in England, as far as I can see, contains an upper-case X. The trick is that it's a Roman numeral, in Ruyton-XI-Towns, a 12th-century compilation-album of a place near Shrewsbury.
Obviously maps don't always correspond on the ground with what you see on paper in front of you. I was once obsessed with a round street in the middle of waste land I'd spotted on a map of London that appeared to be unconnected to the rest of the network. A secret military ring road? Eventually I realised it was the 'O' of 'LONDON'.
More suggestions welcome. More funny stuff coming up, including the point furthest from a road, the centroid of England, and Ordnance Survey maps' blankest square...