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A hiker’s library: ‘Two Degrees West, an English Journey’ by Nicholas Crane

On a mid-August morning, Nicholas Crane set off on his self-devised adventure. To walk two degrees west of the Meridian, from one end of England to the other, from the North Sea by Berwick-upon-Sea, to the Isle of Purbeck on the English Channel, and why not.

The author gave himself some leeway, he permitted himself to stray up to a 1000 metres each side of his line, between grid lines 99 and 01 on the Ordnance Survey maps that he cut and pasted together, giving him a strip route, 577.96 kilometre long, on thirty-six separate maps, folded and slipped into his trouser pocket. For all his two kilometre wide limit, the book wanders far wider, giving snippets of history and social context, though often, not quite enough.

He carried his belongings in a pack and, armed with an umbrella, sallied forth. Sleeping where he can, be-it ditches, woods or beneath motorways, he meets and engages with a hotchpotch of characters and commits to his self imposed parameters with determination. This man knows how to create an adventure, how to carry it out, and, most importantly, how to write about it.

Two Degrees West is a captivating book. It is an England and its people that few bother to go and explore and meet. If ever you want a book to inspire you to look for your own adventure, then this may do the job.

Two Degrees West- Constrained by his self-imposed line of longitude, Nicholas Crane prepares for a crossing of the River Tyne

Two Degrees West- Constrained by his self-imposed line of longitude, Nicholas Crane prepares for a crossing of the River Tyne

Book from my shelves:

Two Degrees West, an English Journey. Nicholas Crane, First published 1999. This edition 2000, Penguin Books

2 replies »

  1. 40 years ago this month I joined the Royal Engineers, where I met a then 17 year old who later became the best man at my wedding, as I was at his. He likes to review travel books on his website, ‘Three Point of the Compass.’ I have just been reading the very book he mentions today, ‘Two Degrees West.’ What a coincidence! Do you remember recommending John Hilaby’s ‘A journey through England to me Jools? I do, and I’m glad that you did. I think Nicholas Crane is an outstanding author and presenter. I am thoroughly enjoying this book, and would also recommend it.


    • Coincidence indeed! Thanks for your comment Colin. No doubt you will have seen my previous post on the very book you mention. I still return to reacquaint myself with it every now and then. If you say you are also reading the next book I post on in a few days, things are getting spooky…


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