(Very) long-time readers of the blog will no doubt fondly remember the time, back in 2014,  when I hooked up with fellow blogger Vincent and...

Back to Puynormand and the place where the Greenwich meridian and the 45th parallel north intersect

(Very) long-time readers of the blog will no doubt fondly remember the time, back in 2014, when I hooked up with fellow blogger Vincent and my son Dorian to explore the ultimate “invisible” subject, namely the virtual point where two virtual lines intersect virtually: we give you the confluence point between the Greenwich meridian and the 45th parallel north! Hurrah! 

As you will have gathered by quickly cross-referencing with the terrestrial globe you invariably have on hand, the place is of particular interest to anyone with the slightest interest in geographical oddities: this is the very spot that lies not only exactly mid-way between the equator and the North Pole, but also where east also becomes west (or west becomes east). And yes, it’s in Gironde, by the side of a road that runs between Saint-Seurin-sur-l’Isle and Puynormand (it is technically located on the territory of the latter), around 60 kilometres to the east of Bordeaux. 

Back in 2014, Vincent, Dorian and I braved the pouring rain to hammer in a homemade wooden sign that would provide a marker showing where the meridian and the 45th parallel met. At the time, there was nothing there to indicate the exact spot, and our rudimentary sign survived a number of years (and was even ceremonially photographed by a number of latitude/longitude confluence enthusiasts, who post their discoveries online).  

The very basic sign we hammered into the ground, in the pouring rain, in 2014.

But, perhaps even more memorably, thanks to a chance encounter, our time in Puynormand included an unplanned audience with one André Stanghellini. He was the founder of “Greenwich / 45°”, a small association which seeks to raise awareness of this oddball place and which had developed ambitious plans to create a fully-fledged visitors’ area, complete with car park, a sizeable monument and a series of information panels. It made for a fascinating conversation. 

Back in the present (August 2022), some eight years on, Puynormand and its unique confluence happened to be conveniently located close to the itinerary of a four-day cycle trek planned with my wife and father-in-law. I could not let up this opportunity to catch up with Mr Stanghellini once again, and hear what progress had been achieved in the intervening period. He was only too pleased to oblige!

Part of the new sign visible on site.

Once again, we met at his home in the village of Puynormand, which no longer serves as a maison d’hôtes, but was nevertheless full of life the day I was there, as André and his wife Marie-José were in the company of their son Pierre and family, who were all over from their home in Hong Kong. I asked him what had changed since 2014. 

“We have tried in vain to make things happen and many promises have been made, but nothing has really happened, largely due a lack of finances. However, one major step forward is that the land itself was bought by the local mairie and is now ‘terrain communal’. As we have the full support of the mayor, we were at least able, a year or so ago, to install a large permanent marker.” 

Indeed, I was actually already aware of this sturdier marker, having recently read a blog article written by retired schoolteacher François Remodeau who has set himself the challenge of walking the length of the Greenwich meridian from northern England to southern Spain (François was in touch with me and we had discussed André Stanghellini’s plans!). 

André Stanghellini and Greenwich meridian adventurer François Remodeau (photo courtesy François Remodeau).

André added that “we used durable equipment that had also been employed for the sign outside our maison d’hôtes, it should withstand all the elements! Nevertheless, we would still like to take things further. Ultimately, our twin objective is of course to materialize the confluence, but also to provide the back-story, and give a pedagogical guide to what it all represents in terms of the history of structuring and calculating time and space, enabling navigation, and so on. There is a definite chance we may at least be able to install some information panels with the help of a teacher.”

Marie-José also mentioned that, in the meantime, “the confluence has undoubtedly become a bit of a local landmark, we even incorporated it into a Heritage Days visit of the area – that is where the walk ended up!”

The new roadsign, a general view of how little there is to actually see on site, and a close-up of the marker in all its glory.

And although plans for the full-on visitor centre seem to have been dropped, the dream of a more substantial and more emblematic work of art is also still on the cards. André explained that “we are hoping to approach a renowned Bordeaux-based metalwork artist whom we think may be keen to install a piece in such a unique location.” So, just perhaps, a few years from now, people whizzing through the countryside on the A89 motorway or the Départementale 123 will be able to spot a tall sculpture showing where the two imaginary lines meet! 

Leaving André and his delightful family behind (André signed off with a warm and sincere “Vive l’amitié franco-britannique”), I cycled down to see the new sign for myself, and was also happy to see there was now an arrow indicating the way from the main road. On site, I realized there were two other more makeshift additions to the landscape, in the shape of separate wooden signs representing latitude and longitude. After taking a few photos, I headed off eastwards to nearby Ménesplet where my travelling party was spending the night. 

One of the other wooden, slightly crucifix-like signs.

Once again, eight years on, it had been strangely enjoyable to visit something that doesn’t actually exist, due in no small part to having a second chance to witness the drive, enthusiasm, and good humour of André Stanghellini. Invisible Bordeaux (along with the meridian adventurer François Remodeau) certainly hopes his plans do come to fruition! Vive Puynormand!

> Find it on the Invisible Bordeaux map: Convergence between Greenwich meridian and 45th parallel North

> Click here to read the account of François Remodeau's trek along the Greenwich meridian (as far as northern Spain for now!)

> Click here to read about the 2014 Puynormand adventure

> Ce dossier est également disponible en français !

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