Monday, January 15, 2018

valley of the dulls

Sorry to do a follow-up to a follow-up, but I remember how I happened across the Spurn story now: I was fiddling with an Ordnance Survey map (probably my ancient copy of OL13 that I took on last weekend's walk, and which is now extremely crispy and held together with a substantial amount of tape after repeated soakings) and had a recollection of the QI segment about Britain's dullest (i.e. most featureless) map square, which turns out to be in the vicinity of Ousefleet in north Lincolnshire. A few other contenders are linked here: this one just north of the Solway Firth must have been a strong contender in terms of actual on-the-ground features, but contains quite a bit of writing which any map-trawling algorithm would need to know to ignore.

The convention seems to be to look at the 1:50000 Landranger series; even in Ousefleet if you zoom in to 1:25000 there's all sorts of fascinating drainage ditches and the like to be seen. As marvellous as this is from a nerdy academic perspective these places are all phenomenally dull by their very nature on the ground, and by virtue of their physical geography probably boggily nightmarish to traverse. Dull as ditchwater, in fact, quite literally.

Ousefleet is in the vicinity of Scunthorpe, which in addition to being a canonical example of the difficulty of writing sensible text-parsing profanity filters is a sort of marginal entry on the list of amusing UK place names, a subject I addressed at greater length (and with more sniggering) here. Note that photographer Dominic Greyer has made a career (and very nice too) out of spotting and documenting this sort of stuff, and in addition to books now offers all sorts of merchandise if you would like to buy your loved one a mug with, for instance, BELL END emblazoned on it.

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