Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Middle of Nowhere: Mallorca's middle

The village of Meriden in the West Midlands may only have a population that is slightly greater than 2,500, but the good folk of this village used to be able to boast something that no other folk in England could. They lived in the geographic centre of England. Then one morning not very long ago, the Meriden folk woke up and found that their sleepy village (one assumes it is sleepy, as cliché tradition demands that a village is) was no longer the centre of the English universe. The centre had been moved some eleven miles away. What's more it was no longer in the non-traditional county of the West Midlands but in an altogether more traditional county, Leicestershire. Boffins at the Ordnance Survey had determined that a field at Lindley Hall Farm in Fenny Drayton, Leicestershire was the geographic centre. How the good folk of Meriden must have wept and feared for their property values. And what were they going to do with the memorial which declares Meriden centrality?

There have been other pretenders to the centrist crown of England. Morton in Derbyshire is one such place, but there can now no longer be any debate or rival claims. Fenny Drayton it is. And just as the Ordnance Survey has decided that a field in the middle of nowhere is the English middle, so the Universitat de les Illes Balears, Eptisa (a company which undertakes map-making on behalf of the islands) and the National Centre for Geographic Information have all agreed that Mallorca's geographic centre is also in the middle of nowhere - in the common woods (Sa Comuna) of Lloret de Vistalegre.

The good folk of Lloret - the "lloritans" - can now, once and for all, thumb their noses at the pretenders in the next pueblo. Sineu, often and erroneously referred to as being the geographic centre, can now only claim to be slightly off-centre, and as a consequence many a website is going to have to update its information, which will be more than slightly inconvenient. There was an advantage to the Sineu middleness for the touristically-minded promotion. It has certain attractions - its well-known market, its church dome designed by Joaquín Pavía y Birmingham, its one-time Palace of the Kings of Mallorca. Lloret, on the other hand, doesn't have any of these. Only a 1.74 metre high stone in some woods. Here lies the centre of Mallorca; it doesn't say.

At least this geo-centricity affords Lloret a claim to fame that it previously hasn't had. It places the village firmly on the map, where it has always been, but which hasn't been sufficient to entice anyone to go there. Being in the middle of things might be deemed advantageous but not necessarily in Mallorca. The middle is the middle of nowhere, regardless of whether it's in the middle of a wood or not.

However, now that Lloret can point to the authority of the university and its partners and so to its enviable location, will there be a surge of tourist interest? Surely any self-respecting tourists would wish to beat a path of an off-the-beaten path variety in order to take selfies next to the stone of Mallorcan middledom; wouldn't they? Well, possibly. Just as possibly tourists to England will wish to trample across the fields of Fenny Drayton and stand with a beaming smile next to an old railway sleeper that has been stuck in the ground along with a sign replete with the cross of St. George which states that the Ordnance Survey defined the spot as the geographical centre in 2002 (it took eleven years for this definition to be officially marked). The owner of the farm is, remarkably enough, called Farmer. Stephen Farmer believes that the sleeper (which in fact is 150 metres from the exact spot, which is in a field) could become a tourist attraction. As visitors go to Land's End to have their photos taken with the famous sign, then why wouldn't they want to come to Fenny Drayton and do likewise? But then Land's End does have some additional appeal. Firstly, it is land's end and secondly, there's a ruddy great ocean next to it. 

Still, councillors at the Borough of Hinckley and Bosworth live in hope of new-found tourism riches. So should the leaders of Lloret be shouting the geographic centre from the tourism rooftops? Maybe, but there will always be those who reject the sudden appearance of inquisitive tourists because they might cause harm to the common and its flora and fauna, while the town hall has bemoaned the fact that it already costs 3.6 million euros to pay for rubbish collection (a cost shared with other town halls). The chances are, therefore, that the stone marking the geographic centre will remain unmolested. In the middle of nowhere.

For photo of the Lloret stone, go to: http://ultimahora.es/mallorca/noticias/part-forana/2014/135350/piedra-metros-reivindica-centro-geografico-mallorca-lloret.html

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