The Movable Midlands; ANSWERS TO CORRESPONDENTS

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The movable Midlands

QUESTION In terms of population, where is the centre of Britain?

I ANSWERED this with fellow geography professor David Atkins while working on a project for the Office for National Statistics in 1995.

To estimate the population centre, a weighted average of every district was calculated.

The centroids were then derived from the ward-based boundaries of each district, and their eastings and northings weighted according to the number of people living within them. The average of these co-ordinates determined the population centre of the country.

Using information available from 1901-1995, it became apparent that the population centre has moved steadily southward and slightly to the east over the past century.

In 1901, it was at the hamlet of Rodsley, Derbyshire, halfway between Derby and Stoke-on-Trent. By 1911, it had moved 2.2 km and was next to the village hall in Longford. By 1921, movement had slowed to just 996 metres, but by 1931 had jumped the greatest in the 20th century - 5.6km - to Hilton Fields.

From then to 1971, movement averaged 250-375 metres a year. In 1971, it was in Newhall, north of Swadlincote, South Derbyshire.

A furious rate of population movement throughout Britain in the Eighties meant that in 1991 it had reached the village of Overseal, Derbyshire, near the border with Leicestershire.

Today, it lies further to the south and east, in Leicestershire. It is now 5km south in the village of Appleby Parva, near junction 11 of the M42.

Professor Daniel Dorling, School of Geography, University of Leeds.

APPLEBY PARVA, Leicestershire is the population centre of Britain, but it's 157 miles south of the geographical centre, Haltwhistle, Northumberland.

The geographic centre is measured by taking the halfway point in the north-south line through mainland Britain. This method was used by ancient civilisations to calculate the centre of their empires.

This proud title has been added to road signs, tourist information and adopted by many local businesses.

Tourists gather on most days in the old market square taking photographs in front of the centre of Britain signpost.

It's been suggested it might make sense to move the capital further north.

Cities such as Chester and

York have been suggested, but we'd happily accommodate a new capital here.

Emma Hodgson, President, Chamber of Trade, Haltwhistle, Northumberland.

QUESTION When my mother was still alive, she used to recite from memory a poem which began 'Abu Ben Ahdem (may his tribe increase), Awoke one night from a deep dream of peace. …