Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Ridgeway Roadside

I wonder if my kids know it's not normal to pull off to the side of a busy major road in hazardous driving conditions, just to take photographs of a hedgerow? If they do, they conceal it very well.

As I drove to Oxford and back today to collect my son, I was overwhelmed by the sheer absurdity of the landscape near the Ridgeway. Everything had been spray-canned with rime frost, like a stage set, where freezing fog had settled onto every twig and blade of grass. It was breath-takingly weird.

On the way back, I was determined to get a few photographs. Unfortunately, there was nowhere safe to pull over in the most spectacular stretches, so I made do with a little layby where we were reasonably safe from the lorries thundering by in the mist. As soon as I got out and was on foot, of course, one sort of magic -- the broad sweep, picture-window magic of a train journey or motorway ride through a landscape -- turned into another -- the detailed, close-up magic of a frost-locked landscape.

I have rarely felt the lack of a ladder, a tall tripod, warm clothing and lots of time so acutely. And gloves, really warm gloves. Never mind, I got a few reasonable shots of a hundred yards of frozen roadside, and my son got to watch from the warmth of the car his peculiar father doing what he likes to do best.


Dave Leeke said...

I particularly like the first shot - me! What do I know about photography? - however, it does remind me of a similar situation.

A few years ago we were holidaying near Dublin. We were actually staying about 30 miles outside near to the Wicklow Mountains. We often passed a rather wonderful sign - I do have this photo, honestly - which was one of those warnings about how many people had been killed in the past year on this stretch of road. I had to jump out and take the shot before we came home to Blighty.

The sign itself had presumably originally one underneath explaining about Wicklow County Council and safety, but this one was now missing.

The sign read:

"234 (circa - not exactly sure) killed on Wicklow roads last year - Who Cares?"


Martin H. said...

Travelling the last couple of miles back home tonight, the landscape was still under the spell of the hoariest of hoar frosts. Our four year old granddaughter was agog!

Mike C. said...

It's better than snow, isn't it? I really wish I could have stopped in the patches where it was truly magical, and literally everything was white, but the road conditions weren't suitable.


Kent Wiley said...

Mike, I know it's tough to let go of "the one that got away," but what you've given us here is plenty good. It more than suffices.

Anonymous said...


Are there no secondary or tertiary roads? I used to regularyly do a 150 mile drive between ECentral Illinois and Chicago all on "backroads"; from boredom with the main roads. I was doing that drive every few weeks, so out of sport, I drove every road there was. A plus, is it gives one a real feel for the land that most don't see.


Mike C. said...


The English countryside is nothing but winding secondary roads (in G.K. Chesterton's words, "The rolling English drunkard made the rolling English road") but it takes a degree of courage to use them in hazardous weather.

Also, the down side of our "B" roads is that they are narrow and high banks and hedgerows block the view on either side -- it's like driving down a slot, waiting for a tractor to appear coming the other way. One of the joys of motorway driving is the unobstructed (often elevated) view of the landscape. It's the visual equivalent of 20th century democracy, if that's not too grandiose.

It was only out of habit that I had a camera at all -- Plan A was "Get there in one piece; find somewhere to park; load the car; get back in one piece".


David Brookes said...


We had similar hoarfrost here (on the Herefordshire - Shropshire border. Our neighbour (who has farmed in the village for thirty years) said that he had never seen anything like it. I was working indoors (desperately trying to get a new bathroom finished before Friday) but kept poking the camera out of various windows as the sun moved round and the shadows changed.

It was also interesting to see how many neighbours appeared in the road with cameras - we clearly all felt a desire to capture a truly spectacular sight. It almost made the cold weather worthwhile.

I also sympathise with you driving through difficult weather conditions to deliver / collect kids from Uni. Been there, done that etc.

Mike C. said...


Good to hear someone else is getting their bathroom sorted ...

As I say, my photos don't do it justice -- I could only stop at the fringes of the area of totally dazzling whiteness.

The curious thing about these unusual weather phenomena is that they don't come with a sign saying, "No, you really haven't seen this before!" and it takes a beat or two before you think, "What?!" I suppose a shower of frogs would be more obvious...

I'd love to see your neck of the woods in those conditions -- not quite God's Own Country, according to this blog, but certainly where he'd go for a holiday...