Sunday, 17 November 2013

Another Roadside Attraction

I have a particular liking for minor country roads, and what can be seen on and from them, whether along the roadside verge or through gaps in the the hedges that -- in most of southern England -- bar access to neighbouring farmed fields.  Such roads are the nowhere that is everywhere.

NE from Twyford Down across Morstead Road

I grew up in a New Town plonked down into an agricultural, mainly arable, part of the country, where what lay on the other, farmed side of the hedge was generally regarded as off-limits.  Not that anyone was much bothered -- the attractions of a ploughed field in heavy clay soil country are zero, unless you're a crow.  You can trust me on this: at school, we were required to go on wintry cross-country runs through a particularly sticky one.  There must be hundreds of gym-shoes lost in the deep mud of that field, a puzzling find for future archaeologists ("We think it's a ritual deposit -- some kind of Shoe Cult").

In such intensively-farmed areas, a "country walk" generally means a walk down a country road.  In these days of constant heavy, high-speed traffic, of course, this is not to be recommended, but I enjoy it anyway.  There's something revelatory about seeing all that road-furniture that you normally whizz past in a car -- signs and kerbs and barriers and so on -- up close and at walking speed.  Not to mention the intriguing road-side debris, ranging from hub-caps and bits of body-trim to roadkill in various states of flatness, and the piles of fly-tipped rubbish.  As people say nowadays, what's not to like?

Though you do have to be careful.  Wandering down the verge of the A3057 between Southampton and Romsey, I nearly stepped into a deep storm-drain, the cover of which had been removed and left lying by the side of the road.  Another time, I thought for 30 spine-tingling seconds I had come across a human skull  in a lay-by.  On closer inspection, it turned out to be a disposable nappy, balled up, taped shut, and swollen with rain.  Phew.

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