Friday, 30 August 2013


This has been – and continues to be – one of the busiest weeks in our part of South Devon: the height of the summer plus school holidays plus the Royal Regatta at Dartmouth. These combine to make travel a bit of a nightmare: lots of traffic with few available places to park. It can be even worse in the lanes.

Not their fault, of course, but the visitors so often have little experience of driving in our country lanes which are often barely wider than a car – as you can see.

Then when you meet someone coming in the other direction there is a problem. One or other has to reverse into an area which is just wide enough for you to pass each other unless – and it happens quite often – there is such a place between you. Generally this will be a slight widening of the road giving just enough space to pass. The key is in those words “just enough”. Those of us who have driven here most of our lives are quite happy to stop only half an inch from a stone wall leaving a space to our right which is perhaps three inches wider than the incoming car. Likewise, if we are driving that oncoming car, we are more than happy with that. We pull in our wing mirrors and off we go. Those not used to the lanes are less content. Some pass by slowly and carefully but others just freeze and look helpless.
It's not just other vehicles: livestock seem to think they own the place.
They are probably right.
It is grossly unfair but then we say things like, “Come on for heaven’s sake. You could drive a bus through there!” in exasperated terms. This driver could not drive his or her car through there – let alone a bus. BUT if, like me, you rarely drive in large towns or cities, where the speed of the traffic switching from lane to lane with breath-taking confidence induces a sense of absolute terror, it behoves you to treat these drivers with courtesy: in their own comfort zones they are as confident and happy as are we in ours. Just as we fall to pieces when outside ours, so do they.

Thus, cursing under our breaths, we reverse as far as it takes to find a wider passing place, perhaps a gateway into a field or a road junction. We shall probably do this with complete insouciance never looking over our shoulders but with eyes flicking between our wing mirrors with the odd glance at the interior mirror. We are not showing off: reversing for long distances while turning your head round is somewhere between uncomfortable and downright painful so we soon learn to do it on mirrors alone.
They may be narrow but there are some lane verges that are delightful.
They are at their best in spring but still god here, three weeks ago.
However, we are probably breaking the law. The law does not encourage people to drive backwards down the roads and covers this with a simple regulation known as clause 203 of Law CUR reg 106: “You MUST NOT reverse your vehicle further than necessary.”

Putting aside the fancy name (I’m not quite sure what “Law CUR reg 106” means but it does sound like something rather distasteful) it poses a question. The capital letters are enshrined in that law, by the way, and they are sometimes printed in BOLD. The problem is contained in the word “necessary”.

If there really is enough space but one driver has insufficient confidence to drive through it, does that make it “necessary” in the eyes of the law for the other driver to reverse one inch let alone (as sometimes happens) a few hundred yards? Most of us don’t give this a thought, we do what we deem to be “necessary” and most of us do it cheerfully and then wave happily at the other driver as he or she passes by. Come to think of it, that driver is probably an accessory to this crime.

There are times – are there not? – when the law is an ass.

Still, come the end of next week after the schools start their autumn terms we shall all be back to normal. We shall still meet others in the lanes but when two “locals” meet they somehow size up the situation and quickly come to what feels like a mutual decision as to the best way to solve the impasse. Anyway, if you are not that happy in these narrow lanes there is no need to use them: they rarely lead anywhere that isn’t served by quite decent roads.

Last evening, Marcia and I went for a walk beside the River Avon at Shipley. 

We were lucky to see the dipper - a long was away as usual but always a delight.

It was Marcia who spotted this lichen draped over a thorn bush.
No question but that autumn is nearly on us when the rowan berries appear.
Chadwick aficionados will remember that it was here that Miles suffered a stroke so perhaps I should add that there was no such disaster yesterday.

Meet Filo.