Monday, September 27, 2010

Ye Olde Country Lanes

Welcome to the new Ye Olde series on the Laughing Songbird. I'm calling it a series because I plan on writing posts about many of the endearing and iconic elements that are associated with life in England. Don't get your hopes up too high though; while it is a series I can't promise any kind of regularity in the posts.

I begin today with Ye Olde Country Lanes, for I have a hate hate relationship with them. I have had several unsympathetic responses to some of my earlier posts about the horrors of driving in this country, so here I would like to provide photographic evidence of the perils that exist in real life on English roads on a daily basis.

Consider the photo below. At first glance it appears to be a lovely peaceful little road where there are bound to be serene spots to pull over and enjoy a picnic by a gurgling brook. While that assumption is 100% true, it is also a paved road of death. When approaching blind corners like these it is recommended that you go into the lowest gear possible and inch around the corner at no more than 1/2 mile per hour as you may very well encounter a tractor, an intoxicated farmer in a land rover, a little old lady who cannot physically stop or reverse her car, or worst of all; a foreign driver who doesn't realize cars might be coming in the opposite direction and therefore are driving at 70 mph admiring the scenery. If you have an accident on country lanes such as these it is automatically 50% your fault. No one can be bothered to figure out what really happened, it's simply split down the middle to save time. Best not to get in accidents.

Here you can see my arch nemesis, the dreaded tractor trailer combo. This beast does not reverse, even if another tractor trailer combo is coming in the opposite direction. In fact, that never happens because before they go out they send up smoke signals to alert other tractor drivers to stay off the road for the next 6.5 hours while they drive 2 miles up to the north fields. I heard somewhere that the last time two tractors met both drivers got out and walked away from them just like that, leaving time and rust to deal with the situation. No kidding. So it really stinks when you come upon one because you will be reversing for miles until you reach a lay-by. A lay-by is a passing point, scroll down to see one in real life.
You can pretty much see from this picture how much of the road my little tin can of a car takes up on its own. In the left of the picture is a lay-by. In fact, it is the same lay-by in which I stalled repeatedly in the days before my driving test. To read that story click here.
Below is another hedge lined country road. When they come along with giant beastly tanks to cut the hedges back you have to be careful because it is common to puncture your tires on thorns that have been cut from the hedges and left on the road. If that happens, send a smoke signal as some of these roads aren't driven down for days at a time.
Here is another one of my least favorite combos--the tractor with the thingy that cuts stuff on the back. The thingy that cuts stuff on the back has sharp prongs that stick out and are excellent car scratching mechanisms--you are pretty much guaranteed having to get a new paint job if you pass one of these puppies. As you can see from this picture, we came up to the tractor at an ideal time because it was able to pull into a lay-by and let us pass. And it was extra lucky because there was a gateway on our side of the road so we were able to pass and not have to get a new paint job. I live for magical situations like this.
Here is yet another hideous combo--the tractor with a trailer to carry an optional additional trailer. These are long and slow and are prone to not being able to make it around sharp corners. When that happens you better hope you have a packed lunch with you.
And here is one last photo illustrating the narrowness of these roads. I am super upset because I didn't get a picture of a tractor pulling a trailer loaded with hay bales. Those things are the size of two story houses and sway like a sail boat at sea during a mighty gale. I never got a picture of them because usually when I encounter them I have to reverse home and change my pants--there's no opportunity for picture taking.
**Disclaimer** All of these photos were taken by me while Sam was driving. I don't shoot and drive. Also, these were all taken on one 4 mile trip from our house to Sam's parents'.


  1. I admit I've never driven there but I do love those wonderful lanes with the hedgerows on both sides! That's part of what makes England England. You just have to be very "carefee" Mumsie

  2. oh my goodness! My old suburban would never be able to navigate those lanes! THey give my claustrophobia just looking at them! My hat's off to you, brave sojourner! Aunt Janet