The changing scene

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Some time ago I was complaining in these pages about the prolonged closure of a road bridge on B438 and the very long detours this entailed. When the road was reopened the annoyances were mitigated by noting that the bridge that had caused the detour had been nicely rebuilt in Cotswold stone, to blend with the rural scenery. With so many other aged bridges, which have stood unchanged for very long periods, and are an attraction for locals, tourists and historians, being ruthlessly pulled down and replaced by drab, uniform iron structures, it was pleasant to see that this local authority had been aware of scenic amenities and had rebuilt their bridge properly.

It is hardly the same with country lanes. Some of you may say the wider and the greater the area of any road the better, because you can then motor faster over it. However, vintage-car owners have some sense of continuity and sometimes welcome a drive along unchanged country lanes. Which is why it is so sad that local authorities seem determined to destroy such lanes, beloved though they are by holiday visitors, ramblers and others. To quote a case in point, I used to be able to drive out of my gate and immediately on to Welsh lanes that had been unchanged in width and appearance for hundreds of years. Turn left after a short distance and one was on the narrow Ysfa lane, sacred to the Kilvert Society as it was used by. the Rev. Kilvert when he came to lay the foundation-stone of the Ysfa Chapel (still used for worship) and on to spend the night at the house where I now live — on horseback, of course.

Although this lane links the A44 and the A470 it carries comparatively little traffic. That has not rendered it immune from the tamperings of the local authority. It wasn’t long before parts of it began to be widened. Enquiry of the District Council brought an assurance that this was merely being done to dispose of some waste road material, which was being used to fill-in the ditches. There was no proposal, they said, to alter any further length of this ancient lane, that meandered peacefully, grass-verged, between rolling grassland and meadows, with the rising hills as a backdrop. When a self-interested syndicate wanted to open a neon-lit type of holiday camp adjacent to it, the narrow aspect of the lane foiled the project.

Now, only a year or so later, the whole 4-1/2 miles of lane are being widened, into a broad black tarmac ribbon of B-road significance, with white lines and triangles at side-roads to denote its major status. Multiply this one example over the whole country… It would seem time to think about a Society for the Protection of Britain’s Country Lanes, to ask why they are being changed and why such work is necessary; many are suffering from the stipulation that any road under repair must be widened to a statutory width. I have an idea that the VSCC and other old-vehicle bodies might back this? One would think that in Mid-Wales, where tourism is so important, there might be some resistance to this, and the views of the various Tourist Boards would be of interest. — W.B.