Touring topics

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[To the joy of driving a good car is added the pleasure to be derived from motoring itself—getting about and seeing things. Although soon all towns will be alike and it will be difficult to decide whether you are passing through Barnet, East Cheam or Frimley, and country roads will before long be soul-less sodium-lit dual carriageways, we hope to show you that motoring still retains much fascination for the observant. Under this heading road notes will be published from time to time about unusual items or topics of touring interest gleaned while driving about the country in the course of business.—ED]

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It is illegal to leave a vehicle after dark facing the wrong way with its lights on. Yet in Charlmont Road, Tooting, London Transport ‘buses park regularly on the right-hand side of the road, facing oncoming traffic. After dark the drivers naturally put the sidelamps on. Perhaps not actually dangerous, but one would have expected a Government transport organisation to set a good example, not break the law.

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When driving from Denham to Slough, after leaving the main London-Oxford road behind, I used to be amused at a signpost to “Egypt.” It made me feel more comfortable in chilly English weather. Since the road has become a dual carriageway there appears to be no way of getting to this hot-sounding village. The signposts now point only to Wexham. Where’s Egypt got to?

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For the most confusing of all one-way systems I recommend a visit to Kingston-on-Thames! This riverside town has become a very congested suburb of London, with cars thickly parked at the meters and in every other available space, especially on Saturday nights. At one time I associated Kingston with Brooklands’ habituees, many of whom resided there. Archie Frazer Nash still does, so does a pioneer racing driver who broke records at the Track in 1908 with a big Thames car, and only the other day I was taken into a small used-car emporium at the bottom of Kingston Hill and shown photographs of Powell’s Alvis, Charles Follett’s Lea-Francis, a Talbot and other cars, taken at Brooklands.

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Beside a road that traverses the open commonland of N.E. Hampshire is a grave to a dog, kept bright with fresh flowers. The inscription explains that the pet buried there was killed by a road hog. While I sympathise very deeply, I am surprised that wording of this seemingly libellous nature is permitted beside a public thoroughfare. Farther along this road, which may be a military one but is open to considerable ordinary traffic, recently, two tight chicanes, à la Goodwood, had been erected, where horses are likely to cross. They don’t seem to like motorists in this area, yet the road is used frequently by loitering learner-drivers in Army lorries.

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About a mile east of New Radnor there is a lodge to an estate. Judging by the grass track where once the drive ran the estate is no more, yet the clock on the lodge wall still informs the passing traveller of the time of day.

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Just before you get to Llanwrtyd Wells, which has been on the air and in Motor Sport just lately, and which was used as a hide-out for Vauxhall’s new small car, you come to the British Legion Caledonian Tweed Factory. Visitors are welcome, and an inspection is worthwhile, if only to admire the primitive belting that drives the looms. They sell some good cloth, too.

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It is probably of more interest to railway than to motoring enthusiasts, but a blue “London, Midland & Scottish” sign is still discernible by the occasionally-used level crossing in Bath Road, W.4, although the adjacent signal-box is virtually derelict.

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Unhospitable! If you drive the wrong way into the Municipal Car Park in Aldershot you don’t have to wait until you appear in Court to discover what this will cost you. A big notice tells you that the penalty is £5….

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Hand-operated petrol pumps survive, as I discovered when I bought National Benzole in Staunton, Glos., recently.

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A certain stretch of road is sometimes remembered for things other than its beauty or drabness. For instance, the ring-road round Gloucester, so sensibly marked at roundabouts with lanes for through or local traffic, although now subject to a 40 m.p.h. speed-limit where earlier this year it was de-restricted, I remember because an Austin A40 driven fast and skilfully by a girl, which had kept station with the Ford Zephyr 4 I was driving from shortly after Newbury, was finally lost, after we had remained together in a freak bit of congestion at the final roundabout, when she went straight on towards Ross and I turned right for Ledbury. At the junction where you can either turn right and descend the easier hill or go straight-on down old Birdlip Hill, the lady turned right. I went down the steeper hill, which I have climbed successfully in snow in a 1929 Standard 9 and fast in a 1953 Alfonso Hispano-Suiza; it is only about 1 in 10 and I wonder why any competent driver of a modern car goes the longer way round, like that A40 driver?

I paused to check the map at the foot of the hill and the A40 came by, preceded by a Saab driven by another attractive young lady. Both cars were driven skilfully through the thick tea-time traffic until we parted at the aforesaid junction. Incidentally, is this piece of road over the water bridge unduly slippery? I have encountered a couple of mild multi-car “shunts” thereon in recent months. I have also seen the heavy traffic from S. Wales inching into Gloucester, held up by—a herd of cows.—W. B.

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