Take Me Home Country Roads

country roadsWhen you drive the main roads of our Nation there are all manner of perils awaiting you. Speed cameras, cash-hungry councils and over-zealous, target-driven officials haunt your every turn. Authorities love signs: from no parking to no ball games on the grass, your motoring life is blighted by more rules and regulations than you can shake your puny fist at. What’s the solution?

Well, why not take to the country roads? Just for once, turn off the A roads and see where the little used byways of Britain take you – a magical mystery tour if you will, through bosky lanes and green fields flecked with sheep; a place where old men wearing smocks lean against rustic gates and pretend they don’t understand what you’re saying and where the only fuel available to buy is bootleg red diesel. There’s a whole world out there ready to be explored and the best thing is you are away from spying gantry eyes and the dead-eyed fish gaze of council dementors.

There are a few things to watch out for though because it turns out almost two thirds of road deaths occur on country roads. That’s a bit of a downer. Maybe it is because we tend to drive on rural roads in the same way we drive on the main arterial routes and that won’t work. You don’t have to go fast all the time. The back roads – where wizened old ladies in small cottages offer home made lemon curd for sale in phlegm-flecked Kilner jars – have particular risks of their own.

Overgrown hedges hide stiff branches to scratch that precious paintwork. Blind corners conceal unseen slow moving vehicles – forget the slow in fast out rule. Out there where the wild things are there are many surprises just waiting to take down the townie driver but it does give you a chance to hone your driving skills by looking ahead and reading the road and acting accordingly in good time.

You’ll be surprised to learn, for example, that agricultural vehicles like tractors and harvesters are not only used by amused farmers to drive motorists crazy on main roads, no; they are also used in fields and farmyards out in the boondocks to do actual work. Therefore, much to the consternation of those inexperienced in the ways of the countryside, they will pull out of fields and secret gates without warning, catching out the unwary, speeding driver.

Then there’s the wildlife and here I’m thinking not about Young Farmers but rather real wild animals. Deer are no respecters of the rules of the road and will leap at you from leafy glades without warning. Often, being country dwellers, they are not insured and you will find yourself having to foot the whole repair bill yourself. The only upside is that if you like a bit of venison you can always eat parts of the victim later.

And of course, you have to be prepared for other roads users. Country people, especially those on horses, can be quite salty in their turn of phrase when riled so give them a wide berth. They do come in handy though when you have your bored screen-devoted kids on board because you can point at them and say, ‘Look! Horses!’ as if they could give a monkey’s.

The countryside has pedestrians and hikers, cyclists, bad-to-the-bone Sons of Anarchy styled motorcyclists and herds of livestock to contend with as well. The beasts of the field have a habit of wandering about without any consideration for other road users. Sheep are great offenders in this regard, often choosing to take a nap on the Queen’s lanes. Gunning your engine and hooting a lot doesn’t work because sheep can drop dead at any moment from fright and you will be sued.

So stay alert. Driving on our the country roads offers boundless pleasures, with picnic stops (wasps), quaint rural roadside cafés (‘Sorry deary, but just what is a frappuccino?’) and a bigger chance of bird strikes. Or you could just stick to the main roads and motorways. It’s hell, but at least you know where you stand.
Geoff Maxted