Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The road that leads home

I have been in Lancashire for a few days, attending my niece's wedding and catching up with family and friends. It was really good to be there for such a joyous occasion since my visits in the last few years have been more solemn, visiting sick relations or attending funerals.

We set out after lunch on Thursday on what should have been a four to five hour journey. The first two hours went well, with very little traffic on the motorway but then the traffic announcements started: a lorry had shed its load, a pothole had opened in the road, a caravan had overturned and so on. The predicted long delay became a tailback of 7 miles, then 27 miles then between three,four then five, motorway junctions and growing longer. We had to choose between sitting in a queue of traffic for many hours or leaving the motorway and driving in the real world. This was one of the occasions when I was very glad that I had married a professional navigator!

We drove through parts of Shropshire and Cheshire on t
he wonderfully straight and wide Roman roads. We could see for miles across fields, rivers and canals, such a different experience from driving through narrow Devon lanes with their high banks and hedgerows.

Here are just a few of the sights we would have missed if we had stayed on the motorway:Stapeley Water Gardens
Churche's Mansion House, Nantwich

River Weaver, Nantwich

Aqueduct, Nantwich

Sankey Canal

Driving through the beautiful northern countryside
, I was reminded of the pre-motorway and seatbelt days of my youth, when we would squeeze six or eight people into a car and head for the country pubs or picnic spots. I suddenly had an almost physical longing to be back there and thought of Mole, in The Wind in the Willows, being overwhelmed by the sense of his Dulce Domum:
He stopped dead in his tracks, his nose searching hither and thither in its efforts to recapture the fine filament, the telegraphic current, that had so strongly moved him.......... Home! That was what they meant, those caressing appeals, those soft touches wafted through the air, those invisible little hands pulling and tugging, all one way!........ his old home that he had hurriedly forsaken and never sought again... he had hardly given it a thought, so absorbed had he been in his new life, in all its pleasures, its surprises, its fresh and captivating experiences. Now with a rush of old memories, how clearly it stood up before him in the darkness.

Mole goes back to his old home and enjoys all the "familiar and friendly things" again but he realises that he doesn't really want to give up his new life above ground, "But it was good to think he had this to come back to, this place which was all his own, these things which were so glad to see him again and could always be counted upon for the same simple welcome." Like Mole, I thoroughly enjoyed my brief time in my old haunts, but I suppose one can never really go back. I do recommend leaving the motorway and driving through your childhood memories, though.


  1. Beautiful pictures and idyllic driving. We often get off the interstates and drive along the shore or the old back roads (not as old as your Roman roads to be sure), but through small towns many of which missed the worst of late 20th century development.

  2. e, I had planned to spend this year and 2010 touring Britain in a camper van. There are so many lovely places I have only read about. That plan has been shelved because my mother-in-law has come to live with us but I hope to do it one day.

  3. We spent quite a lot of time camping around the country when the kids were young, but we had a station wagon and a tent. Hit every state but Alaska and Hawaii. It was fantastic. Also drove all over Canada and Mexico.

    When we were in your neck of the woods, we drove from London south and then west and north up to Edinburgh and then back to London. No camping that time though. Everywhere we went was so great, we didn't get as far north as we'd hoped.

    Now we have all the time and resources to do what we want, but the old bones just can't take it anymore, so I urge not to wait.

    Get a sitter for your mother-in-law go!

  4. Beautiful photos! How I would love to take a driving tour of the UK, but as that is impossible, I do rejoice in your photos. Thanks.

  5. Always worth taking "the road less travelled by", isn't it, M? (As your photos prove.) Like you I am still fantasising about the campervan. Did you see Richard Wilson touring North Cornwall in one? (Britain's Best Drives, online on BBC iPlayer here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00j0gsq/Britains_Best_Drives_North_Cornish_Coast/
    or download and watch on BBC iPlayer Desktop (both options only available in the UK, sadly).

  6. e, what wonderful experiences for your children. Did it give them a sense of adventure as they grew up?

    I take your point about not leaving it too late - look at my reply to 60goingon16!

  7. D, as we both have the camper van fantasy, do you think we could survive a "60 going on random" tour? Without the Thelma and Louise ending, of course.

  8. Carolyn, I feel the same about visiting many parts of the US and really enjoy your photos as a vicarious tour.

  9. It's all so beautiful and tranquil. I would love to see that in living color! Funny how views of distant places draw us in so when we are always surrounded by beauty. I guess it's the "grass is always greener" syndrome. :)
    Oh, and I believe that Toad would agree with your thought process.

  10. Karin,
    Yes, it is that "grass is greener" notion that sends us all on holidays away from home (although the weather plays a large part for Brits!). In fact it is looking at blogs from around the UK that has made me appreciate how much of my own country I haven't seen that has made me want to spend time exploring our green and pleasant land.

  11. Yey for Lancashire :) I love travelling the B roads, so much more fun than the dreary motorways.


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