The Things You See And Hear

You’d have thought with all the local riding I do that I’d have noticing most things by now, but no. I’ve ridden through Goring Heath any number of times, but I’ve never before noticed that one of the lanes at the crossroads there is called Deadmans Lane.

As with nearby Gallowstree Common and numerous other places, I’m struck by how macabre so many older place names are; for a Council to call anything something even slightly other than anodyne these days is unthinkable. What that shift signifies, if anything, I have no idea.

Shortly before the crossroads, as I was going by Gutteridge’s Wood, some tree-felling was going on – large beech trees. I was lucky enough to be passing just as one toppled to the ground. Hitherto that’s only a sound I’ve heard second-hand, on television, but it’s still unmistakable. It’s an evocative and unique noise that it makes – powerful and, I guess, a bit sad. All those years of growth ended by a few minutes work with a chain saw. Still, woods need to be managed; I imagine it was being done with good reason.

A few miles further on, just past Tidmarsh, I saw a stone mile-marker on the side of the road showing the number of miles to Basingstoke. That’s the first time I’ve seen that too, despite riding by it dozens of times. I wonder if they are at all relevant or useful to anyone anymore. Distance is nowhere near as significant as it once was, at least for drivers. And even for other travellers, walkers and cyclists and whoever else, with GPS and good maps and so on, a stone saying such-and-such miles to somewhere is really of little consequence. It all moves on.

I’ve thought before that making up totally fictitious, fanciful stories about the origins of place-names in Britain might be good fun; they are so often so strange.

To continue the anachronistic theme that the day seems to have, near Sulhamstead I joined a small queue of traffic that had had to stop to wait for a canal boat to pass through the narrow little swing bridge at Tylemill. Barges are so gloriously slow in comparison to rail and road. I’m as prone as anyone to hustling along when I’m driving and I’ve never been known for my patience in any sphere of life, but I do wonder whether all the hurrying we seem to do these days brings any real gain. If everything took longer, so what? What are we hurrying towards?