Thursday, 13 November 2008

tree-lined country roads

As I drove to the Lake house the other day I was reminded, by seeing the last apples clinging onto a roadside tree, that I keep meaning to blog about this typical feature of the countryside. While the British roads have their lovely thick old hedges, almost all the minor, and many of the major, roads here are lined by - mostly old - trees. Now roadside trees are not something you wouldn't see in other European countries, but what is so special here is the frequency of them, and the variety. You get the giant lime trees or oaks along the routes that once were linking the important market towns, you get acers and ashes along others. Elsewhere you get liquid gold tunnels of beeches, especially colourful now in their Autumn glory. You see willows holding the road-banks in damp places, or tall poplars shielding the more exposed roads from the wind. But the most touching of all are the avenues of fruit trees that decorate the smaller roads, village to village everywhere: plums, apples, cherries, pears.
It is said that all these trees have a double function: 1/ to strenghten the road edges, and b/ to serve the travellers. Of course, in the days before cars, people used to travel more slowly, in their wagons and coaches, and so many just on foot. To markets, to work, to see the world. And the trees were there to shade their path from the sun, to shelter them from rain, and to provide them with sustenance. To this day, these trees bear their fruit for the travellers, but who needs shelter in rain-proof, air-conditioned cars, and who would eat the fruit polluted by so many passing exhausts? So the trees come to blossom and fruit, mostly to drop piles of rotting, unwanted produce - quite poignant, really. And there are many drivers who would have all these trees cut down. They curse and swear at them, because they slow them down, keeping the road span narrow, having never been intended for such speed. Indeed you see far too many little sad remembrance wreaths on the old tree-giants' trunks along the major roads, where two speeding cars coming in opposite directions had no room to move over and swerved head-on into the tree's arms.
But I do hope that the trees stay. And it seems that some local authorities here, including ours, favour the trees over the 'freedom to drive' too. I was very unhappy to see some giants felled on the road to the Mill but then, just a mile or so, I saw a brand new avenue planted, leading to the village where our friendly carpenter lives. So the tradition is surviving, and long may it live.

... and one more photo for those who may be interested how the Lake house is doing: currently it is a total mess of pipes, but it's progress : soon I hope to be able to report that the bathroom, hall and pantry are at the stage of rough finish. Watch this space :-)

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