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4:55pm on Wednesday, 15th November, 2006:

Argent's Lane


There's a narrow road linking West Bergholt and the A12 northwest of Colchester, called Argent's Lane. It's single-track, although if there's another vehicle coming the other way then you can normally squeeze past except in the tightest parts. If one of the vehicles is too wide, or the oncoming driver doesn't look all that capable, there are some makeshift places where you can pull over and let them pass. If you don't pull over when you meet another vehicle, it means you both have to slow down; the main reason for pulling over is therefore that there's a string of cars coming at you, which it's easier to let pass you at speed rather than try to crawl past each one individually.

Now with its being a small road, it would be pretty stupid to drive a wide wagon down there. Nevertheless, sometimes drivers of wide wagons do drive down there (and not because their satellite navigation system told them to go that way, because it will almost always keep them on the A12). This morning, for example, when I went to Sainsbury's for some bread, there was a refuse lorry coming the other way at me. It pulled over so the car in front of me could pass, but moved out before I got there so I had to stop and reverse into a wider corner to allow it to pass me. That was annoying, but not as annoying as things were going to get for the 5 or 6 cars behind it.

The thing is, those drivers of wide vehicles never seem to consider to possibility that they might meet themselves coming the other way. They think that the other drivers of wide vehicles will obey the "no wide loads" signs and go and take the proper route (which involves extended waiting at a level crossing). They have no idea that other people have as little respect for the highway code as they do.

What I knew, but the refuse truck driver didn't, was that coming along behind me was a scaffolding lorry. I don't know why a scaffolding lorry was heading up a narrow country lane, except that the driver probably hoped to save some time. Behind that scaffolding lorry was another string of cars. The scaffolding lorry and the refuse truck would come face to face, and even if this happened at the widest part of the road they would be unable to pass one another. What's more, because they both had strings of cars behind them (and more arriving all the time) they wouldn't be able to reverse out eaily, either. I once saw a Post Office van and a bread van get trapped down there, and it was well over an hour before they got clear even though they were stuck quite close to one end. This refuse truck and the scaffolding lorry were going to meet somewhere in the middle.

Sure enough, when I returned from Sainsbury's half an hour later, having taken the precaution of coming back over the level crossing, I saw a man out of his car directing traffic away from the entrance to Argent's Lane so that the cars that had got stuck could do the tortuous, long reverse out (hopefully avoiding the ditches along the way) and the scaffolding lorry could then follow.

The sad thing is, this experience is unlikely to teach either of the drivers concerned a lesson. After all, if they were bright enough to learn from their experiences, they would be bright enough not to go down there in the first place.

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Copyright © 2006 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).