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1:33pm on Tuesday, 6th October, 2009:

Plough Lane


Yesterday, we had a departmental away day, which was fine except for the part where we were away for a day. This time, we actually ventured off university premises for once and crossed the county border into Suffolk. It was at Stoke by Nayland Golf Course, which is to a a whole 8 miles from where I live.

I've never been one for golf (I know those sticks you use to hit the balls are called golf bats), so had never been to this place before. I therefore consulted Google maps for directions. Here's what I found:

OK, so I would be driving up from the south on the A134 (the orange road). I could either turn right onto Plough Lane or drive further along and take Stoke Road (the yellow one). Either way, I'd wind up on Keepers Lane.

I decided to take Plough Lane. This was a mistake. Instead of looking at Google maps, I should have looked at Google Earth; then, I would have seen this:

Plough Lane is just about visible there between the trees that grow either side of it. You get a sense of the scale from the tiles you can see on that shed roof.

It wasn't so bad when I set off — it looked quite picturesque — but within 50 metres it had become a single-track road, and the further I went along the less the word "road" could be used to describe it. It was like a dirt track, with concealed ditches either side. If another vehicle had come the other way, I would have been unable to pull over for it. If a horse had come the other way, I would have been unable to pull over for it. It got so narrow that I was wondering if maybe I'd taken a wrong turn and I was driving along a cow path or something.

I knew that I had to take a left to Keepers Lane, but the only left I saw was even narrower than Plough Lane, so that couldn't have been it. Except, as I progressed, and Plough Lane became more of a ploughed lane, I realised I'd made a mistake. I had to turn round and go back; but how?

Luckily, I encountered a small pathway that golfers used to cross from one hole to another. I carefully reversed into this and out again (very carefully, as I was ever-so aware that if I'd slipped a wheel into a ditch no crane would have been able to get down the road to pull me out). I went back the way I had come, all the while hoping that none of my colleagues had gone the same way and missed the same turn. When I got back on, er, track, I spotted my destination ahead — the car park for the hotel. Only, when I got there, there was a big No Entry sign awaiting me. I had to continue, past little country cottages that would be inaccessible with the slightest rainfall, let alone snow.

I finally made it almost to the end of Keepers Lane, where I found a woman in a car waiting patiently for me to get past so she could go down it in the opposite direction (thank goodness she'd seen me — I hadn't seen her!). I also found a nice, regular road with proper tarmac and ample room for two delivery vans to pass each other with ease, that led to the golf course. Everyone else had gone that way and had no problems whatsoever; it was only me who had driven through the Somme to arrive with 5 minutes to spare.

Maybe I should have switched on my Satnav, so I'd have had something to blame...

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Copyright © 2009 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).