Thursday, 26 November 2015

"Lake Windermere should be floodlit ..."

Some years ago when I had use of a small cottage at the end of a single-track lane near Stowmarket in Suffolk, I invited a London work colleague down for the weekend; a born and bred Londoner, his heavy hints about having never experienced beer in a low-beamed rural pub eventually prompted the invite. My local was scarcely a mile away from the cottage, and had not only low beams but a thatched roof, inglenook and a pedigree that dated back to around 1450. I should have sensed all was not well when we set off with the sun setting on the horizon, me in stout brogues and he in designer loafers with buckles and soles that looked about 1/8" thick. Still, we got there - and enjoyed an excellent evening. 

At home time he asked if I had ordered a cab - and I had to explain how far a taxi would have to come, and it was only 20 minutes pleasant tanked-up walk. Within 50 yards he asked why the streetlights weren't working. He had never, ever, in his entire life been anywhere that was not artificially lit at night. There was hardly any moon, but the lane was quite visible to me as a slightly lighter black strip between the blackness of the hedges on either side - second nature, for I had spent my entire post-pubescent life walking at night on pitch-dark country roads. However, I should not have underestimated the fear and difficulty for someone for whom this was a novel experience. Fear of noises and of that which he couldn't see. He went into the hedges, and down into the drainage ditches several times. By the time we were home one of his Paul Smith loafers had lost the stitching of a sole. He was muddy and scratched and a silent pile of resentment. Only getting him back to London on the first morning train assuaged his hurt. 

And years later, coming out of Walton on the Naze station, which sits on a small mound a short way from the main street, I passed a red-faced panting chipeater (as the locals term London day trippers) complaining to the ticket collector  " ... I don't know why they didn't put the station nearer the town" she whined. I heard him reply with practised calm "They probably wanted it nearer the railway, madam". 

So there's nothing new about the lovely story in the Mail of the Tripadvisor review by a serious townie recommending that not only should Lake Windermere be floodlit at night, but that hotels should be moved down to the lakeside ....

9 comments:

Billy Marlene said...

We are getting softer since your day. Here in Lower Somersham, Suffolk, it is common to see folk walking back from the pub by TORCHLIGHT!

Disgraceful - all that light pollution.

Weekend Yachtsman said...

Long ago it happened that I had to walk from Toppesfield to Gainsford End late at night, in fog, on unlit roads - as we did quite often.

Despite it being a very familiar place - home, in fact - we were completely spooked by the sudden appearance out of the fog of perfectly ordinary road signs at various points.

Of course, the fact that this was after closing time, and that we'd been in The Green Man since opening time, may have had something to do with it.

Anonymous said...

Mommies boys please look away.


It sounds to me, your not so chipper chipeater mate had a little bit too much local grog and you didn't have much sympathy for his plight...;) I mean, how much do you like a person, especially if he'd been sounding off in your local - who knows mate?

Stupid as it sounds, it is difficult to explain to people - just how dark it is [in the countryside] without any sort of moon. I used to use cut throughs at night but only on paths that I knew well, I didn't veer, never.

A bit O/T but soon, the drive to technological device and an app for aught, its over reliance on computers and Iphones, navigational aids notwithstanding...... no one can read a map and if it all gets switched off [ie no juice] - then there will be a lot of lost kids and tourists to set straight.

In the pitch black, EVEN WORSE it will probably trigger mass suicide.

Poisonedchalice said...

Complete darkness and a soft patch of bracken, makes for a good bed.

I had enjoyed a few too many glasses (ney, bottles) of red at Madoc Yacht Club and the 2 mile walk back to my caravan down country lanes is pitch black and it was a freezing clear winter's night with all the stars out. Still, no worries, I was sporting my Helly Hansen walking boots and a wool hat. I have to admit to getting a little tired and the zig-zag walk had probably turned the 2 miles into 3 (read The Rolling English Road by G.K. Chesterton). So I sat down on a comfortable patch of brown winter bracken and decided a snooze was in order.

Next thing you know, I was woken up by what seemed like someone shining a torch in my face. No, it was the full moon which had risen in the hours that I had been fast asleep in the bracken patch. I got up, still adequately warm and shook off the thick layer of frost from my Helly Hansen and walked the last half mile back to my van, this time lit with bright moonlight.

I betcha couldn't do that in Blackpool !

Coney Island

English Pensioner said...

I'm always taken by surprise by the darkness, particularly at new moon, when I leave my daughter's cottage in the countryside of an evening, although I know there are no street lights. But I also always carry a small torch in my coat pocket, as most people of my generation do, it's a hang over from wartime!

Dave_G said...


Having now lived in remote woodland for 8 years I still recall the first night I left our cottage in pitch blackness to discover the Milky Way IMMEDIATELY visible above me - normally this would have taken 10-15 minutes to resolve having lived in the 'city'. The number of stars are such that you cannot make out the constellations unless you a very familiar with the night skies.

On the downside I also recall meeting a stray cow, meandering down the middle of the road one starless and moonless night, only when we got 'face-to-face' (so to speak) and I felt its hot breath on me.

I'm now quite used to the 'scuffy things' that hide in the undergrowth, the barking of rampant deer and the feel of the edge of the walkable surface - the only thing that keeps me out of the drainage channels!

So secure do we feel that, should the world go to hell in the coming (bombstrapped) handcart, our last concerns would be for ourselves and our security.

There are some thing to be thankful for.

Raedwald said...

Dave - Yes, absolutely! I remember my first encounter with a badger in a sunken lane, the shock of a startled sleeping deer exploding into flight one pace in front of me, and the bloocurdling rape-alarm screeching of vixens on heat. The trick as you say is 'finding the edge'. And realising that anything else out there in the darkness with you is probably more scared of you than you should be of it ... though we didn't have bears or wild boar in East Anglia.

Anonymous said...

"It's so dark in East Anglia, I didn't realise it was my sister, Yer 'Onor."

Mike Spilligan said...

English Pensioner at 11:49: ... a hang over from wartime ?? That's some hangover.