Driving in England: Unexpected Adventure

Take my advice; go on down the M4 to exit 14 and the A338 where an engineer without nightmares has designed a reasonably straight road south. Or so the map indicates.

Actually, it appears that the small town streets and minor roads in England are paleontological relics of the meanderings of Britain’s earliest tribes. They created paths to other huts or gathering places by going around a tree here, a big rock there, finding an easy place to ford a stream, and then cutting back and forth around whatever was in the way of a direct route to their destinations.

These paths then became cart trails, and eventually the British discovered black top and paved the paths exactly as they were formed. To this confusion, they added roundabouts. Are you still with me?

One’s only hope lies with the residents themselves. They are delighted to offer directions (which may or may not work) along with a cup of hot tea (which you will need for the headache you already have or that is sure to come).

The author and her daughter at Cardiff Castle Keep
The author and her daughter, Stephanie, at Cardiff Castle Keep

We intended to spend a couple of days in Southern Wales, and did. Although we never made it out of Cardiff, to the oceanside towns on the way to Swansea, we did manage to get on the M4 when it came time to head back to London. Soon a big sign appeared which stated, “M4 Closed.”

Since the M4 seemed the only road out of Wales, and since no single vehicle in three lanes of traffic going east showed the slightest indication that its driver had seen the sign, or digested its meaning, we continued along at maximum speed.

Soon, however, traffic slowed, and then crept. After some 30 minutes of this, we were directed off the M4, all three congested lanes of us, onto a very narrow country lane. Some people might have known what to do, but many were like us and after a few miles, had to find a place to turn around and try another way.

There had been absolutely no detour signs, no arrows, and the three laughing, chatting men standing at the barrier directing us off the M4 had not even looked at us, much less offered a single word of direction.

It was our plan, and the plan of our car rental agency, that we arrive late that afternoon in London and turn our car in. Once again we visualized ourselves becoming residents of whatever nameless lane we ran out of gas on. We stopped a couple out walking their dog, but evidently even some young Britons confine themselves to their immediate environment because they were pleasant but clueless. They did point out that several cars had turned a certain way, so for lack of a better idea, we took that way.

Continued on next page



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