lördag 8 mars 2008

Stonehenge Underpass buried

Stonehenge #1, originally uploaded by seadipper.

This is the best view you will get of Stonehenge. If you try to go closer, you will have to ignore the car park and a busy road which runs close by. The monument these days conveys little sense of magic. There was a proposal to bury the road in a tunnel but now the government has buried the scheme, having concluded that the £500 million bill is too much, and poor value for money.

It is a pity, but I am inclined to agree. It is just a piece of expensive tinkering. The press of people and traffic around Stonehenge is a symptom of a bigger problem. This is best seen by looking at a map of Britain and drawing a line starting at Bournemouth and taking in Bristol, Birmingham, Greater London and the south coast conurbation This encloses an area that contains about 80% of Britain’s population. Within this zone, paradoxically, people, industry and other facilities are relatively spread out, to the point that huge numbers of are dependent on cars for their daily activities. In the early 1960s, around, say, Oxford, there was a network of quiet lanes that were ideal for cycling to explore the then beautiful countryside and virtually unspoilt villages.

Fifty years on, too many of those villages are surrounded by a sprawl of badly designed and badly laid-out housing estates and the quiet country lanes are so busy that it would be suicidal to attempt to cycle along them.

The plight of Stonehenge is a fate that has overcome a huge tract of England. The only consolation is that it is not "sustainable" as it is entirely dependent on having a supply of cheap petrol to hand.

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