Friday, 9 August 2013

Liberating highway to the sun

My dad used to have an old AA Gazetteer from the 1960s that talked about the 'Highway To The Sun'. This was the age when motoring was a recreation not a daily chore. And the highway was the A303, the old trunk road to Exeter and 'The English Riviera'. It is also the same road that snakes its way across the sacred landscape of Salisbury Plain.

In my mind it is the road of megaliths and - for some equally mysterious reason - of endless Little Chefs. And this week I took a ride down it as part of a road trip to visit an old friend who has made a new life in the West Country. 

Along with the road from Glasgow to Oban through the Highlands, it is one of  my favourite rides, perfect for a motorcycle and full of stop-off points.

Naturally I had to pull over at Stonehenge,  although the crowds meant that I didn't make it past the entrance to the car park. I have no answer to the problem of preserving (or more accurately recreating) that very special atmosphere that defines the site as much as the stones - whilst still satisfying the right of public access. Although I suspect a Neolithic theme park built at the foot of the M3 would satisfy many of those punters who currently go there.

Strangely my westward-bound  visit, which was long over-due, was in many ways a mirror image of my  regular east-bound trips to the Fens to visit my friends there. Like them, the family are living a life of not so much dropping out of modern capitalism, as dropping in to a way of self-reliant, small-scale living that has actually endured -  albeit under threat -  in the countryside for centuries.  

They live in a late medieval Devon Longhouse, and with the obvious exception of the laptop and internet connection which provides a connection to another world and its sources of income, the daily routine based around the family kitchen would have be familiar to previous generations of occupants.  Or so it seemed to this city boy who has only just become liberated from twenty five years of commuting to work down the same streets and unwittingly treating the family home as a dormitory.

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