The freedom of and rules for New Forest roads

The freedom of the road and the rules for New Forest roads

And a plug for the National Motor Museum Beaulieu...

Mark and Hugh writer and cartoonistThis week's thoughtful article by Mark together with lovely cartoon by Hugh also fanfares the re-opening with social distancing of the grounds and gardens at Beaulieu although sadly without access to the wonderful collection - however you can read all about it below!  Before you do so please sign up if you haven't already for the Lymington Weekly What's On delivered to your inbox every Friday morning with lots of lovely news and views of and from Lymington and the New Forest 

Continuing with Mark...

The dream of freedom and the casting aside of the shackles of time tables

The motor car is surely the mechanical marvel that directly affects and improves the lives of most of us. There are those who, for admirable reasons, say that we ought to use public transport. Unfortunately, the idea of using buses and trains to get a family of five, including luggage, from somewhere in Hampshire to a main airport, is far from the dream start to any holiday. Initially the horseless carriage was a mere distraction, after all, what was wrong with the train or the bus? A great deal, as it transpired. In the very early days, the car was seen as such a dangerous beast that a law was passed requiring owners to pay a man to carry a red flag and walk ahead of the thing, in order to warn others! Please note the use of the word ‘walk’. That sort of pace wouldn’t really cut it these days would it? Perhaps London though. The development of the car continued apace and the public loved it! Car ownership exploded and suddenly the people of England discovered an alluring new freedom. The opportunity to go exactly where they wanted to, leaving at exactly the time of their choosing and setting off from their own front door. For people more familiar with studying time tables this was powerful stuff.

What’ll it do Mister? Our quest for speed.

The National Motor Museum at Beaulieu is packed with examples of our quest for speed. Some of our most daring engineers have created speed machines the likes of which will never be built again. The museum has many examples of cars that were driven by people who actually risked their lives in order to break the land speed record. Even today in our much-regulated world, the risks of high speed are ever present and some, in their quest for glory, might not always manage a second attempt. The museum is stuffed full of examples of engineering prowess that were world-leading and world-beating at the time. There are so many historic cars that to describe them all would take a week, so if you’re happy we’ll just concentrate on one of the maddest and baddest of the speed machines.

During the twenties the land speed record was contested using cars with piston engines that drove the wheels, just like the cars we drive today. These days the records are set by what are essentially aircraft that don’t fly. In 1924 a typical family car might have been the Standard the models of which were described as Flying Nine, Flying Ten, all the way up to the Flying Twenty. Dear reader, the number referred to the horsepower! Even the top of the range Flying Twenty which had a V8 engine could shake rattle and roll its way to a top speed of just eighty miles an hour. It should come as no surprise then that people like Major Henry Segrave, driving the Golden Arrow at over two hundred miles an hour attained celebrity status. This car weighed around three and a half tonnes, measured over twenty-six feet long, powered by a twelve cylinder, nine hundred and twenty-five horsepower engine and consumed fuel at a rate of around three miles to the gallon. After one run on the sands at Daytona Beach, Segrave had planks laid so that he could drive up and off the beach. He then proceeded to drive the leviathan down the main road to the garage. That would have been a sight.

National Motor Museum cartoon by Hugh Lohan

"This is neither a services stop nor a car park madam - this is the National Motor Museum" by Hugh

Rules glorious rules! Or how we drivers have learned to behave ourselves.

Some trivia for you. How many cars were on the road in 1950? Four million.

How many cars are on the road today? Thirty-eight million!

When I was a boy my father had a car and this singled our family out as ‘well off’. Times have changed and nowadays cars can be cheaper than a lap top and as disposable as a troublesome kettle. There are rules that govern our driving behaviour and from time to time we slip up and a letter from officialdom falls onto the hall carpet to relieve us of some of our hard-earned cash. However, after a few choice words, the writing of the cheque and a gin and tonic life is once again bearable. With the massive increase in car ownership rules are needed to prevent us drivers from being either a nuisance or dangerous or both.

I have a close friend who used to be a policeman in the Dagenham area. He used to be involved in at least one fatal accident a week.

Can we just stop for a moment to consider the emotional turmoil that a policeman must endure when he has to give the most awful news possible to an unsuspecting family? He told me that after the introduction of speed cameras there was very rarely a fatal accident. Love them or loathe them, the camera cars deployed in the Forest are a force for good, and there is no doubt at all that speed kills.

Our lovely Forest and how to keep it as such for others.

We English are generally considerate folk and generally we don’t follow those who are selfish. We wouldn’t watch someone drop a sweet wrapper and then do the same ourselves. I prefer to think that our readers are the type that would prefer pick up rather than drop, slow down rather than speed up. After all, why not leave the area in a better state for others? Why not drive around a wandering late-night donkey than through the poor thing? As we all know the vast majority of Forest roads are unlit; ponies and donkeys can be extremely difficult to pick out against a dark background. The blanket limit of forty is very often much too fast for night time driving. Ponies and donkeys grazing in the sunshine are a wonderful sight. The same creatures laid out cold on the side of the road until they are collected, not so. Think of the consequences.

The motorcar, the incredible gift of mobility that we sometimes take for granted. But then, where do we leave it to rest awhile?

Rules can be irritating for many of us and the majority have been incredibly loyal in obeying government instructions during this recent period. Yes, there have been those in the news who have drawn attention to themselves for all the wrong reasons, but do we automatically follow their poor choices? I like to think not. In the same way that we don’t ape the littering child, we don’t copy those in power who have chosen to adopt the ‘do as I say, not as I do’ mantra. Why on earth would we ever dream of lowering ourselves to their standards?  Perhaps we’re better than that.

Some of the car parks in the Forest are open and have been for a while now. Why not use them? Why not leave the verges clear for the ponies, walkers and cyclists? Besides, our gaily coloured transports clash jarringly with the muted, soothing tones of our Forest. Shouldn’t we corral our pretty little boxes somewhere where they don’t offend quite as much? Perhaps in the nearest car park?

Please drive safely, have fun and cherish the thought of the end to this temporary nuisance.


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