The Rural Life

My Rural Rant – Driving, Cycling and Hacking On Our Lanes

Most weekdays I make a ten minute drive each way to my yard to tend to my horse and his companion. It is through rural lanes which are relatively busy at peak times and have a 60mph national speed limit.

What I am going to rant about now has not just happened today, it happens most days. I am going to rant about drivers, cyclists and fellow horse riders. However, I do not want to portray myself as an angel in the car or perhaps on horseback. There are days when I drive from A to B and all I remember of that journey is how many toilet rolls should I pick up later in Tesco’s! I shall put my hand up and also state that I have attended a driver speeding awareness course… to be caught speeding some six weeks later. In my defence (if there is one), my driving offences were not on rural lanes. We all lead busy lives and the aim to get to the destination I imagine as quickly as we can with no delays? But is it worth taking careless risks?

All of the lanes where I live are now getting very overgrown. The hedgerows are thick with brambles, nettles and ferns with no verges visible. But this is July! This is the middle of the summer and our countryside is as thick, green and bushy as ever. Many a time I have had to drive into the undergrowth to avoid numerous traffic incidents, which is where I will start my rant:-

So, my first moan is…. cyclists. Now all these ageing men in lycra are no doubt fuelled with enthusiasm with Chris Froomes recent win in the Tour de France – but that’s where the race was, in France on dedicated closed off roads, not on our rural lanes. They seem to be breeding at a rapid rate, ganging up on bikes in large groups, taking over the roads and countryside lanes. I had a Sir Bradley Wiggins fan (in his advanced years shall we say) who was clad head to foot in lycra belting around a blind bend this morning on the opposite side of the lane. With his wobbly swerve, he missed me by inches probably in his hot pursuit of his yellow shirt at the finish line – in his head!

Now on to horse riders – which I am one of them. Most of the riders I meet when driving are courteous, they either pull in and always say thank you when cars pass. For a driver not to be acknowledged for slowing down for horses is a real wind up – it annoys me as a horse rider. This morning I came across a horse rider approaching a bend… in the middle of the lane. Riding hats off to her, she was in hi-viz which is some points off in my ranto-o-meter. I slowed down to nearly stopping, thinking she may wave me on to pass. She didn’t, so I crawled behind with no acknowledgement from her. As the lane became clearer, I started to pass by her and her horse at a snail pace. Imagine my ranty face when the rider had the reins on the horse’s wither and was on her phone texting! She ignored me and carried on texting, rein free in the middle of the road. What if a pheasant flew out and spooked the horse, not only could she have landed in a heap in the middle of the road, she would have probably broke the precious phone too! I do jest but is it worth the risk?

So my next gripe, is fellow car drivers. Most lanes sadly are 60mph which is too fast for my liking but this is the law. If you have a lane that is pretty much a single track with thick hedgerows each side would you really travel at the top of the speed limit? My rant for the car drivers was a Land Rover that overtook me on a lane this morning doing at least nearly 60 mph. I looked at my speedo and I was doing 41mph. Now this driver was perfectly legal but what made me eff and jeff was the “Slow Down For Horses” and British Horse Society stickers blazoned over the rear window! They then proceeded to belt through a local village flat out without a care for any potential horses, pedestrians walking dogs or even a lycra clad cyclist! Perhaps they are heading somewhere in an emergency, we have all been there. But you cannot put down driving like Lewis Hamilton on our lanes always down to an emergency… Anyway, karma kicked in as I caught up with the horsey Land Rover a few minutes later, as it had got stuck behind a tractor…

My point of this post is that we all have to use our rural lanes but to remind ourselves to have some more consideration and thought. I think my emotions are coming into writing this as I attended a very serious horse riding accident on these very lanes a few months back. It was not a pretty sight or situation. You just never know what is behind that corner, or coming out of a gateway especially in the countryside. I am sure that text, that race to get to the finish line, or to just be quicker in reaching our destination can wait or perhaps be that little bit more leisurely!

Written by Samantha Hobden

Image Credit: Geograph (c) Colin Smith