3 Oct 2013

A guide to country roads for urban drivers

I live in a relatively rural area.  Well, as rural as you can get in Berkshire.  There are main roads and towns and even the odd traffic light, but I avoid them where possible.

As a driving 'enthusiast' I don't want to meander through a one-way system, hop between traffic lights every 100 yards, have to wait in yellow boxes, sit in huge queues or waste my life trying to find somewhere to park.

Instead the roads I use are usually 5 metres wide with a grass verge or hedge at each edge with corners, hump-back bridges, pot-holes and little in the way of traffic.  And they are damn good fun.  They test my skills, they keep me alert, they challenge the car and they provide thrills.

Of course there are downsides to country lanes, in fact there are many.  Tractors, lost HGV drivers, Honda Jazz drivers, level crossings, canal crossings, school run mums in X5s, mud and leaves on the road, pensioners in Peugeot 206 SWs, sheep, cattle, horses, fords, buses and urban drivers.

All but urban drivers I can deal with (although not without a great deal of moaning - especially about Honda Jazzes and level crossings).  The urban driver in the countryside is a dangerous creature.  It is often driving an inappropriate vehicle, looks bewildered and can perform random acts.

Here's my guide for urban drivers in the countryside:

  • Don't drive in the middle of the road.  Just because there is no white line in the middle doesn't mean you can use all the road, especially when going round hedge-lined corners.
  • The road is only just wide enough for two cars to pass in most places.  To reinforce the first point, stay to your side of the road and I'll stay in mine.
  • You can park almost anywhere but don't drive at 15mph for a mile thinking about doing so.  Don't park anywhere inconvenient to other road users.  Field entrances are acceptable for a short time but don't leave you car there or it'll likely have been shoved out of the way when you return.
  • Don't get annoyed when I overtake you.  Rural drivers know exactly how wide their car is, how wide the road is, and where to overtake. We're experts at it so don't get road rage just because a knackered old car overtook your new Mercedes.
  • BMW X5s and Range Rover Sports are not suitable SUVs for the country.  You will look like a cock.  Only scrap metal dealers and school run mums drive them.  Instead try a Discovery, Shogun or Toyota HiLux.
  • If you don't overtake a bus you will be behind it for eternity.  Bus drivers are vindictive.  They love a massive queue behind them.  Either work out a longer route where you can go faster and nip in front of them or overtake if possible.  They will attempt to prevent you from doing so.
  • Tractors can be overtaken but not until the driver waves you past.  Tractor drivers are generally courteous.  They will wave you past when the road is free.  If you drive up their arse they will not wave you past.
  • In villages the speed limit is 30mph, not 40mph.  Just because you do so in Wimbledon you should not do so in rural areas, where pedestrian crossings are less common.  Pensioners and children cross the road in villages, and dogs quite often wander into the road too.
  • Horses will damage your car if you drive behind them and rev your engine. Horses are scared easily and will misbehave if you frighten them.  Your ML55 AMG will cost a lot to repair if a horse decides to kick it.  You will be annoyed if a 700kg nag takes a 5kg dump on your bonnet.
  • You will never see a policeman except in a camera van.  In towns police are visible.  In rural areas they are sneaky buggers who hide behind walls and hedges with mobile speed traps.
  • Know where you are going.  Don't stop every hundred yards or so trying to find that delightful pub you've heard so much about.  Get a bloody move on.

Stay safe out there.

A country road

Article by Matt Hubbard