The bypass dilemna

By | Category: Travel rumblings

I'd never see the Royal Crescent from the Bath bypass. What else did I miss?

Today I took the bypass around Bath instead of driving into the city. As with most bypasses it wasn’t that pretty and it made me wonder how much is the bypass responsible for a drop in visitor numbers.

In the old days, before bypasses had been dreamed up by planners and adored by residents, you had to drive through places. It made you realise how pretty some places were; it brought to your attention buildings and sites that tempted you to say that you’d return to have a proper look around. But that doesn’t happen now because almost every place bigger than a few people and a dog has a bypass.

What am I missing? What might I never see because I always use a bypass? Take Chippenham or Swindon in Wiltshire for examples. I have never visited either always taking a bypass. To me, Chippenham looks just like one big housing estate and a Sainsbury’s store on one of the interminable roundabouts. Swindon seems an industrial site from either the M4 or the A419. Is there anything worth visiting in either?

I suppose the motorway network is the busiest bypass network we have. No longer as I travel down to Wales from London do I visit Marlborough, one of the prettiest towns you could want to see. How many visitors unaware of its charms have never bothered to think that they should leave the M4 and visit it?

Trundling up the M1, I have never seen Chesterfield’s crooked spire, nor have I seen Peterborough’s cathedral when going up the A1. Yes I have diverted from the A1 to visit Stamford but I know nothing of other towns between there and Doncaster. What am I missing?

The real question is would I be bothered to find out? Bypasses and the motor network are designed to speed you from A to B. The “let’s go for a drive in the country” mentality has been replaced by the “let’s go to X today” one. We are settling for what we know and what we are told about. Discovering by ourselves is largely the resort of the rambler not the driver.

So I have an early new year’s resolution. Go to places that I know nothing about just to see what’s there. I’ll be disappointed in a few but I bet I’ll be surprised by most!

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