The Eco Corner

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Since the advent of the railway and the motor car, we have prided ourselves on the speed of travel. Certainly, the change in the last 150 years or so has been astonishing. Until Queen Victoria came to the throne in 1837, nobody anywhere in the world could travel any faster than a man on horseback, whether it was Pharaoh in his war chariot chasing after Moses and the Israelites or the medieval knight in armour charging the enemy at Agincourt. The peak way to travel before everything changed was by coach, so nostalgically depicted on our Dickensian Christmas cards; not very comfortable, and exhausting the horses, which needed to be changed every twelve miles.

This speed limit was finally surpassed by George Stephenson's railway engines, and within a few years, trains carrying 400 passengers were running at an average speed of 60 miles an hour from London to the North and West. Then followed the motor car, and in a remarkably short space of time, the aeroplane, taking passengers at ten times that speed five miles above the surface of the earth without having the slightest sensation of speed at all.

If we make a journey, the prime consideration seems to be 'How long will it take?', we want to get somewhere else fast. For daily commuters this is understandable, but does every journey have to meet this criterion? Have we lost something since the days when Flora Thompson journeyed by pony and cart from Lark Rise to Candleford, and had time to notice the lark's nest, the primroses in the hedgerows, the bees collecting nectar and time to stop and greet those who were also on the road?

In the United States, each State was responsible for its own highways, which in some cases did not join up at the borders. Only in the 1960's to 1970's were Interstate Highways built to form a Federal system. For truck drivers, this was a great advantage, but the comment of Charles Kuralt, an American author, in his book "On the Road' was "Thanks to the Interstate Highway, it is now possible to travel from coast to coast without seeing anything."

Take a walk, go by bike, not as a gimmick, not even to save the planet, but to save your own soul from going blind!
Bob Weighton.

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