Forgive us our trespasses

IT’S looking like the end of the world. A road, cracked and turned up at the edges, as if pulled apart by an earthquake. Bent and broken signposts point uselessly to places we used to know. Trampled cats’ eyes skitter over blind tarmac pockets.

This is what’s left of the hairpin bend, nemesis of weary commuters and holidaymakers, sweltering through the endless traffic jams winding into Weymouth.

Motorists once knew every inch of the A354 as it crawled past their cars. Since the relief road opened last month, satnavs are confounded, sending car after car to the bottom of the Ridgeway Hill where large metal gates turn them all back.

Out with the old road, in with the new

Out of respect, and fascination, we turn up to say goodbye, before the redundant road is dug up and turfed over and gone forever. Like fishing families gathering at the carcass of a slain whale, we marvel at the scratched and scarred landscape. This is not Upwey as we who’ve lived here for three decades know it.

As a child, I would scamper up the steps of the railway bridge and hide in the top field to watch trains rocket past. As a Dorset Echo reporter, I would chronicle the fate of hapless lorries that got stuck under the bridge and held up traffic for hours on end.

There’s an eerie, uneasy silence on this balmy April evening. “Are we trespassing?” I ask my mother, suspiciously. “Absolutely not,” she replies.

Driverless diggers are frozen, giant Dinky toys.

What treasures are thrust forth by tumbling mounds of earth? The village grapevine is thrilling with talk of dinosaur bones and fossils.

We catch a glimpse of Bincombe, the tiny farming hamlet which seems to have been cut off from civilisation since work on the relief road started. The road tessellates into hillside.

At the brow of the hill are splendid views of train tracks running away from the new and the old roads.

A nettle-covered milestone counts down the distance to the ancient borough of Melcombe Regis. Cows, munching at a neighbouring field, are only mildly curious. I wonder if they miss the traffic.

We look for the stone-carved pineapples, twin-pillared symbols of Weymouth’s hospitality, but they’ve been moved to another site. Will the mystery joker who clothed them in silk robin suits at Christmastime still be able to dress them up?

A man in a white safety helmet shouts and waves. It’s a Skanska construction manager. He says we’re trespassing! I’m appalled at being caught red-handed committing a civil disobedience. The man warns us we could break our necks as the road is still considered a building site.

As we wander home, I watch nervously for patrolling policeman. “If this ends up in court, I’m blaming you,” I tell Mum. “OK, I’ll pay your fines,” she says cheerfully. I’ll hold her to that…!


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