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Motorway, Country Way

Wednesday, 7th February 2001, West Yorkshire

gulls SEEN FROM THE MOTORWAY, a flock of several hundred gulls stands out brilliantly in the sunlight against dark earth and grey sky. I guess there is a rubbish tip nearby.

We're following the M62 along the higher groundblack-headed gulls on the borders of Leeds and Bradford, Dewsbury and Morley. There's something about a motorway landscape that's rootless and unsettled. I feel as if I should keep moving. It's neither town nor country; a borderland that, to the motorist crossing it at 70 miles per hour, seems to exist only in terms of other places. But there are other ways of experiencing this landscape, if you can slow down for a while.

M1/A1 link road As Douglas Adams put it, in The Hitch-hiker's Guide to the Galaxy;
What's so great about point A that so many people from point B are so keen to get there, and what's so great about point B that so many poeple from point A are so keen to get there.

lapwingsWe turn off at the next junction, a figure of eight connecting motorways, and head for a retail park that seems to have been designed to give a disturbing sense of dislocation. We approach via an assortment of American style diners and turn off along a dual carriageway bristling with sandwich boards everyone of which advertises a different 'SALE' at one of the various stores that are clustered around.

Take a photograph and it would be difficult for anyone to distinguish where, in the whole of Britain, it might be.

The View from Ikea

Inside the Ikea store we could be almost anywhere in Europe. We were surprised when we visited friends in France a couple of years ago to find that they had acquired as many pieces of Ikea furniture as we had.

lapwings over Ikea In the Ikea café I always like to find a table by the window, overlooking the view, such as it is. There's a bed of bulbs and shrubs, backed by a hawthorn hedge that partially screens the motorway just a stone's throw away. Suddenly a flock of a hundred Lapwings wheels across, filling the sky, or at least the stretch that we can see.

A long thin footbridge, arched like a coat hanger, crosses the busy carriageways. It carries the Leeds Country Way on part of it's 60 mile circuit of the city. On this section the motorway corridor separates a walk up through Birkby Brow Wood, near Batley, from a walk down another wooded valley, Cockers Dale, near Tong.

lapwing I've walked odd stretches of the circuit but I'd like to do the whole thing some day and join together all those fragments into a continuous walk. That would be a way to get to know this stretch of country. next page

Richard Bell
Richard Bell,
wildlife illustrator

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