As I spent an hour attempting to complete the school run from Powburn to Alnwick and back this morning, I was reminded of the tactic employed in parts of rural England during the SecondWorld War, whereby road signs were deliberately moved in order to confuse any invading forces.
There were no signs anywhere along the A697 warning there was no access to Alnwick via the B6341 Rothbury road; not even at the top of Lemington Bank, where I was able to turn left and proceed unwarned across Alnwick Moor.
Only when I, and several other motorists, got to the Shepherds Rest on the outskirts of the town did I realise the road was closed. I turned back to Lemington Banktop and then left to cut across to the A1.
I knew this road had been closed recently but there was no longer a sign at the junction telling me, nor the similarly confused convoy of motorists I had now joined, that it remained closed ahead. Not until half-a-mile from the junction with the A1 did a warning sign pop up. Access to the A1 was prohibited due to one carriageway of that road being closed, so our dizzy convoy circled around and headed back across the moor like lost sheep. As we returned to Banktop junction I had to laugh at a yellow sign directing diverted traffic to turn right towards Alnwick on the B6341.
I wasn’t falling for that one and headed down Lemington Bank and all the way back to the A697.
I eventually got to Alnwick after cutting across to Eglingham and the B6346, and delivered my son to school 45 minutes late. The round trip had taken me over an hour and I had driven close to 50 miles.
On this occasion, there has obviously been a lack of foresight, planning and organisation by whoever is responsible for such matters, but I believe there is a larger, underlying problem – lack of alternative access routes into Alnwick from the west.
The obvious route for a road would be to follow the contours of the valley of the River Aln, but the location of Hulne Park has meant that no road (nor, in the past, rail) connection has been able to do that. All routes have had to circumnavigate the Duke’s private domain.
It’s all well and good the Duke having a big private garden, but bearing in mind he doesn’t even ride horses, isn’t it about time Hulne Park was compulsorily purchased and a decent road connection ploughed through it? And while we’re on, they could build a McDonalds nearby.