One of the consequences of having a job is that I frequently have to cross the Pennines on that wonder of modern congestion, the M62. If I’m honest, then I suppose it’s not such a bad drive – unless you have to go between junctions 24 and 27 during rush hour, or it’s raining, or both, in which case it’s really quite indescribably grim.
The M62 is the highest motorway in England, and as you climb eastwards towards the summit, past all the crawling trucks straining their gearboxes, and avoiding the BMW drivers who go screaming past not realising that the road goes from four lanes down to three, you eventually emerge at 1221 feet looking out over Moss Moor. And it’s quite lovely. There’s the reservoir on the left, and the hills on both sides, with the M62 snaking it’s way gently through the middle like a big snakey thing, glistening and throbbing in a vital thrust of carbon monoxide and soot. Bliss.
But then as you start to traverse this automotive Eden, you notice a very strange thing. The motorway suddenly splits into two. The opposing carriageways part company and drift apart like two balloons released from the grasp of a clumsy child. But then as they do so, you notice something stranger still; Someone has built a farm in the middle of the motorway! I mean between the two carriageways, obviously, not actually on the road – no one would be that stupid. But there is undeniably a working farm, with sheep and everything, less than thirty yards from both directions of speeding traffic.
When I first saw this, I assumed it was one of those cases you hear about from time to time where one resident has stuck to their guns and refuses to move out so that some property developer can knock their house down and build a supermarket / abattoir / fast-breeder reactor – despite the fact that all their neighbours have sold up for twice what their house is worth. “I was born here and I’m staying here, and you can shove your money” they shout to the developers, and then one day find their house surrounded by a chemical works or a shopping centre or a prison or something.
But no, apparently the carriages had to be split for engineering reasons associated with building a six-lane motorway on the side of a hill, and they just decided to take a carriageway either side of the farm buildings. I imagine the farmer was compensated hansomly.
Now, I’ve been thinking. When the owners pass away or decide to move on, that farm is not really going to be worth a lot. People avoid buying houses by a busy main road because of the noise, so no one is going to want hundreds of cars and trucks an hour passing by their house at 70mph on both sides at all hours of the day – people move into old farm houses to get away from that sort of thing. Ironically, it’s not even handy for travelling – you have to drive about 4 miles to get from the farm to the nearest motorway junction. And you couldn’t put something like a service station there, because people would have to join and leave the motorway in the outside lane. So, I can’t really see much use for it.
Except, wouldn’t it be a great place for a huge sculpture, a bit like the Angel Of The North? To welcome people to Yorkshire?
I was thinking, how about a big duck? Not a realistic duck, but an absolutely colossal yellow rubber duck – smiling its orange beaky grin at the passing traffic. Wouldn’t that be just brilliant? It could be called The Rishworth Duck, or The Scammonden Duck, or maybe just The Duck – who cares what it’s called? People would come from all over the world to gaze in astonishment at such an astounding work of wonder and awe.
I know it might sound like I’m being facetious here, but I seriously think it would be great. Also, I seriously think it would never happen, the local nimbys would never allow it. Shame. Also, there is the small matter that people entering Lancashire would be treated to a breathtaking view of a huge duck’s arse. As a Yorkshireman, there’s something quite poetic in that image.