Sunday, 17 June 2007

Resurfacing Stane Street

For several nights we endured the dubious pleasure of the men resurfacing Stane Street outside. The road runs from Colchester to St Albans, or at least it did in Roman times, it may still do so. This work has been a desperate need for some time, and at last it has been accomplished. Naturally, being a busy road it had to be done at night, late at night! There is nothing better than reading your book while listening to a dirty great machine scraping of the top layer of the road - right outside your window! Not only do we have the machine, the flashing orange lights, the lorry in front catching the waste, the noise but we also have the shouts, whistles and the constant beeping of the trucks going backwards. But happily only for an hour or two - or three! Now I am not one to complain, and certainly not to a group of blokes as big as this lot outside, so I accepted this as just one of the occasions you just have to suffer for the good of the town.

Naturally we had two suffer for two more nights while they actually laid the new surface. More revving of engines, more beeping, once more the sweeper vehicle went back and forth, and back and forth, again the flashing lights, again the scraping of shovels. Generously the workers stopped right outside my window after the first night, so they had to come back and work cheerily as I struggled to finish the book. How lucky am I? I felt so sorry for these men earning £500 a night for keeping the are awake, especially when the rain teemed down on the second night. My sympathy was something I shared with the mirror in the morning as I examined my red eyes. How we laughed! Still it is done now. The surface is flat and even, the only thing missing is road markings. There were far too many dangerous areas before, dangerous to those of us on bikes, and they have been put right. This is good and the surface will probably last for ten years before disintegrating totally.

These men are not the first to repair Stane Street. This road runs in an almost straight line from Colchester and was possible begun by the Romans, certainly made into a solid surface by them, although it may well have existed for many years before their arrival. How many feet have slogged along the road? Troops marching from Colchester would stop here for the night. Fifteen miles is a good days march in normal circumstances, for me anyway. The road connected not just with St Albans but crossed the road from London to Norfolk and the road north further along. If desired the Romans could march from Colchester along this road and reach any place in the Island in relatively short time. The soldiers on their march could be sure of the reliability of the road, as they were the ones who made them. One way of keeping the men busy in quiet times and developing the land also. I wonder if the legions worked at night, and if they made as much noise when doing so? Somehow I suspect they were little different.

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