Getting lost in Somerset


Once you get off the major roads, finding your way around in Somerset isn't easy. On our recent holiday, we managed to get ourselves lost repeatedly. Most of the junctions of minor roads are marked with old-fashioned finger posts, which--unless some drunken prankster has yanked the signs around so that they point in the wrong direction--have a number of white wooden signs pointing in the general direction of the destination, with legends like "Little Snoring 5 miles". We've encountered navigational problems in the West Country before, so we took these signs with a generous pinch of salt (especially the distances quoted), but we still ended up getting lost.

I have a theory about why its so difficult to find your way around. During the Second World War, many of the signposts in rural areas were removed to avoid giving vital information to Nazi soldiers if there was ever an invasion. The idea was that the locals knew their way around anyway, and legitimate visitors could always ask for directions, but it would neatly foil any German invasion plans. I think it's unlikely that the German army wouldn't have any detailed maps or compasses, and would therefore be at the mercy of local signage, but it wasn't a bad plan I suppose. I reckon that they just never got round to putting many of the signs back up again.

We discovered that if one road leading from a junction wasn't signed, that was almost inevitably the way we needed to go. We were trying to find Luxborough, and discovered that not only was it not signposted, but that all the other places with signs to them weren't actually shown on our map. With no way of telling where we were--or where Luxborough was--we resorted to the simple but rather time-consuming navigational technique of driving down every single road within a 15 mile radius until we just stumbled upon the village. Even when we did eventually get there, we almost went straight through it because it cunningly disguises itself as a cluster of three linked villages, none of which is actually called Luxborough. It was only by getting out of the car and scrutinizing posters on the notice board of the village hall that we found that we were already in Luxborough. Once we had found it though, we really appreciated the fact that it was hard to find; the last thing we wanted was lots of other people cluttering such a quiet and pretty place up.

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