Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Cultural Exchange

Having recently acted as a guide for a visiting American, I have become reacquainted with just how confusing the British culture can be. So I thought I’d give you the benefit of my years of experience and educate you concerning one of the little-known oddities of the UK.

If you drive along the country roads in Britain long enough, you’re likely to come across a sign with the enigmatic caption, “Heavy Plant Crossing.” (NOTE: you are also likely to come across signs with the starling warning, “Tank Crossing,” but these are not enigmatic; they mean exactly what they say.)

Yeah, it means just what it says.
But back to the Plant Crossing signs. Britain, as you know, is an ancient land that, for eons, lived in harmony with nature. The creation of paved roads is, historically, a relatively recent event, and due to the fact that putting in the highway system basically meant paving over farm paths they had been driving their livestock to market on over the past centuries, many of the migratory routes of indigenous species were suddenly blocked by tarmac strips.

The natural world generally won’t alter migration patterns simply because Bogbottom Council decided to run the B11753 between Lower Sheepdip and Abbott Grim, so the timeless migrations still continue even though they often cross active roadways. This is the case of the Heavy Plants, which can be a hazard to drivers.

During seasons of drought, the plants follow their ancient migration paths to find water and richer soil. For species like cow parsley or primrose, it isn’t a problem. At least, not for the motorists. But when the heavy plants, such as Quickthorn, Yew Hedges or even Gorse cross the highways, well, you don’t want to meet up with them if you’re driving a Ford Escort.

Therefore, to benefit motorists as well as the plants, signs have been erected along the ancient migratory paths to alert drivers to the possibility of large bushes suddenly jumping into the roadways.

A Heavy Plant crossing a road
So, if you visit Britain and your hosts take you for a drive around the countryside (and if they don’t, insist that they do so; it is exceptionally beautiful) and you see a Heavy Plant Crossing sign, you can tell them about the great plant migrations and the safety measures put in and they will be properly impressed with your grasp of local knowledge.

No need to thank me.

And for you Brits visiting America, there is a sign in the US that may need a bit of explanation:

Many years ago, when the west was still a wild place, inhabited only by the ancient people who had lived there since the Great Spirit brought them to the land, a great chief had a beautiful daughter, named White Dove, who needed a husband.

Only the mightiest of the braves would do for White Dove, so a contest was arranged and all the best braves of the tribe—Running Deer, Howling Wolf, Falling Rocks and Soaring Eagle—were given two weeks to hunt in the forests. Whoever returned with the most game would win the hand of White Dove.

So off they went, into the forest. Two weeks later, Running Deer returned with four elk, three buffalo and ten hares. Behind him was Soaring Eagle with five elk, two buffalo and eight hares. Then Howling Wolf returned with six elk, five buffalo and twenty hares. And they waited for Falling Rocks, but he didn’t return. They waited the next day, and the next but there was still no sign of him. Finally, the Chief decided to give White Dove’s hand in marriage to Howling Wolf. The two were married and raised many fine braves but even as they grew old and watched their family grow and multiply, Falling Rocks never returned.

Even to this day, as you drive through the American west, you will see signs saying, “Watch for Falling Rocks.”

He STILL hasn't come back.
Yeah, the old ones are still the old ones.


  1. Mrs Baum10:09 PM

    I haven't checked, but it's very likely there really are places called Bogbottom, Lower Sheepdip and Abbott Grim.

    I used to work not far from Middle Wallop and Nether Wallop.

    1. Yes, it is difficult coming up with joke names for town here ;)

  2. Yes, when I was in England, I really wanted to have my picture taken by the town sign at Dorking. By the way, aren't you a little young to start telling oldtimer tall tales?

    1. "Young" is a relative term ;) I still think I'm young, but I have sons in their 30s who are beginning to think THEY are getting old! So I have to wonder what they think of me.

      I live very near Dorking; it's one of my favorite town names, right up there with Cocking and Lickfold, which are not far away, either.