From rural idyll to local 'rat run'

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The Independent Online
It was once a sleepy country lane, which wound gently through hop fields and cider orchards on the edge of the Kent Weald.

The picturesque Cranbrook Road evoked Enid Blyton tales of children on adventures, or images of the television series The Darling Buds of May, which was filmed in nearby Pluckley.

Today the hop fields are gone and so too the tranquillity. This seven- mile road which links Tenterden to Cranbrook has become what locals call a "rat run"; a valued short cut for commuters and lorry drivers, but a place of growing danger for cyclists and walkers.

Frank Spain, a retired farmer who has lived all his 83 years in the area, blames the changing character of the lane firmly on the traffic.

"The traffic now is three times worse than it was 20 years ago," he said. "All the roads around here are losing their character."

The road is one of 50 featured in the CPRE report, which records its average daily traffic level (ADT) as 4,168 vehicles, including 168 lorries. The CPRE forecasts a peak of 11,379 vehicles by the year 2025, at current rates.

The report states: "It is considered by locals to be extremely dangerous to walk and ride down the lane because of its narrowness - cars pass at speed with inches."

Local CPRE worker Catherine Eady has lived for years in a 17th-century farmhouse on the lane, and says she has given up riding her horse there. "I have the stable and a field but no where to ride the horse so I have to keep it elsewhere. I tried cycling but that was even worse. There are hardly any verges - there's nowhere to escape when a vehicle comes."

The road has a bad record for accidents as motorists travel at up to 60mph around the narrow route; and now locals fear the problem could get worse.

"They are planning to build a Tesco store in Tenterden which will be aiming to attract customers in from surrounding villages," said Catherine Eady.

"This road will be a natural route for many of them."

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