Coming home from Greenwich on the bus today, having had to cut my trundle short due to a torrential downpour, I was struck by quite an interesting question.Back in Cheshire, I used to drive my powerchair down old, winding lanes heading off into the countryside. The one I remember best was called Giantswood Lane, which ran from Congleton to Swettenham. It was a quiet, pleasant road: the kind of road which comes to mind when you hear the word lane.
The odd thing is, these days I come across roads called lanes all the time; Greenwich seems especially fond of them: roads with names like Anchor And Hope Lane, Charlton Lane or Old Post Office Lane. None of them, though, is what I would call a lane. They are not very long and do not really meander. Yet I can’t help wondering if they once did. Did these so-called lanes now running between houses, shops and factories, once run between fields? And if any of them did, what might they once have looked like? What was this area like before it became a metropolis? I get the impression that the vast, urban landscape around me wasn’t so different to the landscape I knew as a child, not that long ago; and that you can perhaps glimpse that past like a palimpsest in the layout of the roads and the names of places. It’s as if, below this vast, sprawling, hectic maelstrom lies a quieter, more peaceful past which can still, just about, be glimpsed if you look hard enough.