hidden europe 38

The crossing

by Nicky Gardner


The satnavs tick off the passing interchanges, the passengers in the back seats are bored and the blood pressure of the drivers rises. No-one, no-one on the busy highway will ever know that a touch of heaven is just a few feet below the angry tarmac. Join us as we follow the forest path as it passes under a motorway.

The crossing is a place we all know. On the upper level there is the roaring tide of business and pleasure on the motorway, below merely the country path which slips quietly through a tunnel under the road. Which road? Well, that hardly matters. It could be the M25 which orbits London, or any of a dozen other motorways that seethe past cities in England. The bridge that crosses our particular path, if you must know, escorts the E30. That is one of Europe’s mega-highways, sweeping traffic from the North Sea coast to Minsk, Moscow and beyond. It cuts across Europe, passing just south of Berlin.

Ah yes, so you’ve been to the bridge too? Your bridge is probably pretty similar to our bridge. They are all much the same. You catch the whiff of burning rubber drifting down from above, while along with other walkers you tunnel under the motorway — the romance of the countryside tamed and channelled by concrete.

Our bridge has en suite facilities. There is a poor apology of a stream that flows through a culvert next to the footpath. No, we’ve got that wrong. Flows is the wrong word. Let’s take that thought again. It’s not a stream. It festers rather than flows. It’s a sort of linear puddle, stagnant, full of oily rainbow colours. It leads from an overgrown and marshy woodland under the motorway into a nearby lake.

Those who speed by above know nothing of the soft fen with its feral trees and summer dragon flies. That makes our bridge all the better. You catch the sweet scent of truck diesel at dawn while in the netherworld the frogs croak a welcome to the new day.

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