This week I was sent a link to a site which allowed me to watch footage of the felling of pylons in Dorset. This is a project known as Visual Impact Provision and reports admit that there is no motive for spending £116 million, other than to improve views in an area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
I wouldn’t even want to comment on other ways this money could have been spent.
What I must confess to, is my long love affair with pylons.
As a child I was fascinated by them.
The following are excerpts from my first book, ‘The Railway Carriage Child’.
‘I saw their glinting silver girders as fine lines, drawn with a very sharp pencil against the sky. They framed and fragmented the scenery, reminiscent of the lead in a stained glass window. I studied their geometric patterns, their legs splayed to balance despite the wind.
This appeared to work well as they were not cowed by the prevailing wind; unlike the telegraph poles which often leaned precariously over the water from their roots on a bank. I liked the tapered tops of the pylons, pointing skywards like rockets poised to launch, but their feet were firmly in the ground. In summer, crops grew around their ankles, then up to their knees. I wondered if they, too, had been planted at some time and were now forging ahead, like runner beans above the rows of cabbages.’
‘When I asked ‘What a’ them for?’ I was told ‘They carry ’lectric’ and when I asked how? I was reliably informed that they passed it along from one to the other. Now I thought I understood. It worked like pass-the-parcel. I saw their outstretched arms, gripping the wires as they waited; one reaching out to take the ’lectric, the other to pass it on. I waited, too, watching for a long time, but they stood in silence, silhouettes against the backdrop of clouds. Sometimes it looked as if they were clutching the wires close to their bodies, tucked under their armpits, but as I passed and looked back, arms were outstretched again. I could never turn quickly enough to see them move, and never realised that this illusion was only due to the angle from which I viewed them.
However closely I observed, I still couldn’t see the ’lectric. I questioned this again and was told ‘Oh, no, yer won’t see it, ’cus nobody can see it’.
Now there was an element of magic.
It wasn’t until much later when I studied currents and voltage, that I realised the only magic had been in my imagination, but I still retain the affection for those sentinels of steel as they march out of the city, carrying the ‘lectric’ across the fields of the fens.’
My love affair continued into adulthood and I can still be spotted in various weathers beside a busy road or in the middle of a muddy field, capturing images. Here in the fens we are particularly lucky with our beautiful scenery…no hills to obscure the view.
In Cambridgeshire, we can see Ely Cathedral from thirty miles away. We can look twenty-one miles down a straight river.
Pylons decorate many of these views, their intricate steel lace reflecting the sun or stark against storm clouds.
They have been a part of our scenery since the 1960s, almost all my life.
Therefore, I am moved to speak in their defence. They add a focal point to our countryside. Without them, we would be Suffolk without its thatched cottages or Norfolk without its windmills.
Here’s a thought, did you ever see a postcard of the Broads without a windmill?
Maybe it was just good fortune that when they became redundant, the cry didn’t go up, ‘Get rid of them. They spoil the scenery.’