Dig out the old Clarence Club to end traffic chaos

THERE has been much moaning in the town following the council’s decision to give the go ahead for a pedestrian crossing in the middle of Broad Street and the phrase that most often crops up in the muttered complaints against it is, “it will cause chaos”.

The moaners, among whom for a short time I was one, are quite right, it will. Traffic which is already much too heavy in the summer months will bank up and stretch back to the top of Sidmouth Road in the west and to opposite Timber Hill in the east.

Motorists’ tempers will fry, car horns will be honked and I should not be in the slightest bit surprised if, on a hot day, it causes road rage among those drivers who display their intelligent response to the inconvenience of the traffic jams, which they are exacerbating, by thumping each other.

Many, and again I was one of them for a bit, have also bitterly complained that the installation of the puffin crossing outside Martin Wiscombe’s Pug & Puffin shop will mean that Broad Street loses seven of the parking spaces which are currently only ever empty between the hours of 4-6am.

“Told you so” will be the new phrase of the summer as the “chaos” takes hold and drivers unfamiliar with the Woodmead Road-Anning Road by-pass fume at the nuisance of having to wait a while because councillors have unreasonably decided that they want to protect elderly, disabled and barely-sighted residents against getting knocked down and killed.

But whilst there may be some who feel that the prospect of blood on the tarmac is a justifiable risk if it allows the smooth and unimpeded flow of the great god which is the motor car, I think the majority of those who live here have more cells in their brains. Most have the wit to realise that as Lyme is a predominantly-elderly town, where 43 per cent of the population are aged over 60, the need for a safe crossing is much greater here.

As I say, once the crossing is up and running, most of us locals know our way around the back routes of Woodmead, Anning Road, Haye Lane, Colway Lane, Hill Road and Coombe Street, all of which provide cut-throughs for those in a desperate hurry.

Pedestrian underpass

But it’s the grockles who will most likely be caught up in the Broad Street slow crawl that will doubtless see Martin’s shop nicknamed ‘Slug & Puffin’.

But there are solutions to this. One suggestion, made not entirely seriously, is to forget the crossing and to build a pedestrian underpass instead, digging out the bowels of the old Clarence Club which used to operate beneath the pavement outside 22 Broad Street.

Before your time, in the days when there were rozzers stationed in the town and late-night drinking was not as easy as it is now, a bunch of local businessmen including my dad Ron, his brother Lin, Dick Hammett the baker, Albert Lane, Fred Aldridge, Brian and Alan Wellman and Charlie Caplin instituted this club as a ruse to get nicely thank-you’d whenever they felt like it.

I don’t know if women were encouraged to join – the above photo suggests not – but they would spend many a happy late hour boozing it up, playing snooker and eating chicken which Dick would roast in his ovens up behind what is now The Good Food Store.

Anyway, hearsay has it that the cellar which housed Lyme’s forerunner of Liverpool’s Cavern Club still exists and apparently it would be “easy” [using the word in its most elastic sense] to dig it through under the road and make an underpass for easy crossing of the street. I’m sure it would be much more complicated than that, but it’s an idea.

But a better idea, certainly one easier to effect, would be some bog-standard signs. Much of the traffic that goes up and down Broad Street in the summer is that it is on its way to Dorchester and Exeter and all places in between and beyond. As we all also know, it is not necessary to cut through Lyme for many journeys which would be made more quickly if you stayed on the A35.

But a lot of grockles don’t know that. In these wondrously-advanced days when motorists cannot drive a foot forward without guidance by their Sat Navs, technology often steers them through the route of Lyme and thus Broad Street.

As the puffin crossing is as much a certainty as the queues that it will cause, how about we take simple steps to lessen the traffic by putting up signs at Fern Hill, Hunters Lodge and at the bottom of Boss Hill saying “Lyme Regis – Long Delays Guaranteed for Thru Traffic”?

Woodmead Halls
About Geoff Baker 8 Articles
Born and educated in Lyme Regis, Geoff Baker trained as a journalist at the Express & Echo in Exeter and graduated to Fleet Street – via the Sidmouth Herald and the Birmingham Post – where he became chief of the entertainment desk at the Daily Star. He quickly gained a reputation for breaking exclusive showbiz stories and was often a guest on national TV. After setting up an agency handling news for Fleet Street, Geoff worked as Paul McCartney’s PR guru for 15 years, accompanying the former Beatle on his worldwide tours. Geoff returned to his home for a less hectic lifestyle to write a much-awaited novel

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