Thursday, August 10, 2006

Down Harwell

Sorry for the lack of updates: this is entirely due to my having just moved house and, as such, am currently only on nodding terms with the wundaweb via an expensive and creaky old pay-as-you-go dial-up connection.

Expect a slight shift in the geographical bias of these notes. I’ve moved from the relatively dark skies of West Oxfordshire to a rather more light-polluted South Oxfordshire, with the lovely town of Didcot making, it would seem, an ever-increasing contribution to this shroud of dusky-peach covering where the stars used to be.

Walking out towards the downs from Harwell village about a month ago, up the path known as The Holloway, I passed under two mercury-vapour lamps; these contributing, as is often the case with this lighting, to the most sublime rural setting. Mercury-Vapour and moonlight setting off the timber-framed and thatched-roof houses beautifully and, on this narrow tree-lined lane, demonstrating the superior performance characteristic of cool blue-white mercury-vapour lighting; namely useful illumination with little glare at this low lumen-level. The moonlight helped, but it was easy to see beyond the lights, through to the unlit section of the track leading out from the village. I didn’t have the camera with me.

This week, I walked the same route again, determining to record the perfection before some nu-labor type came along with the ugly gun of HPS to ruin everything. I arrived too late. Where the mercury moons had shone but weeks before, there are now two bulbous semi-cutoff lumieres banging out at least 100 Watts of revolting high-puke sodium apiece. Aesthetically, the result is an abomination. One barely notices the C17th architecture now, for the lighting is so stupidly bright that the glare of dusky-peach subsumes absolutely everything about this scene there is to love. And on this moonlit night, I could not stand ahead of the lights and see through to the unlit section beyond. All I could see was orange, orange, glare of orange.

With the forthcoming nu-labor, nu-Mc.Britain development of Barratt Homes about to land on fields to the west of Didcot, there is a projected doubling in the amount of traffic that will be headed through Harwell village towards the A34. And we all know what that’ll mean in terms of lighting, don’t we? It’s started already. All but one of the mercury lamps on the High Street has been replaced in the last year by the dreaded Prescott Peaches. Under the brightest of these monstrosities, one may observe baseball-capped yoof in noisy evidence, getting pissed on alcopops. Urbanisation takes another step, and Harwell village becomes a suburb of Didcot.

So, you know, thanks to the wonks wot dunnit. Expect a pithy e-mail once I’ve found out who you are.