Winchelsea. Two cars hurtle down the High Street, one uphill from the Strand Gate, the other downhill from the other end.
Each is trying to beat heavy traffic on the A259, the trunk road which skirts round the village. But as vehicles are parked on both sides of the High Street, there is only a single lane for traffic. The two cars meet in the middle.
Both drivers consider that they have right of way, so neither will give way. Other vehicles pile up behind them. Tempers fray. Drivers get out and remonstrate with each other. The air turns slightly blue. Horns are sounded. Residents pop their heads out of their houses to see what the commotion is all about. But it’s just another spat between rat-runners.
These unseemly little pageants are reportedly becoming a more frequent feature of life in Winchelsea. Residents say it is startling, and not a little depressing, to see normal people get so angry over such petty incidents which could be resolved with just a little politeness. “It’s like Jekyll and Hyde”, according to one householder in the High Street.
And there is little consolation for residents in the thought that these stand-offs could deter rat-runners. Winchelsea Community Speed Watch has observed an unfortunate side effect – drivers attempting to circumvent possible hold-ups in the High Street by using side roads. They say an increasing number of vehicles are racing down narrow back lanes which have no footpaths (and therefore the cars are a threat to pedestrians) as well as concealed junctions, and go past the primary school.
The aggressive behaviour of rat-runners has been a growing concern in Winchelsea for some time. When German Street was closed recently by fire engines attending a blaze, some drivers were outraged that the route had been blocked and were abusive to residents diverting traffic.
Photo: Richard Comotto