Dear Reader: New roads create new problems + we love Ripon!

A walker in Nidd Gorge near Harrogate and Knaresborough.
A walker in Nidd Gorge near Harrogate and Knaresborough.

A regular column by the Harrogate Advertiser's Graham Chalmers

Not so long ago Bilton Hall Lane was a leafy backwater used by walkers heading to the Nidd Gorge or towards the fields which lead to the Beryl Burton Way and Knaresborough.

Cars did make their way on its rutted path in the past, albeit a little gingerly.

Not any more.

This backwoods road with a rural flavour just yards from urban Starbeck now boasts a solid coating of smooth black tarmac.

And boy do the cars move.

These days it’s a case of diving for cover as emboldened drivers reach for third gear.

And I don’t just mean me, I mean walkers with dogs, parents with buggies, lycra-clad cyclists and riders on horseback

By the way, this story does have a point.

Exactly the same area is one of the possible locations for a future bypass,

The aim, in theory, would be to tackle traffic congestion but, as this humbler version of a bypass shows, building any new road can have consequences beyond its makers’ intentions.

With the current pressure for more and more new housing, who’s to say, a new road wouldn’t just encourage new housing which would eventually encourage another new road?

It's something pioneering Knaresborough road builder Blind Jack himself understood back in the 18th century.

A road isn’t just a matter of transport, it's about transformation.

This weekend Harrogate will become the arts capital of Britain, well, almost.

From Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival at the Old Swan Hotel to Harrogate Fake Festival on The Stray and Happygate Festival in the Valley Gardens, the town is awash in arts and entertainment events.

But spare a thought for a town just 12 miles up the road which sometimes feels left out of the limelight.

I say ‘town’ but Ripon is a city and one with a far deeper and richer history than its affluent neighbour.

Ripon has also got a proud pedigree in the arts, counting First World War poet Wilfred Owen and author Lewis Carroll, who wrote much of Through the Looking-Glass during his numerous visits to city, among its famous alumni.

In truth, Ripon can sometimes seem like it’s still smarting from the centralising tendencies of the Local Government Act 1972 which took away some of the power over its own destiny.

But Ripon’s heart has remained strong, as testified by the current arts revival in the city.

Like many churches in the UK, Ripon Cathedral is starting to evolve partly into the sort of arts centre governments of the last 30 years have been happy to see disappear.

Ripon Operatic Society offers its own hub for the city, too.

For Britain’s third smallest city, the literary scene is booming with its own ‘indie’ bookship called, appropriately enough, the Little Ripon Bookshop.

Perhaps people need the arts more in bad or troubled times?

It’s fairly obvious that Ripon is doing things on the right lines. It’s about to launch the first-ever Ripon Poetry Festival.