Parking, just as we like it

Parking in Allendale’s Market Square is a source of wonder throughout the county

There are no white lines. There’s no designated ‘disabled spaces’. Vehicles come and go, seemingly unerringly finding a place for themselves, or waiting patiently until a space is vacated. Or they twirl around and around, on rare occasions (typically weddings and funerals) eventually parking rather further away than they’d hoped. It all works out.

The Parish Council, in consultation with the Roads Department of the County Council, have, in the time we’ve lived here, put forth a variety of plans to update the square: more cobblestones; less cobblestones; more tarmac; less tarmac; designated parking spaces; different parking spaces; ‘no parking’ spaces. It’s almost like the myth of Sisyphus, the Parish Council’s attempts to bring order out of a kind of ‘thinking chaos’, where the councillors sit and deliberate, planners make designs, everyone is asked for an opinion, and a year or so down the road the whole shebang gets thrown out once again with disdain. Like pushing a proverbial stone up a long hill, only for it to slip out of your grasp at the last moment.

It’s Allendale, we say, that’s how it is, parking here, so like it or lump it, or give it a break. But the next generation of councillors come in, facing a new insistence from the Roads folks, and it’s all in play once more for a renewed cycle of optimistic design, earnest conversation, compulsive solicitation of opinion, and then, quel surprise, another design strategy trashed.

Now that the cobblestone fiasco of a decade ago has been mostly redeemed around the pubs with fair seating arrangements, and a good parking surface is back in front of The Dale Manor (though a good bit of careful tarmac attention would not go amiss in front of the Bunkhouse), the square is pretty much functional. Why fix it anymore if it ain’t broke?

Actually, I don’t think there are any plans to fix the square further, I’m just playing devil’s advocate here. It really is amazing how drivers figure out where to go. Having been a parking attendant at several events (the May Fair, for example, or the Agricultural Show) over the years, however, I have a fair idea of how people actually park. They park like the ones in the space before them, simple really.

Sometimes, very early in the morning, before any locals have turned up at the Co-op, you might find a car parallel-parked in front! I’ve always wanted to pull up perpendicular-like beside them, with a hope that somebody would do the same trick behind, and then what would they do? But that isn’t the ethos of parking in the square, to be fair. The ethos is, simply: park so that any other vehicle can get past, or can park usefully too, or can get out if they’re already there. And it really is surpassingly simple.

So we needn’t worry too much, I’d guess, about the seemingly random nature of parking the square. There usually aren’t enough vehicles to make nearby disabled parking a challenge, nor are there usually very many instances of severe congestion. Of course, we must all be careful not to block the disabled access ramps up onto the pavement, anywhere. The real challenge is to be sure, on the driving alleys on either side of the central parking area, that you drive carefully, always watching out for the unknowing who will, sometimes, drive in the obvious wrong direction.

And apart from that, and the general parking ethos, we can just rest easy in the recognition that the parking will, usually, take care of itself. It’s Allendale, after all.


  1. Thanks Andy . . . and thanks for the idea! Hoping I did the creative chaos some justice, anyway, though I remain mostly bashful at accepting compliments, me.

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