ACROSS the room at the shoot dinner I heard snatches of conversation. “At least 20 more vehicles have gone off the road since I did.” “It’s a notorious stretch off black ice.” “There are no warning signs.” Clearly someone had just been the victim in a nasty road accident.

Turned out that it was Joy, the wife of one of the guns, who had narrowly avoided being seriously injured when her car skidded on a stretch of black ice.

The accident taking place on a local road which, straight as a die, runs through a heavily wooded area. And where the sun has little chance to penetrate the gloom, even late in the day, to melt any ice on the road surface if the temperatures are sub or near sub zero.

Although badly shaken by the accident, Joy recognised that in sustaining minimal injuries, she had been very lucky. But when contacting the parish council and relevant local authorities responsible for road maintenance, she discovered that with cuts to expenditure on salting roads, this stretch of road is not deemed a high priority. Even though at least two school buses have skidded off on black ice, putting school children at risk.

Our village has never been a priority for any sort of road maintenance. And I am afraid that our tractors have over the years, as with other local farmers, been responsible for cutting up verges when there is a wide load.

But equally, cars, in attempting to avoid each other as there are no passing places, churning up the grass and mud, are as much to blame as tractors.

Again, the gaps in hedges on blind corners on our twisty lane, attest to frequent intrusions by vehicles who had seconds earlier, not being alerted by any signage on the road that a bad bend was ahead, taken a direct route from road to grass field, via a hedge.

Although signs do exist when you turn off the main road that our lane is unsuitable for heavy vehicles, that is irrelevant in such a rural area where heavy farm machinery is working. And also irrelevant too, it appears, to increasing numbers of large continental lorries getting stuck on our lane after blindly following their sat navs on the shortest routes to their next destination.

Hopefully local pressure on the council will improve maintenance, renew road signs that have been knocked over, provide in our case, passing places. But don’t hold your breath. And just go steady when the temperature drops below zero.