A LARGE wooden sculpture of a dragon is said to have already caused one traffic accident on a main road on the edge of Snowdonia, along with numerous other "near-misses".

Now police are having to warn drivers not to gawp as they pass, and to keep their eyes firmly fixed on the road.

It's not the dragon's fault – or rather, that of its sculptor, Simon O'Rourke of Wrexham. If people don't know enough about driving not to allow their eyes to wander at every passing fancy, they shouldn't be on the road in the first place.

I can only suppose they've also been watching too many movies in which it always seems necessary for a driver to turn to look at his or her passenger whenever they speak or are spoken to by them, generally at inordinate length.

Were none of these people – whether bad drivers or bad actors – taught that a car moving at 60mph travels 88 feet every second?

On the A5 near Tregarth in the Ogwen Valley there are not many stretches which do not contain a sharp bend every hundred feet or so, so taking your eye off it for literally a single second is almost guaranteed to end very badly for you and maybe innocent others.

The oak carving, appropriately called Y Ddraig Derw, is some 25ft in length and was fashioned by 40-year-old O'Rourke from a fallen tree.

To be fair to all concerned it is a very striking-looking object, and even the police are said to "love" it, but the local force, in a post on its Bangor and Bethesda Facebook page, cautions that: "...this section of road...really does require a driver's full concentration. Please concentrate on the road ahead at all times, if you want to view [the dragon], please find somewhere safe to park."

For his part, Mr O'Rourke also warned motorists on his Facebook page that the adjacent road was "fast and dangerous".

But he clearly didn't try to update his Facebook page at the same time as he was carving the dragon with a chainsaw – a labour which apparently took nearly a week and was undertaken at the request of the land's owners – because had he done so he would now be in hospital minus a few fingers at best.

Of the subsequent publicity – the story made the national media on account of the stupidity of the drivers – he says: "you drive through somewhere like Birmingham and you've got huge screens and billboards that are actually trying to distract you and catch your attention.

"A wooden dragon is less intrusive than those screens but [that] doesn't matter, when you're in control of the car you should be paying attention to the road."

He raises an interesting point, I think. When Wonderbra was first advertised – in 1998 – on giant inner-city billboards with the Czech model Eva Herzigova gazing down at her wonderfully boosted assets alongside the almost equally eye-catching salutation 'HELLO BOYS', the posters were blamed for causing dozens of road accidents by distracting drivers.

But it doesn't have to be saucy lingerie ads or brilliantly carved dragons in woods where you're not expecting to see them, it could just as well be something like a horrific accident.

Drivers who rubberneck or gawp – or even brake suddenly to gawp – at any such thing, are driving without due care and attention, if not technically dangerously.

Whether there are mitigating circumstances is another matter, because we're all human. One could argue that anyone or thing outside a vehicle which might distract a driver should be a banned – but then where would one start – or indeed stop?

  • Will farming underground just bury the issues?

COULD abandoned coal mines hold the secret to a prosperous, sustainable and environmentally friendly future for parts of Wales, including Wrexham and Flintshire?

According to some agricultural scientists, disused tunnels and shafts around the world are “the perfect environment” for growing many types of vegetables and herbs.

Crops could either be grown in water or suspended in the air and sprayed with water and nutrients, lighting provided by fibre-optics or LEDs.

Carbon-capture technology would capitalise on the naturally occurring CO2.

According to Prof Saffa Riffat, president of the World Society of Sustainable Energy Technology, a seven metre-square shaft can produce 80 tonnes of food per year - up to 10 times the amount grown on the same area of land above ground.

Almost all the elements required for growing healthy and abundant foods such as lettuce, carrots, mushrooms and strawberries are already in place, experts say.

But unlike traditional methods, ‘underground’ farming is not susceptible to unreliable and increasingly extreme bouts of inclement weather, and temperature is reasonably constant.

There are estimated be be some 150,000 disused mine shafts and tunnels in the UK alone, and the idea has been given cautious backing by the Land Trust which owns and manages many former colliery sites.

“It’s a great idea,” says Land Trust chief executive Euan Hall. “There are obvious challenges, not least that many shafts have been capped or built on, but there are lots of coalfields where there’s no community around them, where this is something worth looking at.

“A lot of hill farmers in Wales are living hand to mouth, so anything that helps diversity and brings a new form of income would be very welcome.”

The farming of the future? Well maybe, but a Utopian vision or the very opposite?