WEST DORSET is not the land of the smart phone, the iPhone or the Android you can use to shoot video, download music, take photographs, play games, bank, tweet, look at websites, use as a compass… even, perhaps, ring somebody up. Sure, you can see people with these fancy mobile computers, but can they get a good signal?
West Dorset is the land of the un-smart phone, and nowhere is there an un-smarter phone than this.
This is the BT phone box in Leigh, a few miles from Sherborne.
It’s settled so much into the local landscape that it looks like it’s about to fall over and is only kept upright by the friendly hedge.
See this phone box for the first time, especially, and you wonder: why is it here in this exact spot? Did it fall off the side of a lorry and no one has ever bothered to collect it? Did the bloke who was installing it just think, sod it – here will do? (It’s a definite bloke thing, this box; no woman I know would leave something looking like this).
It’s actually not too far from houses in Leigh, but I have never seen anybody using it, or even looking like they were thinking of using it.
Personally, I like it very much. I think it’s a fascinating symbol of modern West Dorset life, but even I’ll concede that there may be squeamish sorts who are wary of going inside it – and touching it…
Nothing about the phone box in Leigh makes you think it’s a facility that British Telecom wish to maintain. In this respect, you can argue it’s a symbol of the indifference of large corporations and organisations to the needs and desires of Dorset villages. It’s part of the same trend as Post Office closures and the county council’s shutdown of libraries.
Or you might argue that it’s a sign of wilful neglect by villagers in Leigh, a mark of the failure of the so-called Big Society, an idea that Conservative Cabinet minister and West Dorset MP Oliver Letwin says is enshrined in West Dorset as nowhere else. Dr Letwin wants the rest of the country to be more like West Dorset.
In short, Leigh’s phone box offers a lot to look at and think about. That’s why it’s Number One in the new Real West Dorset guide to Things to See & Do.
How to get there
From the middle of Leigh, by the war memorial, take the road out towards Chetnole, and it’s down past the village hall.
It’s best seen in July and August before the verge is cut and the hedge is trimmed back a bit.
If you want to use it, you’ll need to take a card with you, or reverse charges. Otherwise, entrance is free. No smoking’s allowed.
I can’t guarantee that the snail will still be there.
Go soon – because I fear the box itself won’t be there forever. Not as it is now…