You wouldn’t think that there were conservation schemes aimed at the preservation of large and hungry fae, but the British government does occasionally have its moments. The Troll Bridge Colony at Sunbury Cross is one of those rarities, and it has worked surprisingly well over an extended number of years. You’ll be hard pressed to find any reference to it in local planning offices however, as it got worked into the development of the beginning of the M3 motorway.
With so many traditional lair locations redeveloped during the twentieth century, concern was raised by local interests that simply bulldozing through settled areas would result in retaliatory strikes. The civic planners involved were reasonably confident that the plain mortals and near-mortals that paid their taxes and made up the general populace would accommodate change; but acknowledged that the more physically exuberent trolls wouldn’t think twice before squashing road work engineers flat and consuming the remains. They conceded that this would only lead to insurance claims and a complete fiasco if cover-up attempts came to light.
The proximity of the Thames and the bridges crossing it between Sunbury and Walton had supported a number of trolls for hundreds of years, and to this day there are still a surprising number of locals who can remember the sight of people being plucked from the river banks by knotted muscular arms. The bodies disappeared into the depths of the river and traces were rarely found again. The sharp currents of the Thames were usually blamed in this case as a convenient scapegoat, or at least one more palatable than the thought of sharper teeth and bloody appetites.
Trolls are notoriously territorial, it must be remembered. They rarely venture far from their bridges and this happens even less so as they age. They become more and more attuned, embedded, and dare we say, rooted to the chosen hunting ground that also becomes their home. A troll that has inhabited an area for longer than fifty years usually sickens and dies if forced away. It isn’t clear from records if this was an option that the more callous or careless urban planners made use of when drawing up their plans before more enlightened minds got involved.
Yet, for all their fearsome reputation and bloody appetites, trolls are still sentient beings with hopes, fears, families and friends. They can be reasoned with, and bargains struck – especially if no billy goats are involved. The older trolls might not have been moveable, but their younglings could be transplanted relatively painlessly. An ideal alternative location was identified in the many underpasses and subways weaving around the mighty Sunbury Cross roundabout and the M3 flyover.
Here was a cluster of bridges that could house multiple trolls without drawing attention. Building multiple bridges over the same point in a river would draw comment, but routes to allow pedestrians and local traffic through the motorway’s path would be welcomed.
Subterranean streams were diverted as the railway embankments and cuttings were renewed, fed from the various water treatment and reservoir plants already established. Untouched woodlands were set aside from development plans for hunting and recreation. With shelter, food, and drink all within reach, it took only the negotiation of the traditional toll to seal the collective deal. It was agreed that a portion of the motorway motorists’ road tax would be set aside as payment to keep the trolls quiescent.
Today, the subways and underpass remain relatively safe and free from undesirables – quietly policed by the trolls. Mosaics and surreal graffitti adorn the walls of what remain, by and large, clean and trouble-free passages. Local youths have learned to use the local skatepark rather than congregate in the wide main arch of the bridge. This is much to the relief of commuters passing through on their way to and from the nearby station. The occasional troublemaker has been known to go missing, but evidence is usually found by the police pointing to their having moved away.
Who says you can’t teach trolls new tricks?