IT has been mainly downhill since I reached the summit of Worcestershire Beacon last Saturday. Henmania continues to raise my hackles, football simply won't go away, and now I find myself caught up in Silverstone traffic.

I recently declared this column a Grand Prix free zone, but I'm willing to make an exception at a time when I can't find a bed for tonight because of Silverstone.

My pursuit of the Durham cricket team has brought me to Northamptonshire, where the local economy apparently benefits by £30m from the British Grand Prix.

The government yesterday promised to help with the upgrading of Silverstone, and while some of us consider motor racing a farcical waste of fuel and rubber, in a democratic society we have to accept that it is a £5 billion industry employing 40,000 people full-time and 85,000 part-time.

With countries such as Turkey, Bahrain, Egypt and China developing a taste for life in the fast lane, Silverstone needs to double its recent £40m investment in order to shunt aside international competition for the staging of Grands Prix.

A new access road was unveiled yesterday and 15,000 parking spaces have been created on hard standing. If one of those spaces is vacant I might use it to lay down my sleeping bag.

BRITISH motorsport might become a little more interesting if the Williams team recalled Jenson Button from his loan to Renault and turned him into a worthy successor to Nigel Mansell and Damon Hill.

But the Williams dominating the headlines this weekend will by Venus and Serena, those dainty darlings who have become the Schumachers of their sport.

It seems to me that tennis and motorsport both attract an audience of middle ranking testosterone levels.

It's an area where the sexes overlap, where the racier females and the less macho males get excited about putting a Tiger in their tank.

Tiger Tim? This is surely the most mickey-taking nickname of our time.

I'm not at all sure Tim could beat Venus, yet Henmania has been more rabid than ever as the poor lad has had to take over the mantle of shouldering shattered World Cup hopes.

When this form of insanity takes such a hold that the BBC delay EastEnders and the 10pm News then we really are in trouble.

Between 8pm and 8.15pm on Monday, when Henman was in his fifth set against someone whose name will have been forgotten by 99 per cent of the audience (Michael Kratochvil), more than 13 million people were watching.

Doubtless some of them were waiting to watch the jolly japes from those gentle souls inhabiting Albert Square, but a good few stayed on until play was suspended at 8.53. If only Wimbledon had floodlights, EastEnders would have had to wait for its rightful slot in the darkest hours.

TALKING of floodlights, what a tragedy it would have been if the wind had been too strong for Chester-le-Street to stage the floodlit international between England and India yesterday.

Following the washout of last year's match, it would have been too much to bear had a fine day been ruined by gusts too strong to guarantee the safety of the lights.

Is it worth the risk? There is a strong argument that cricket needs modern gimmicks to attract an audience, so the answer is that the risk will continue to be taken and all the international venues will eventually have permanent lights installed, which should be more stable than temporary ones.

The Riverside needed yesterday's success to ensure that feathers continue to be ruffled at Old Trafford and Headingley.

Yorkshire's chief executive, Chris Hassall, blamed Tyke tight-fistedness for the fact that Headingley was only half full on Tuesday, and the £35 admission fee set by the authorities at Lord's may well be too steep for most Northerners.

But Old Trafford is also losing numbers, and they must be increasingly worried about the Riverside being preferred for more prestigious matches.

HAVING recently introduced walking as a sport worthy of serious consideration in this space, perhaps I should explain how I came to arrive at the summit of Worcestershire Beacon.

Granted an unscheduled day off by Durham's capitulation at Worcester, I opted to explore the Malvern Hills, which offer a rather more rewarding haven than you might expect if your only view of them has been from the fast lane of the M5.

On the way down from the ridge I happened to stumble on a hostelry named the Brewers Arms, where the very welcome pint of Marstons at £1.90 was 48p cheaper than I have been charged at one pub near Northampton.

Perhaps Silverstone visitors find such prices acceptable. I certainly don't.