A belated birthday treat meant we were having tea on a sunny afternoon at The Grimsdyke Hotel. Beautiful. A secluded wood lay before us. An ornamental garden to the right. A lake with overhanging trees and pink cherry blossom scattered everywhere, over the tree roots and water. A wall of green smothered with purple flowers, shimmering in the breeze. “I want to spend my life like this,” I said, “surrounded by roses and trees and beauty.” Yes, my friend agreed.
We looked at the rows of roses on our right. There was a new, small wire fence! Turned out a deer had been coming in and eating them! How sweet! We idly ambled to the wood to look for him, and wandered further in. The trees were gnarled and old, apparently an apple orchard had been here. I knew the history of the house and there was an eerie feel to the lake. We could have been in any time, any era, the trees were so old and the flowers so beautiful. Such is England – find a green and secluded spot, and you can lose yourself in the history of the place and our country – the foliage so well established, the area so unchanged….
The hotel has been bought by a chain and seems safe, including the green windy drive up the hill. But for how long I found myself thinking. Building seems to be going on everywhere and it scares me…
On the way back we discussed my friend’s plans for a new home, having sold her current one. She had to sell because she can no longer rely on having house share tenants to help pay the mortgage without getting an extra bathroom and a licence. The law has changed mainly because of all the slum landlords renting out small houses to 19 or more illegal immigrants and I guess the council had to do something – so are now making respectable private house share owners suffer – I’m sure it helps the councils boost their coffers – on the premise of cutting back on the pressure tenants brings to the area’s infrastructure – although strangely if you pay for a council licence that makes it OK…!
We talked about all the new developments she had seen locally and all over London, springing up everywhere. What she told me was an eye opener.… Many contain various different sized properties – and often the largest and better positioned ones are saved for social housing tenants – a prerequisite now for many new developments. Also often the social housing has a separate entrance (strange!).
She was startled when enquiring about empty flats in one development. “No – you can’t have any of those. They are being saved for investment only and are remaining empty.” Now we know this goes on – but seriously? They are taking our green fields and building what they cite as vitally needed housing .. and probably the councils are getting subsidies from the government … and yet…flats are being syphoned off for investment?? How much longer will we walk around with our eyes shut as we are mugged off over and over again?
My house hunting friend saw flats built next to graveyards, on fields, on old industrial estates, on hospital grounds, on car parks, on parks, at the end of roads – you name it – they are building everywhere. Some properties were so new she couldn’t even find them on a sat nav… “I’m amazed,” I said. “So much going on!”
“That’s nothing,” she said. “It’s only just begun… building is being planned everywhere. Let me tell you…” And as we drove home, we took a few detours – there were developments springing up all over where I had grown up – even behind other houses and on every piece of land that could be scraped up. If you look up as you walk or drive around you will see signs pointing to show homes, new developments or building sites where another one is going up. The signs are everywhere, and it is beginning to scare me…
As we sped down a dual carriageway I braced myself – yep there it was – all the old offices and warehouses had gone and masses of flats had appeared. As we drove past some trees something made me look – and yes hiding behind them were again more flats. It became like a game of hide and seek – spot the building signs and the new flats – it was like picking targets off a range – it was endless – a journey through my youth in a sleepy suburb which was fast turning into a concrete jungle.
And as we turned into the main road near my home I looked up through my hands – and there it was – the little box that is a house building sign – I groaned – where were they going to keep fitting all these new homes? And worse still – how would our local facilities cope – and the ultimate question – where ARE all these people coming from? England – and the UK – is an old country – we have trees that are hundreds of years old for goodness sake! Beautiful old crumbling houses, wild flowers that have grown and beautified our lives for – well, ever!
Lakes, streams and lanes in places you don’t expect them. And wildlife that has nested, had their families, visited us every year, for what seems like since the beginning of time. Our country has a timeless feel to it in so many simple places…. but for how much longer?
Change is often hard, and building has always gone on… But this is different – we are losing our way of life, and once it’s gone, it won’t be coming back. This is not like the little deer who just wants some roses for lunch, the bulldozers are coming for the very soul of what was once our home…