Monday, 21 February 2022


The new houses show their faux historically gabled roofs over the 5 foot tall thistles and ragwort. Sitting on the swing it is possible to swing high enough to see the whole new estate laid out below you.

Behind you is an empty field with big red ‘Polite Notice: Do not feed the horses’ signs fixed to the barbed wire fence. Presumably this is the paddock referred to int he cul-de-sac named Paddock View.

Don’t worry, soon the native trees we’ve planted six rows deep and 30 cm apart will screen this from view. At which point we can tear down the barbed wire and build an identical cluster of cul-de-sacs.

The roads paved with the same thin red brick that the detached houses are clad in. The whole private road is your driveway.

An Englishman’s home is his driveway.

An Englishman’s driveway is his castle?

Shiny, gleaming clean black or white cars are parked by those for whom the road is private.

One individualist has a dark blue car, they will probably move out soon.

Sandwiched between the railway lines and the M11 corridor it really is so convenient to get to work and to the shops. No one uses the brand new footpath and bridge over the river, it’s already clogged with weeds.

Luckily, it’s only a Permissive Footpath, we’ll build on that soon too.

The edges of each house is still so sharp the whole estate looks like it has been photoshopped onto the space. The bricks look wallpapered on. If it rains the houses will dissolve, but there will be nowhere for the rain to drain away to as the driveway extends from the front of the house to the point where the cul-de-sac joins the A road. The dissolved houses will clog the drain and the square mile of red brick driveway will be inches underwater.


The Footpath

A Permissive Footpath. We’re doing you a favour mate, I’d rather just fence it off.

The footpath is through the scratchy stubble of a recently harvested field. Through the gaps in the hedge a private path is wide and green and neatly mowed up the side of a flower filled meadow.

Finally a Signpost, out of the field and into a wood. Not many people come this way. The brambles have overgrown the path, tearing at my shoelaces and skin through my clothes. In the struggle burrs and nettles get inside my socks.

Finally inside the shaded wood, there is a stream up head, although at this time of year is it just a muddy trickle. Not so much babbling as making a sound like a toilet cistern slowly refilling.

Not enough rain to keep the stream flowing, but more than enough to make 4 meter stretches of footpath ankle deep in wet clay - impassable.

Go back, take the other path.

Ah! I must be getting near the pond I saw marked on the map. I wonder if it will be suitable for paddling my hot feet in. 

It looks perfect!

But the two enormous combine harvesters working in the field next door are filling the air with a dust that is making me itch. Push on. Across a field of thistles taller than me.

The footpath ends at a busy road with no pavement. 

Dash across to rejoin the Public Footpath. Stubble, scratches, brambles. Suddenly turn a corner and a field of golden wheat, a wide grassy path edged by a hedgerow sprinkled with swelling sloe berries. A white washed cottage with a red tiled roof in the distance.

Ah! This is what the countryside is meant to look like! 

Why do I think that after more than 40 years direct experience to the contrary?

The path leads straight back to the busy, pavement less road.

Pause next to a pink cottage with a thatched roof to consult my map. Immediately from behind a thick hedge a large sounding dog starts to growl.

I study the map trying to decipher which direction up the road I should go got too long - the growl becomes angry barking. The owner puts their head out of the door to see who is threatening their property.

“It’s a public right of way!” I want to shout, but instead put my map away and set off down the road making sure to keep crossing over to be on the most visible side of the bends. 

I look suspicious because I’m walking without a dog, only outdoors long enough to collect shit into a plastic bag and sling it in to the hedge.

Reapplying sunscreen stings my bramble scratches.


Sunday, 29 November 2020

Quarantine Collage 5

CountryFile, Porter, History Today, Harper's Bazaar and Kew Gardens magazines

Friday, 17 July 2020

Quarantine Collages 3

The same few magazines I bought early on in Lockdown - Vogue, Harper's Bazaar and Ideal Home