Sunday, 2 December 2012

Common Sense under Threat

I think it was Leon Trotsky who once opined that “Common sense is the wisdom of the ruling class” but that old chestnut was cast rudely to the pavement recently by our country’s planning minister. In a classic case of nominative indeterminism, Nick Boles said he wants to see a 33% increase in land under new construction. He declared that “The built environment can be more beautiful than nature” and that “We shouldn’t obsess about the fact that the only landscapes that are beautiful are open.” He then added, “Sometimes buildings are better.” This is beyond parody. But it is frightening.
The piece below was written in the spring of 2009 as part of the Remembering Rodborough project, when we went out with Walking the Land, looking at old maps and pictures as we ambled along. The second line has a reference to an old pub and bakery that used to exist – the buildings still do. The second verse refers to the old field names that used to adorn Rodborough Fields. You just know that if the developers move in then someone will think it quaint to name the new streets after the old field names.That is beyond parody. But it is frightening.

Psycho-Geography: A Walk around Rodborough Fields

There we were, a baker's dozen, at Butterow West,
Just by the Princess Royal and Gardiner's Bakery,
(Opposite the Pavilion, don't you know)
Sketching, chatting, filming and reminiscing,
Looking at old maps and photographs,
Listening to recorded voices, oral histories,
Telling us how it used to be -
Tales of the allotments and the parrot
Calling the men up the hill to the pub,
When Sunday noon meant time to down tools.

Then on to Rodborough Fields' long dead elm trees,
Recreating the patchwork quilt of fields of 1838:
Rack Hill, Thresher, Bacon Slad,
Spout Leaze, Lower Orchard, Upper Bacon Slad,
Calves Close, Sheep Furlong, Little Chapel Hill,
Freeze Land, The Park, The Island, Cobswell,
Side Long Piece, Fir Tree Ground, Wheatlands,
Cobbs Acre, Great Fromate, Spillman,
Well Croft, Birds Lagget, Home Ground, Broad Close,
The Mead, Old Well Close, Kitchen Close,
Barn Close,Dye House Mead,
Sweetmead, New Leaze.

We then ambled through Victoria's reign,
To stand on the bank above Capel Mill,
We saw an Edwardian lady gaze at the waters,
Hands clutching the rustic fencing
That ran all along the bridge,
In a picture postcard pose and scene,
More seaside than Stroud,
Like the puff from 1902,
Selling land for building in Coronation Road,
"Near the GWR and Midland Railways",
And the well known "health resort" of Rodborough Common.

We returned to the present and walked along Arundel Drive,
(Cherry trees all in dazzling bloom, front path exotic splendour,
A suburban trope reminding us of our Imperial heritage)
To track the water's trickle of the culverted stream,
(32 feet deep behind Coronation Road,
With 6 springs at the end of Rodborough Avenue)
Moss and lichen growing on the hidden dry stone wall,
Where the water drops down on its way to the Frome,
The stream where our senior citizens used to play,
Swinging in the trees from willow bank to bank,
Their muffled shouts of joy bursting from the depths of time,
Traces of the past escaping from the confines of the present.

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