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Thread: England's Green and Pleasant Land - BROADBAND RECOMMENDED

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    Cyburbian ablarc's avatar
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    England's Green and Pleasant Land - BROADBAND RECOMMENDED



    ENGLAND’S GREEN AND PLEASANT LAND

    And did those feet in ancient time
    Walk upon England's mountains green?
    And was the holy Lamb of God
    On England's pleasant pastures seen?






    I have added illustrations and reflections (in regular italics) to this Los Angeles Times story partly about a nation honing its taste for the twee…My apologies to the author; his article is in there—complete-- among my barnacles.





    True Love of Country in England

    City dwellers are moving to villages in record numbers. Rural economies benefit, but some say at too high a cost to the locals.

    By John Daniszewski, Los Angeles Times

    .

    .
    Four Views in Kingham (pop. 969)

    KINGHAM, England — When Chris Harvey walks out of his house, Wiggals Corner, and ambles around the streets of his adopted village, the retired postman and amateur cider-maker rarely gets too far.

    That’s because Chris has to pass right by all the villagers’ yardless front doors. The ones who want to chat can just step out and greet him:



    It's a "hullo" there, and "a bit of a chat" here, and once again he is convinced that he was right to move to Kingham, which he calls "the friendliest village in England." When he left his London suburb 32 years ago, his father said he was daft to head for the sticks, an hour and a half from the capital; he should buy a nice suburban semi-detached instead.


    A nice semi-detached, but not suburban.

    What seemed crazy at the time has turned out to be a trend. Britain is now believed to be the only country in Europe that has a net migration out of, rather than into, its cities.



    Good rail connections[!], the high price of city homes, a quest for a better life, and Britons' inbred love of the countryside are some of the explanations offered for the exodus. But it is a double-edged sword.


    The English all squawk about the rail system, which in fact is superb; they should experience Amtrak.

    Although the newcomers may bring a needed dollop of vitality to the countryside and in some cases create businesses and jobs, they also push up real estate prices for longtime residents.

    As longtime resident of a neighborhood where newcomers pushed up real estate prices, I must express heartfelt thanks to those who did this for me, and I’m sure my fellow oldtimers feel the same. I can refinance my house every few years for dizzying amounts and am made prosperous beyond my wildest dreams; my neighbor buys a new Corvette every now and then. I look forward to even more pushing up of real estate prices with grateful anticipation.



    Some villages have ceased to be real communities; rather, they have become picture-book places inhabited by people who commute elsewhere for work and don't take an active role in local life.

    This is a somewhat difficult phenomenon to illustrate, since it doesn’t show up much in photos; buildings look about the same whether the occupant is a commuter or not. On those rare occasions when new suburban development is allowed in England, however, the difference is evident from the air. Here the road separates an old village (far right) with its idiosyncratic development pattern, from the newer suburb with its looped spaghetti street pattern and its ritualized lots, reminiscent of suburbs everywhere, with their uniform setbacks and standardized fitting of house to lot. This is a pretty benign example, but Suburbia nonetheless:



    Meanwhile, farming, the original activity of the village, hardly figures at all in the employment picture today. Only 1.8% of Britons now farm, the lowest percentage in the nation's history. (Since the advent of tractors, fewer farmers are needed to work the land.) Small holdings increasingly are being bought up by the incoming urbanites and often are kept up merely to look pretty, or leased out to existing farm concerns. (Efficient agribusiness also doesn’t require lots of farmers.)

    Britain’s return to rural tenant farming recreates feudal business patterns in which the squire rents out his land for agriculture. This pattern has been in relative abeyance for centuries and is now surging back. It’s pretty common in the U.S. too, but in the U.S. even more farms have reverted to second growth forest (scrub). This is the main reason England’s countryside looks so much prettier, with those sweeping vistas and wide-open spaces. (Rural Pennsylvania and parts of Maine are among the American exceptions that somewhat resemble England; in a few places you might even find a genuine village, though they’re now very rare in North America.)


    Farmland with manor house.


    Vast vistas.


    A squire’s house.


    A prosperous yeoman’s comfy cottage. Does the yeoman commute?


    This yeoman farms.

    In Kingham, the bulldozer magnate Anthony Bamford has acquired much of the surrounding gentle hills and fields. For the last two years, his wife--(breaking ranks with those carpetbaggers who don’t get involved in local life)-- has added to the area's cachet with an eye-catching cafe and farm shop that sells prize-winning organic and gourmet foods, including artisan breads and cheeses, produce and sausages, mostly from the couple's own farms. (I’m sure the politely-amused oldtimers continue to shop where they always have.)


    An establishment for yuppies.

    It's so fancy that some locals have dubbed it the "Harrods of the Cotswolds." In their literature, the proprietors say they are particularly proud of the "dog parking" area fitted with watering bowls. Although the prices may be high for many locals, the shop draws a steady stream of connoisseurs and tourists, and their pounds sterling, to Kingham.


    Pounds sterling are shipped principally on summer weekends in the pockets of (much too) brightly-colored clothing, and sometimes in shorts, which locals never wear. Pounds sterling are actually more attracted to towns than to villages.

    This village of 700 (Kingham actually has 969, according to the census) people in Oxfordshire County, on the edge of England's famed Cotswolds region, has a history that dates at least to the Domesday Book of 1086. It was recently honored by Country Life magazine, the bible of the country set, as its favorite village in England, much to the amazement of some inhabitants.


    A chocolate-box village.

    "I'm a bit surprised, because it isn't a chocolate-box type of village," parish council Chairman Keith Hartley told reporters after the accolade. "It's more of a working village than a tourist village. But it's got a great all-round atmosphere."


    A village is a very small but distinctly urban place surrounded by farmland (or, rarely, wilderness). It differs from Suburbia in that people walk. A frequent hallmark of a truly walkable small place is that there are no or few sidewalks. This is not an oversight or a hardship; you generally have the street to yourself when on foot. (Sure beats speed bumps.) This condition was noted and reproduced by the designers of Poundbury and Seaside, who are observers of the real rather than theoreticians of the abstract.















    Unlike some villages that have lost all their indigenous life, Kingham still has a primary school, a small industrial area, a combined post office and shop, three pubs, a charming hotel built on the site of the town's medieval flour mill and a main-line railway station. Fairs and football on the village field are still part of the local scene.

    .
    A village school and (abandoned) industry (what a great house this would make for a yuppie).

    .
    Two village post office shops: Combe (left) and Evershot (right).

    .
    Village Inns with pubs: the drinkers arrive (and more importantly, leave on foot; the travelers arrive by car (find the car park access in both photos). If a drinker arrives by car and proposes to leave while tanked (the English word for this condition is “pissed”), the publican can suggest a nice upstairs room for the night.


    Football in the Stroud Valley.

    According to the Countryside Agency, a governmental body set up to attend to the concerns of rural residents, 14.1 million people — 28.5% of England's population — live in rural districts. The rural population has grown by 13.7% in the last two decades, with a quarter of the new arrivals settling in the southwestern countryside, an area that has remained bucolic despite its relative proximity to London.













    .



    Bucolic: wouldn’t it be nice if we could preserve a little more of that in our own poor, battered, abused, and sprawl-afflicted land? On every visit I marvel at how much better preserved and more scenic Europe’s countryside is (and don’t forget the cities.). We are said to inhabit “America the Beautiful”, but most of the beauty here has retreated to designated preserves; the National Parks are like ghettoes of beauty. And even these--as annual budget cuts begin to show effects-- grow increasingly threadbare.

    The agency estimates that 115,000 people move to the country from urban areas each year. Since 2000, 352,000 more people have moved into England's rural areas than have left them; half of the migrants were between the ages of 25 and 44 — in other words, the prime working years.


    A migrant or just a tourist?

    As novelist John Lanchester put it in a recent essay for the Guardian newspaper, an elegy for the less-spoiled countryside he remembers, "In other words, every year a city slightly bigger than Exeter disappears, and reappears wearing green wellies and complaining about the bypass. This has been going on for a decade and a half."


    A person “wearing green wellies” (rubber boots): a necessity in rural England’s moist climate.

    At least you can walk in the British countryside without fear of being shot for trespass by an irate farmer. A system of country lanes allows you to hike (or even bike) from end to end of Britain without trespassing or using highways. Many take advantage of this fact to walk across fields, moors and downs as shortcuts from village to village.

    Novelist Lanchester’s contention that the countryside was formerly less spoiled is technically somewhat true, but not by much; Britain’s virtual ban on rural development guarantees that. The novelist should visit the United States for a more dramatic view of what spoiling the countryside can mean.

    The migrating “city slightly bigger than Exeter” has actually depopulated the northern cities containing the legendary mills. Their population is moving to the economically greener pastures of London, while wealthy Londoners are drifting into the idyllic countryside.


    And did the Countenance Divine
    Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
    And was Jerusalem builded here
    Among these dark Satanic mills?


    It means that urbanites moving to the countryside find that their neighbors are an awful lot like them.


    Local or transplanted urbanite? Does it really make much difference?

    "If my own experience is anything to go by, your neighbors in the sticks are more likely to be thirty- and fortysomething graphic designers, IT consultants and, of course, journalists, than smock-wearing yokels," said Hester Lacey, writing in the Guardian about her experience moving to the country.


    Possibly a yokel, but missing the smock.

    Digression: There is currently a great wringing of hands in Boston over the de-yokelization (or actually de-Italianization) of the North End, which urbotourists prize for its gaggles of elderly male Sicilians. These stand or sit around on sidewalks and comment in two languages on the passing scene. Their fadeout is commonly regretted on forums by epicures of the urban, but perhaps for selfish reasons; how many grousing middle-class habitues of the new North End Starbuck’s have considered that a picturesque Sicilian flaneur might actually be
    grateful to retire to Son-the-Doctor’s suburban McMansion and its limitless television reruns sampled in air-conditioned comfort?

    I myself regret having missed seeing the Chinese in Mao costumes, Turks in fezzes (I missed this one by eons), cowpokes in six-guns, and tennis players in white slacks, and I will probably miss Peruvian women in bowler hats; but I did manage to catch the Combat Zone and the line-up of floozies on the rue St. Honore before they moved to the Internet. And like many New Yorkers, I miss the three-card monte in Times Square.

    Picturesque humanity as part of the ambiance: I agree that generally I find people like myself boring—at least in gaggles on the sidewalk, though not so much in one-on-one conversation, for which I prefer the like-minded. On the sidewalk I favor groupings of rap singers, turbaned Sikhs, Orthodox Jews, even juvenile delinquents (at a distance) or (best of all) pretty girls-- but
    someone obviously likes all those Starbucks; how else do you explain their proliferation and success?

    It is, however, fairly hypocritical of us to bleed our hearts over the preservation of lifestyles not our own and a “sense of community” we find hard to pin down. This is not, after all, the survival of species, and what do we really know about the merits of other ways of life?

    Can we be so dead sure that “yokel” who sold his leaky cottage to the London stockbroker for two cool million did the wrong thing for himself and his family? Maybe he and his wife can be found today by the pool in Acapulco, margarita in hand.

    We rue the passing of this or that community, but isn’t there also a Starbucks community (unexotic) fading in to replace it? As we get prosperously post-Industrial, sooner or later everyone turns into a yuppie. Are we perhaps anthropologists? And if we were…?

    Ultimately, I think we just find
    ourselves boring. Maybe we should start wearing fezzes.


    A local shopper pauses in a country town to enjoy a cup of tea. Or perhaps: A shopping tourist pauses in a country town to enjoy a latte.


    Could go either way on this crew, though locals generally don’t wear shorts. Still, the bicycle is kind of old-fashioned…


    Standing at the very edge of the town of Shaftesbury, a man and his son (grandson?) survey the country beyond the (now-vanished) town walls. Are they tourists? Or could they be locals? Does it matter?

    Land-use rules imposed by planners since the late 1940s have suppressed suburban sprawl in Britain. One result is that truly rural landscapes beckon just beyond city limits. Much of the countryside remains postcard perfect: a pastiche of green fields and small woodlands, dotted by neat villages and church steeples, and unmarred by malls, billboards, fast-food eateries or other eyesores.









    According to the Countryside Agency, people say the country offers a better quality of life in a cleaner environment with less crime. Also, as mobility improves, more people are willing to live farther from work.


    If you can afford it, why not?

    Richard Wakeford, the agency's chief executive, is an example. He lives in Gloucestershire, 100 miles from London, and travels there three days a week. But with cellphones and broadband Internet access, he can stay on top of his job from almost any location, he says.



    "This is the new paradigm," he said. "You don't need to be anywhere anymore. And that is the liberating factor."





    In some areas, the arrival of city people bent on preservation is boosting the economy. There has been a revival in such trades as blacksmithing, thatching, dry stonewalling and woodworking: The "heritage building sector" has become a $4-billion-a-year industry, employing up to 500,000 people.

    This turn of events was predicted decades ago by the prescient Leon Krier, who also knew that forecasting it was one way to help make it happen. (Best to prophesy those things that you would actually like to see transpire. An optimistic outlook generally helps improve the future.)

    .
    A new stone wall takes form, reviving long dormant skills. Would you rather build a stone wall in the country or work on Ford’s assembly line for the same money? There is also renewed interest in the trade of thatching.

    "Crafts no longer exist to service agriculture and the traditional rural community but, instead, the lifestyle needs of … the new genus of country dweller," the agency said in a recent report.


    A newly-built stone wall encloses a court to make a precinct for two houses. Are the occupants related? Could you imagine being able to do this under conventional American suburban zoning?

    In addition, each self-employed migrant to rural areas creates an average of 2.4 jobs, said Aileen Stockdale, a professor of land economy at Aberdeen University who helped conduct a recent study on the subject for the Royal Geographical Society.


    Down the hill, a quite newly-thatched roof or two. What do you bet some of the more beat-up tile roofs shortly follow suit, now that the cost of thatching is headed down?

    Too often, she said in a telephone interview, the influx of city types is perceived in negative terms. But her research showed that many people who made the move were shifting to self-employment and launching new businesses. They present the potential for rural economic regeneration, she said.


    Thatched roofs of varied vintage enhance rural cottages and probably yield a handsome return at resale time. A “cottage” in rural England is often a rowhouse.

    “Community” and a little urbanity surrounded by countryside: isn’t that what we say we hope to get in the suburbs? So we make up zoning laws to bring it to us as surely as gasoline puts out fires.


    In fact, it is something of a myth that all the migrants are commuting into the cities. "The vast majority" finds work within 12 to 15 miles of where they settle, she said.

    .
    Some seriously small residences. Have they heard of mandated minimum square footages?

    Another professor, Anne Power of the London School of Economics, sounded an alarm this month that the rising migration from urban areas was disturbing the social balance, and urged the government to take steps to discourage it and regenerate cities. (Agree about regenerating cities; not sure about discouraging migration.)


    A place where some forms of social balance are restored daily.

    Urban "depopulation leads to depleted services, empty property, a growing sense of abandonment, decay and population polarization, with the poorer left behind," the professor of social policy told the BBC.

    Bring me my bow of burning gold:
    Bring me my arrows of desire:
    Bring me my spear: O clouds unfold!
    Bring me my chariot of fire.


    * * *

    In Kingham, some people do commute to London — the 7:25 a.m. train gets to Paddington Station before 9. But others work in and around Oxford, the growing college town, which is half an hour away.



    Simon Merton, a real estate agent in Moreton-in-Marsh, about 20 minutes from here, said the factors driving sales in Kingham were good schools and "the desire to get out of London."



    "What starts as leaving London and renting a cottage for weekends becomes buying a house in the Cotswolds and selling out in London," he said.

    .

    In the current market, it takes 1 million pounds, nearly $2 million, to acquire a five-bedroom house in the area that includes a garden, tennis court and paddock for the children's ponies.

    .

    .

    .

    There is no dearth of demand, he said. "We have about 800 people on our list at the moment. They are a mixed bunch, some from town, some wanting to move within the area, but they all have over 500,000 pounds to spend."

    .

    .

    One person who made the move in recent years is Derek Thomas, 64, a retired aerospace engineer who sold his suburban London house at a profit and bought a light-filled converted stable in Kingham. He joined the walkers club, and his wife signed up for the Women's Institute service organization nearby.





    "My wife never stops telling me how much she enjoys it," he said of their new home. "Here you can look up and see the Milky Way. It's so beautiful at night."















    Sometimes people find that country life falls short of expectations.



    "A lot of people in England have an idealized picture of rural idyll and living in a thatched cottage surrounded by rose bushes without actually seeing the wider picture of being perhaps isolated from services," said Nigel Ellway, a spokesman for the Countryside Agency. "A number of journalists ask me if I have figures about the number who move back later after being disillusioned. The answer is, I don't know."



    Wakeford, the agency's chief executive, said one ongoing concern was how to keep the countryside affordable for those who grew up or worked in rural areas.



    In the Yorkshire Dales, a particularly beautiful part of England that has become a favorite destination for migrants, the area National Park Authority is considering a plan to mandate that all newly built housing be sold only to people who are local or take local jobs. With even small cottages now selling for more than $300,000, the aim is to prevent the area from becoming unaffordable to all but wealthy Londoners.





    If the plan succeeds, other districts are likely to follow suit.



    Kingham's novel response to the problem was to build 13 "dual-equity" houses in the village's traditional honey-colored limestone. People linked to the town, such as children of residents, could live in them and become part-owners at a reduced cost; the rest of the ownership would stay with the governing local council.


    The construction quality of yore is—amazingly—matched. All that’s missing is 400 years of grime. That will come, because these houses will last that long.















    John Parslow, owner of the Mill House Hotel, was a courier company executive before he decided to retire and buy the ultra-comfy hotel 10 years ago.


    A comfy hotel.

    The business has had its ups and downs, he said, sitting in front of a roaring fire in the bar area. But he enthused over the pleasant aspects of country life — knowing the neighbors, the scenery and walks, the celebrations on the village green and the peacefulness.


    Another comfy hotel.

    Harvey, too, has an almost infectious enthusiasm for Kingham. Whether pointing out the tomb of a Norman knight in the 14th century church, the wooden beams of the parish hall or the embroidered banner carried in 19th century marches, the retired postman is an unabashed salesman for the rural way of life.

    VILLAGES IN CONTEXT:


    A Cotswolds village.


    Bere Regis.


    Abbotsbury.


    A very large village (or maybe really a small town): Bridport.

    Two longtime residents, Derek Tyack, 67, and Frank Palmer, 78, welcome the village's more recent economic renaissance. But they also sound a little wistful about the past.

    Before the carpetbaggers started buying homes, they came as tourists to gawk at the pcturesque scenes that included buildings, countryside and the locals. There were also a few bona fide tourist attractions. What would otherwise be the sleepy village of Cerne Abbas is overrun with tourists come to see The Giant:


    Cerne Abbas.

    The Giant adorns a hillside just outside the village. He’s evidence of how long people have lived hereabouts if you believe those who say he’s neolithic.


    The Giant of Cerne Abbas.

    Others think he’s a Seventeenth Century hoax; that’s when he was first mentioned in print.



    He seems real enough to those who come to him to have their shortcomings mended:



    You can imagine what the gift shops sell.

    * * *

    STREETSCAPE OF LARGE VILLAGES/SMALL TOWNS:

    CERNE ABBAS: Three street scenes, the last featuring some medieval cottages.







    CORFE:

    An especially picturesque village:



    Tourists come here to climb to the ruined castle:



    Corfe really is somewhere between a large village and a small town. Most buildings touch throughout, and there is more commerce than just the usual village pub(s):




    Abbottsbury has the population of a village (480) but something of the built-up look of a town.


    You could say the same of Puncknowle (pop. 451; 1891 pop. 427).


    Evershot.


    Lyme Regis.


    Shaftesbury, a market town with lots of commerce (pop. 6209).


    New houses in the town of Dorchester (pop. 16,171).


    Dorchester.


    Dorchester.


    Lyme Regis.


    The town of Sherborne boasts three-story buildings, but the countryside is still…just over there.


    A house in Sherborne that Sir Walter Raleigh might have known.


    Christchurch: an attractive town.


    Christchurch: Eighteenth Century New York must have resembled this.


    Christchurch: somebody let in a little modernism. Could be worse, but it does introduce a certain machine order. Mass production in a run of three. Were they looking to save on architectural fees? Or is it just that modernist architects are
    required to think this way?


    Poole: an even more attractive town.


    Poole.


    Elsewhere in Poole, someone dropped the ball pretty badly. Not hard to see why regular folks hate modern architecture.


    Nicely detailed, but who cares? London has now come to Poole. It’ll never be the same; a single out-of-scale building can do that, and it has nothing to do with height.

    Because much of England’s countryside is so much more effectively protected than poor Poole, it is still an environment fit for a king, and indeed the future king works hard to keep it unspoiled, which to him (and maybe if we’re willing to set aside our theories, to us) means no modernist architecture.

    Here he is: the arch-villain in person, the man you love to hate:



    Not only does this shameless blackguard admire picturesque old towns (I guess we all do
    that), but he actually has the brass to claim that you can still build like that today. Now!! In the twenty-first century!!!

    Brazenly scorning the iron handcuffs of history—haughtily discounting the teutonic teachings of the sages of zeitgeist-- this benighted sleazeball actually proposes that we build faithful little replicas of English villages and towns—for all the world as though they had never fallen out of fashion. But worse than that—outrage!-- he has the pompous insolence to claim that people could actually enjoy
    living in these tawdry hotbeds of kitsch!

    But wait, there’s more: he then actually
    builds one of these things against the advice of all the land’s experts and professionals! Builds it, mind you--doesn’t rest content with theorizing-- actually builds it!

    And then he has the effrontery to preside over its financial success, populating it with the undeserving middle class. And finally –-airtight evidence of moral terpitude—this unscrupulous manipulator makes a handsome profit off the whole sorry business!

    Somebody ought to pass a law against this kind of royal insolence. Oh…somebody already has—thank God for the impartial perspicacity of the great (Lord) Norman Foster. Reason triumphs.

    But wait, there’s even more: the moral decay extends all the way to this forum and specifically to where the slimy poster has actually smuggled into this post photographs of Poundbury, somewhat secure in the belief that most readers won’t detect them on their first pass.

    The architects and planners of Britain are, naturally, spearheading a movement to prevent this kind of thing in the future. This will doubtless be applauded by all true believers, ideologues, historical determinists and zeitgeist mavens on this forum. Those who believe history is, like a tsunami, an irresistible force indifferent to the influence of human will are working hard to keep this from becoming a trend, for this would not fit their learned theories (until they looked back upon it years from now, of course; then it would seem obvious and inevitable).

    In fact the only ones who don’t hate Poundbury are the fools who actually live there, most of those who have visited and those who haven’t had their wisdom handed down from the intellectual press, planners and architects. In truth, many unsophisticates actually don’t notice Poundbury, so closely does it resemble the rest of the sleepy town of Dorchester (except a little cleaner). If you are among those who can’t positively identify the Poundbury pics in this post, you know exactly what this means.

    For the real connoisseurs of kitsch, I have also sneaked in a picture or two of Portmeirion, a genuine counterfeit (this was actually a hotel masquerading as a town). In its dedication to craftsmanship, proportion and what its creator called “beauty” this was in some ways a spiritual forerunner of Poundbury; but here too the developer was aristocratic, and therefore of course his work deserves a priori condemnation. Inexplicably, Frank Lloyd Wright liked it.



    Meanwhile, the slimy Prince plans to inflict further outrages upon the proponents of Modernism and zeitgeist theory, who will never be satisfied with anything less than total domination of all that is built (except perhaps for the genuinely awful subdivisions that here and there make their appearance but are too mousy to even take note of, much less hate. Wonder who designs these? Can it be architects?).

    Even worse is what he must intend for his future subjects: this is all clearly just a Trojan horse for a wider scheme to thrust us back into the Middle Ages. Along with Poundbury, he no doubt plans to reintroduce serfdom, les droits du seigneur and cockfighting, at the very least.

    Back to the LA Times:


    Both [residents of Kingham] are former employees at the local agricultural machinery works that went bust in the 1980s. Palmer has turned to oil painting for income, while Tyack sells firewood and carves wooden sculptures on the side.



    "When you are going back, life was quite a bit different," Palmer said. "People then never went out of the village, never even for a holiday. You played about on the village green, and later on, that magic morning arrived when you had children of your own and they played on the green too.





    "Now, there are newer houses, incoming people, people on the move all the time…. Now you could say there are village people, and town people living in the village. It's a different style, not quite us and them, but a little bit of that."



    I will not cease from mental fight,
    Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand
    Till we have built Jerusalem
    In England's green and pleasant land.





    * * *

    BITS AND PIECES

    Both the architectural and planning profession are saturated with received wisdom (received folly?). Here’s something you can expect to hear: “Yeah, but they built all that stuff in the past, when that was how they did things.” Do you see the historical determinism? Implicitly, you have to add in your mind: “And of course you can’t do that now.”


    Can you imagine getting this past the wetlands regulations?

    Really? Why not? Because the greybeards said so? Inculcated us with avant-gardism while we thought we were free-thinkers?


    Or this one? Good thing it was done hundreds of years ago; they’d make you take it down if you tried doing it today.

    The other side of the coin is: “Yeah, but they had thousands of years to screw things up, while we’ve only had hundreds. How come we’ve screwed up America so much worse?”



    Population density: UK, 639 per square mile; US, 81 per square mile. Can you tell by the relative condition of the countryside?






    BLAKE’S POEM:

    And did those feet in ancient time
    Walk upon England's mountains green?
    And was the holy Lamb of God
    On England's pleasant pastures seen?

    And did the Countenance Divine
    Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
    And was Jerusalem builded here
    Among these dark Satanic mills?

    Bring me my bow of burning gold:
    Bring me my arrows of desire:
    Bring me my spear: O clouds unfold!
    Bring me my chariot of fire.

    I will not cease from mental fight,
    Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand
    Till we have built Jerusalem
    In England's green and pleasant land.



    As mentioned, I smuggled in a couple of Poundbury pictures to see if you would catch them. Hint: they’re the ones that look freshly built. In about fifty years they will be nice and dirty (or weathered) like the older buildings. Otherwise, they’re indistinguishable. They’re not really replicas, any more than a Dorchester house of 1820 is a replica of one built in 1620, just because they’re hard to tell apart.

    It’s just continuation of a tradition. Rudely interrupted perhaps for a few decades, but who can account for human folly?

    *Yawn*

    Makes me long for a couple of nice pictures of sprawl. Ok, here they are:





    Back to reality. Oh… we never left it.

    Just a different reality.

    Different and better.

    Last edited by ablarc; 04 Jan 2005 at 8:27 PM.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian nuovorecord's avatar
    Registered
    Dec 2003
    Location
    Portland, Oregon
    Posts
    444
    Great post, Ablarc! I appreciated both the photos and your commentary. It always amazes me that people love to visit areas that have preserved the feel and style of what you've posted, yet somehow can't bring themselves to realize that we could still be building those sorts of places yet today. Love or hate him, I have to applaud Price Charles on his desire to perpetuate quality design and development.
    "There's nothing wrong with America that can't be fixed by what's right with America." - Bill Clinton.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian boilerplater's avatar
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    Another fascinating set of pics! Have you ever seen Gordon Cullen's Townscape?
    Its full of sketches of scenes like those. Its out of print now. One of my favorite books in college. Yeah, I should have been reading more theory and all, but I preferred pretty pictures.

    In much of suburban America we have neither zeitgeist nor historic authenticity, just mindless sprawl. I'd take either one of the former.
    Adrift in a sea of beige

  4. #4

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    ablarc: I think you've outdone yourself again.

    It is sad that a country "poorer" in many respects than us can clearly outdo us in the realm of the built environment.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Mud Princess's avatar
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    Beautiful! I'd live there if I could. There is more character in those communities than in entire regions of the U.S.

  6. #6

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    A very good post, really interesting and some great photographs. Thanks

    Speaking as an English planner, I don't love or hate Prince Charles. His promnotion of good design and build is admirable, but equally, some of his comments over architecture I don't agree with.

    From my point of view, Poundbury has some very good aspects, and has most importantly, raised the issue of good design in this country after decades of neglect. Poundbury was largely possible however because Prince Charles owned the land and thus was able to stipulate precisely the design and build in the project, and also importantly he is rich enough not to require maximum profits from his land.

    One of the big issues here in the countryside now is the cost of housing. I am from a small village in Cambridgeshire where property values have rocketed due to the proximity to London (under an hour by train) and also the proliferation of the Cambridge economy throuigh bio-tech industries. Many of my friends still live in the area, and a fair number of them still live with their parents (at nearly 30); they simply can't afford to move out.

    Affordable housing policies are becoming more and more stringent now - your post mentions the Yorkshire Dales; parts of Cornwall and Devon in the south west of the country have 100% affordable housing policies. All new housing developments in these areas have to be for local people at affordable prices, whether they be solely for rent or shared equity houses. This is also in response to the large number of second/holiday homes being built in these areas.

    The photos made me wish that I knew Dorset better; I'm ashamed to say that its an area of the country I barely know. However, I am lucky enough to live in a beauitiful, working part of the country now.

  7. #7
    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by BKM
    It is sad that a country "poorer" in many respects than us can clearly outdo us in the realm of the built environment.
    Well, England has about 1,000 years of precedent on the U.S., so that helps.
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

    The ends can justify the means.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian Breed's avatar
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    I know I give you alot of crap for your idealistic notions of what is possible in the United States, but this article was an enjoyable read.

    Quote Originally posted by ablarc
    Along with Poundbury, he no doubt plans to reintroduce serfdom, les droits du seigneur and cockfighting, at the very least.
    Cockfighting? Hot damn! That alone is reason enough to follow his lead. There was a pig fighting ring uncovered in a nearby county. Honestly, I know it's unscrupulous and distasteful... but I think I'd actually enjoy watching one.
    Every time I look at a Yankees hat I see a swastika tilted just a little off kilter.
    Bill "Spaceman" Lee

  9. #9
    Cyburbian el Guapo's avatar
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    Best Post - EVER!
    Thanks

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally posted by Breed
    I know I give you alot of crap for your idealistic notions of what is possible in the United States, but this article was an enjoyable read.





    Cockfighting? Hot damn! That alone is reason enough to follow his lead. There was a pig fighting ring uncovered in a nearby county. Honestly, I know it's unscrupulous and distasteful... but I think I'd actually enjoy watching one.
    Edited by BKM due to uncalled for nastyness. Animal fighting does sicken me, though.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian The One's avatar
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    Fantastic Post

    I would like to nominate ablarc as the official Cyburbia Photographer/Artistic Image Producer....

    The thing with the UK for me is, where do all the people live.......For a place with 60 million people, they are well hidden......I'm sure this is just my "Americanized" sense of housing and sprawl.....

    That 3rd picture looks exactly like a view south of Kelso Scotland into northern England......so nice...........

    This whole post makes me wish I still lived in a rural area......
    Skilled Adoxographer

  12. #12

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    Quote Originally posted by The One
    I would like to nominate ablarc as the official Cyburbia Photographer/Artistic Image Producer....

    The thing with the UK for me is, where do all the people live.......For a place with 60 million people, they are well hidden......I'm sure this is just my "Americanized" sense of housing and sprawl.....

    That 3rd picture looks exactly like a view south of Kelso Scotland into northern England......so nice...........

    This whole post makes me wish I still lived in a rural area......

    They probably live in crowded rowhouses and semi-detached?

    As for the 100 years of history argument-true. But (and moving away from the point of the original post) much of the great urban and small city architecture in Britain dates from the Victorian era.

  13. #13
    Cyburbian ablarc's avatar
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    Thank you all for the kind words.

    noj, can you provide some links for English architecture or planning forums?

    There is so much to explore in England. I live in a state that has exactly the land area of England and has glorious mountain scenery, but I can hardly imagine anyone from this state saying they had much more yet to see. You can get a pretty thorough grasp in not too much time; for starters, most of the state's development is suburban, which means that it is ab ovo not worth seeing (or more accurately, you see one example you've seen them all; nothing is site specific because everything rolls full-formed out of the same [idiotic] regulations).

    We have about a half-dozen municipalities that you might regard as cities because they have skylines, and we have exactly seven surviving towns that haven't melted into Suburbia.

    The countryside features beautiful mountains in the west, a sporadically scenic seashore, and in between, hundreds of miles of dreary, second-growth abandoned farms interspersed with subdivsions and strips.

    If you want to see it all in a week your biggest impediment will be the long drives from one sight to the next.

  14. #14
    Cyburbian boilerplater's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by boilerplater
    Another fascinating set of pics! Have you ever seen Gordon Cullen's Townscape?
    Its full of sketches of scenes like those. Its out of print now. One of my favorite books in college. Yeah, I should have been reading more theory and all, but I preferred pretty pictures.

    In much of suburban America we have neither zeitgeist nor historic authenticity, just mindless sprawl. I'd take either one of the former.
    I've got to get in the habit of checking Amazon before I say anything about a book. There is a more recent edition of Concise Townscape that is still available new. I'd recommend it to anyone who appreciates the features of English villages like the above or who has been commissioned to design something reminiscent of an English village. Hey, it could happen! The American appetite for simulacra seems to know no bounds. There are developments in California and Florida that are supposed to resemble Italian hill towns. Look how popular those Thomas Kinkade (aka the "Painter of Light") paintings are. They're almost always scenes of cutesy cottages in lush gardens. Their buyers must imagine themselves in these homes, enjoying the country life, taking cuttings from the garden, sitting by the fire...
    Adrift in a sea of beige

  15. #15

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    noj, can you provide some links for English architecture or planning forums? [A Blarc]
    Unfortunately not; I don't believe any really exist. There is one at the main planning site for the UK (http://www.planningresource.co.uk/pp/home/index.cfm but it is rarely used and attracts about one post a month.

    I am yet to find a more up to date forum. I am currently looking for any architecture sites for you - I'll let you know if I find any good ones.

    And on the other questions about where we fit all the people, a lot of us are in terraced houses and semi detached houses (including myself). This form of housing is a necessity in such a massively crowded island! There is a lot of crap housing development here though; mostly build in the period from the 1960s through to late 1990s. The 1980s to 1990s in particular produced a lot of housing which used a profligate amount of land -you know the sort of thing - pseudo Tudor executive five bedroom houses with double garages on 'gated' estates. Thankfully these are becoming rarer and rarer as good design in combination with higher density development are becoming far more common (particularly since 2001, when the Government released new guidance on housing development). Of course, there is still a place for large houses but I think that most people now accept that we have to increase housing densities and that good design can make this possible whilst still creating desirable places to live.

  16. #16
    Cyburbian ablarc's avatar
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    noj, I checked out that English planning site you recommended and even joined it. Then I discovered there doesn't seem any way to post pictures. No wonder it has so little action.

  17. #17
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by ablarc
    noj, can you provide some links for English architecture or planning forums?
    Off-topic:
    I'd like Cyburbia to be a forum where planners from the UKoGBaNI can feel welcome. You'll notice "UK development control" included in the description for the Zoning, Land Use and Current Planning subforum, for one thing.

    Here's a draft of a form letter I plan on sending out to Cyburbians registering from *.uk addresses.



    If you're a planner in the UK ...

    Welcome to the Cyburbia Forums!

    Even though the discussion found in the forums can seem North America/Australia-centric, we welcome and encourage participation from planners and others interested in the built environment from around the world.

    There is a bit of a chicken-and-egg syndrome when it comes to participation by UK planners. "I don't want to post because there is nobody that can answer my question." We know the planning system in the UK is much different than the comprehensive plan/zoning system used in the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, and not many will be familiar with specific planning acts or processes. That doesn't mean we don't share the same challenges -- urban sprawl, transport problems, out-of-town retail development, the decline of our main/high streets, or a struggle to preserve a "sense of place" in our cities and towns. Don't let our accents stop you from discussing topics that may or may not be unique to your side off the pond.

    Why not spread the word to your colleauges? We'd like to make this resource as useful to you as it is to planners elsewhere; that will only be possible with a critical mass of UK planners. Can you help out?

    Cheers!

    Dan
    Cyburbia Webmaster
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

  18. #18
    Quote Originally posted by noj
    One of the big issues here in the countryside now is the cost of housing. I am from a small village in Cambridgeshire where property values have rocketed due to the proximity to London (under an hour by train) and also the proliferation of the Cambridge economy throuigh bio-tech industries. Many of my friends still live in the area, and a fair number of them still live with their parents (at nearly 30); they simply can't afford to move out.

    Affordable housing policies are becoming more and more stringent now - your post mentions the Yorkshire Dales; parts of Cornwall and Devon in the south west of the country have 100% affordable housing policies. All new housing developments in these areas have to be for local people at affordable prices, whether they be solely for rent or shared equity houses. This is also in response to the large number of second/holiday homes being built in these areas.
    Seconded, although I find the affordable relative I grew up in rural Humberside (East Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire now). I probably won't be able to afford to buy a similar place for retirement never mind for raising my hypothetical children, unless I drop lucky with right combination of job, place and partner. This mainly arises because I moved out with University and so I am no longer classed as a local to where I grew up, nor for any of the areas I've lived in or wished to move to. On top of that, as someone who grew up in a relatively 'cheap' area, I have a different idea of 'affordable' than noj, who grew up in a 'richer' area.
    Glorious Technicolor, Breath-Taking CinemaScope and Stereophonic Sound!

  19. #19

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    Quote Originally posted by Journeymouse
    Seconded, although I find the affordable relative I grew up in rural Humberside (East Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire now). I probably won't be able to afford to buy a similar place for retirement never mind for raising my hypothetical children, unless I drop lucky with right combination of job, place and partner. This mainly arises because I moved out with University and so I am no longer classed as a local to where I grew up, nor for any of the areas I've lived in or wished to move to. On top of that, as someone who grew up in a relatively 'cheap' area, I have a different idea of 'affordable' than noj, who grew up in a 'richer' area.
    It varies obviously. And I think, as a planner generally there are becoming less and less areas which can be deemed as affordable. Despite growing up in Cambridgeshire, I never actually bought/rented a house there, as like you I effectively moved out when I went to University. I now rent a place and am also doubtful whether I'll be able to get back onto the 'property ladder' in the future. Think I'll just have to keep on moving further and further north....

  20. #20
    Quote Originally posted by noj
    Think I'll just have to keep on moving further and further north....
    So, I'll be meeting you in the Orkneys in about 30 years time
    Glorious Technicolor, Breath-Taking CinemaScope and Stereophonic Sound!

  21. #21

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    Sounds about right - either there or Rockall

    Mind you, I hear its a bit blowy up there at the moment.

  22. #22
    Cyburbian ablarc's avatar
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    Ok you limeys, give us your opinion of this in the context of England's overall environmental health. This topic also appears over at L'Urbanite, http://www.urbanphoto.net/forum/view...p?t=96&start=0, where the doom-and-gloomers see this trend as very nearly the end of the world (the end of England, for sure).

  23. #23

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    Quote Originally posted by ablarc
    Ok you limeys, give us your opinion of this in the context of England's overall environmental health. This topic also appears over at L'Urbanite, http://www.urbanphoto.net/forum/view...p?t=96&start=0, where the doom-and-gloomers see this trend as very nearly the end of the world (the end of England, for sure).
    LOL ablarc. We're just not all ready to live in The Shire yet

    BKM. Whose dream is NOT a country cottage, depsite the charm thereof

  24. #24
    Quote Originally posted by ablarc
    Ok you limeys, give us your opinion of this in the context of England's overall environmental health. This topic also appears over at L'Urbanite, http://www.urbanphoto.net/forum/view...p?t=96&start=0, where the doom-and-gloomers see this trend as very nearly the end of the world (the end of England, for sure).
    My prediction (but I'm not a planner):
    • The 'Home Counties' (or 'Southern England') are likely to get settled more by the escaping townies, as the majority of British/English people live in the 'South East' (generally London, Kent, and the bits of Surrey and Essex close to London) and they will want to spread out. It won't be quite as crowded as 'suburbia', but the 'Home Counties' are laid out in such a way that villages are only very short distances from each other. The best example is the region known as the Weald in Kent and Sussex. You can walk down a country road (if you're brave enough to take on the car-drivers) and usually walk through about 3 villages in half an hour or so. They're that close together without expansion. The countryside will continue to exist, but there'll be no 'wide-open spaces' of any great significance. Other areas around the major cities in Wales (yes, they do have them ) and Scotland will also spread out.
    • The area usually described as 'Home Counties' will spread to include most of England, held back at the mountainous (ok, so it's only 300m, give us a break!)/remote regions, National Parks and 'Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty'. The mountainous/remote because of the logistics and the other two due to planning regs. But they all overlap, anyway, so it's a moot(sp?) point. There will probably be a similar expansion across South East Wales (i.e. Glamorgan), which was already fairly well populated for Wales, and around Edinburgh and Glasgow. There may be other areas, but I don't know enough about Scotland to suggest them.
    It's not really a difficult to come up with any of the above. The UK has a big population and its getting bigger. It doesn't even have to be very depressing if it's done properly. But, from here on are the really depressing, probably bordering on paranoid predictions I have that will really screw things up:
    • This lowland 'Home Counties' is more than likely to get flooded within the next 20 to 50 years, due to the aggravated climate change and rising sea levels that we've brought on ourselves. This means people are going to have to move - but will they and can they? A lot of South Wales are also going to suffer from this, being a relatively low-lying area, which means the SE Wales expansion will flood, too.
    • I also predict (and this is just my opinion, I can't cite anything to prove it) that the Gulf Stream will probably be stopped in a similar length of time - maybe closer to 50 to 80 years. So Ireland and Britain will finally suffer the same weather as everywhere else on the same latitude and for a change, we'll actually have something to complain about as it will have got colder and there will probably be more riverine floods and more storms.
    • The 'South East' and increasingly the 'Home Counties' suffer highly elevated living costs in relation to the rest of Britain. At some point, these will crash. It will probably because the people who perform the 'menial', low wage jobs can no longer afford to live there, which they're pushing towards now. But if the 'South East' keeps it together long enough, it'll be above climate changes that kick the riots off. Other flooding areas may see similar action, but probably after the 'South East'.
    • Although we're regionalising to some degree, the main government functions are still in London. Unless they plan on moving, these functions are likely to be destroyed or at least forcibly removed when the above combine. The Welsh Assembly is probably going to suffer a similar fate in Cardiff (South Wales).

    <puts foil back on head to protect self from the alien signals>
    And yes, I am hoping to end up somewhere hilly and away from the sea before all this happens...
    Glorious Technicolor, Breath-Taking CinemaScope and Stereophonic Sound!

  25. #25
    Cyburbian ablarc's avatar
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    Journeymouse, have you been watching disaster movies?

    First I've heard about the Gulf Stream's demise; is that your theory or did some scientist come up with that?

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