BY MERVYN SEAL
There is a belief that the real world exists in the countryside, where nature goes about her quiet business, bringing us the greatest pleasure. However, swathes of pristine countryside and vital green fields are as in the past, and now, forever, in extreme jeopardy in Britain.
My childhood education included the writings of the 18th Century born poet William Wordsworth. Family would often require me to recite his poem, “I wandered lonely as a cloud”. It was only much later that I discovered Wordsworth’s very pertinent quote: “Is there no nook of English Ground secure from rash assault?”
Over two centuries later, Wordsworth’s concerns are more than ever applicable. Living in Bath, I recall one day 70 years ago, walking around, my father with passion in his voice talked of these built up areas he fondly remembered as green virgin fields. Today, decades later, I have the same thoughts, recalling valuable coastal verdant fields and farmland around Devon, remembering it was unbelievable to me that “bungaloid” development should be permitted, in such prominent areas of unscheduled outstanding natural beauty.
Human settlements are like living organisms. They must grow, and they will change. We don’t have to scatter development all over the countryside ruining our farmland. I recall the deprivation, the lack of food in WWII when Britain was under siege. On our small island with then only 47 million inhabitants, and more farmland than now, we could not feed ourselves. Rationing of food continued for nine years after the War ended in 1945.
Before the end of the War, plans were being prepared for the future of the Country. At 15 years I was very interested in proposed green belts around developed areas, I still have a plan drawn for Weston Super Mare, with a green belt, staying undisturbed by building. My forecast was totally wrong – all my preserved farmland is lost, now totally developed. My analysis was just a young teenager’s wish, the reason for relating my concerns, is “our ever-expanding population”.
What can Britain of 1945 have in common with the Britain to be in 2045?
Bill Bryson – the ever-perceptive American writer living in England – stated, “Britain has the most reliably beautiful countryside of anywhere in the world. I would hate to be part of the generation that allowed that to be lost.”
Since Bryson’s statement of concern, this generation is without question the generation allowing the countryside to be lost. Development is now being allowed on Green Belt areas, Planning Controls are being relaxed, and recently policies to expand development in the Countryside have been rubber stamped, for the aim of increased housing due to the rapidly increasing UK population.
In a local context, 123 conurbations the size of Torquay have already devoured the countryside. That must worry all Britons, as well as all residents in Torbay.
My personal concerns as an elderly man are the same as the sentiments of William Wordsworth’s prophetic writing two centuries ago. The never-ending assault on English ground, continual loss of England’s oxygen, the capacity to be self-sufficient, the rapid disappearing, and inspiring, verdant countryside, of meadows, hedges, woodlands, forests, wetlands and productive farms. The demise of the islands’ essential balance of nature.
This trust shall do good and hopefully achieve its goals in my lifetime or as legacy in future years.