As we British cling to our heritage while the global village surrounds us so the greens at the heart of our rural communities are enjoying a revival in interest spearheaded by builders, passionate residents and even Kevin Mccloud. Graham Norwood reports
The village green is the quintessential British nostalgic scene. Yet if you think such sights are long gone, think again. The village green is alive, well, and enjoying a renaissance thanks to house builders putting open spaces at the heart of new homes developments in a bid to give their bricks and mortar community.
The Open Spaces Society (OSS) a voluntary group championing greens, parks and rights of way, says there are 3,700 ‘historic’ greens in England and over 220 in Wales; another 1,000 are in Scotland.
A four acre plot has just been formally designated as a green in Honiton, Devon after pleas from 72 local people who use it for walks, jogs, bird-watching and picking blackberries. “They had good evidence of recreational use by local people over a long period” says Nicola Hodgson of the OSS.
This formal status protects the site from being built upon, yet ironically it is developers of new homes who are recognising the importance of new village greens.
Look at the spectacular Frenchlands Gate, a Surrey retirement community of faux Arts & Craft houses built by developer Beechcroft around a brand new green. A garden party was held on the green when the development was opened and residents who move in are toasted on the green by their new neighbours.
The Newhall development in Essex will ultimately have 2,800 homes on a 280-acre site but keeps a human scale by building homes around a village green. Some 40% of the scheme is open space, with public art, but the green is the focal point says William Moen, whose family own the land on which Newhall is built.
“We have a responsibility to this place. So it was important for us to create a community recognised for its quality of design and quality of life,” says William Moen.
There is celebrity endorsement for village greens, too, from Grand Designs guru Kevin McCloud. His nearly-completed 42 eco-homes development near Swindon, The Triangle, is built around a village green, and a recently announced 110-homes development he is leading in Oxford is likely to have as green as its centrepiece.
He also has sharp words for anyone who thinks village greens are old-fashioned “The space gives a community a lung of fresh air, a place to gather and a sense of community. Old-fashioned? Not at all. Village greens are the future.”