A new housing development in Spencers Wood
The village where I live (Spencers Wood) is undergoing substantial development and it occurred to me that it might be worthwhile to capture what it is like now before it is changed out of recognition. The village had a population of just over 4,000 in the 2011 and the strategy of Wokingham Council is to build about 2,500 additional houses in the area just south of Junction 11 of the M4 (which also includes Three Mile Cross and Shinfield). Attention has focused on this figure and nobody seems to have asked how many houses there are currently. I don't know either, but a reasonable guess might be 1600-2000, so a significant expansion is projected.
I walked down the hill towards Three Mile Cross, passing the new Crest development off the Basingstoke Road. Access is new road between existing houses and 100 houses are to be packed into the field behind them.
At Three Mile Cross a small plot of land which surrounded a disused chapel has just been redeveloped with six detached houses miraculously packed in. The chapel itself has been ingeniously altered to provide two storey accommodation.
Turning right into Church Lane, after a few houses there are fields on both sides of the road, although the hedgerow on the left has been cut down in preparation for development. This pretty thatched cottage, one of very few in the area, will soon be surrounded by a modern estate.
Turning right into Hyde End Lane, an area on the right has been set aside for a public green space. With all the wooden fences and no other features at present it looks a bit over-engineered.
Further along the road, past a farm and a school there is Ryeish Lane on the right, a quiet narrow, winding lane I have often strolled along on an afternoon or evening. Sadly, there are going to be houses on both sides in due course.
Opposite is the field path to Shinfield where trees have already been planted to help create some small sense of separation as the two villages expand towards each other.
I walked across the open space to the edge of Shinfield. It looks more barren than hitherto, with next to no wild flowers - it was never very exciting visually, but at least you could expect to see some colour and a few common butterflies at the right time of year.
On the far side, the narrow hedged path into Shinfield was temporarily closed and part of the hedge had been torn down.
I turned left towards Shinfield church, it dates from the 14th century, although the tower was rebuilt in 1644 and there were alterations by Sir George Gilbert Scott in the 19th century. Opposite the church is the brick and half-timbered Farm Farm of 15th century origin, rebuilt in the 16th century.
Just off to the left is the former rectory, a rather splendid construction of 1847, now L'Ortolan restaurant.
This little group present an oasis of traditional building in the desert of new houses than surrounds it. From here I walked down to the School Green and the pleasant red brick primary school founded in 1707 and extended in 1860 and 1889.
Walking down Millworth Lane and turning right brought me to another new public open space. Langley Mead, again rather bare and over-engineered, but already attracting some dog walkers.
I merged onto Hyde End Road and headed back into Spencers Wood, turning right just before another large new development, Croft Gardens, on what, last year were grassy meadows.
Conditions: a lovely sunny day.
Distance: about five miles.
It was good to be reminded of some nice local buildings, but obviously it was far too late to do what I set out to do - development has already had a massive impact and the shape of things to come is all too clear. It was however a worthwhile, but rather depressing, thing to do.