Farnham, Surrey: How to ruin a town …

Falling apart ...
Falling apart …

Farnham is a successful craft town. It has a distinct charm that owes much to the warm red brick once used to build so many of the fine houses that distinguish its centre.

And close to the centre are several wide-open green spaces. These are the kinds of spaces that anyone can enjoy. They help confer a special ethos on the town: Farnham is both ‘town and country’.

The green spaces are varied: there are parks and meadows and riverside walks; there are also some ancient hopfields. Part of the original wealth of Farnham was due to these hopfields – now known as ‘the historic Beavers hopfields.’ The hops helped nourish the breweries – and the proceeds from the beer-making went someway towards funding the lovely buildings in the town centre. It’s not an exaggeration to say that the hopfields helped Farnham lay the foundations for its subsequent acquisition of a ‘craft town’ status.

Over the years I’ve taken photographs of the fields; I’ve enjoyed the beautiful skies that arc high above them; sometimes they are breathtaking – from deep crimson sunsets to the soft pale orange of a winter’s sunrise. And, there are all sorts of mini-ecosystems on the margins of the fields; in summer, for example, the butterflies fall in love with the nettles and find their heaven amidst the perfumes of the wild flowers.

But now, because of the recklessness of ‘development’, there are plans to build large numbers of houses on the historic fields.

Should these houses be built and the ‘planners’ allow the hopfields to be destroyed, it’s simply an example of how to ruin a town. It makes the idea of Farnham-as-a-craft-town look rather absurd.

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