Originally published 8th May 2019
Last updated: 26th March 2020
I’ve just had a haircut and am walking back home; it’ll take about 45–minutes. I decide to walk through an alleyway that I vaguely understand to be a shortcut, or at least a route that provides a bit of distance from the busy causeway. Normally I would decide against this as I’m not totally sure of the way, but today I must be feeling less concerned about getting lost or hitting a dead–end. There are no time constraints on me either, so I don’t worry. I pass through the narrow alley, crossing over a short bridge above a tiny stream.
The path is for cyclists as well as pedestrians and it snakes its way through long grass to my right, and lush green trees which line the stream on my left. Ahead is a large, ugly looking corporate building with a warehouse alongside it. I don’t know what kind of business occurs in these buildings, whether they are shops or offices, and the acronym displayed front and centre does little to enlighten me. The scene is uninspiring; no more or less worth walking than the way I would usually, maybe not worth having discovered at all. Instead of walking alongside a busy road, on this route I walk through a couple of quiet carparks — vehicles stationary, bar one passing lorry.
Still, it’s while walking this new route that I begin thinking more about the interesting mix of rural and industrial landscape here, noting that this combination feels more apparent lately, heightened by the ongoing developments. Each time I come home I am struck by them, how they attempt to coax the town’s edges further and further outwards. I find it quite jarring to be among this near constant state of construction here, aware that I am becoming less and less familiar with the place. Maybe this is why I feel more inclined to explore like today. In my mind I always picture this place as a small town, feeling that I know it in its entirety. This isn’t true though — like everyone else, I know the places I go and have been before. But it’s never felt big, and despite its expanding edges it still doesn’t. The new housing developments feel like separate places; islands. Places that I don’t need to know. Other than their proximity, nothing links them to this place. They don’t make attempt to reference the place which they claim to be part of, and as such their presence feels forced, clumsily elbowing their way into fields and gaps. It’s not that I’m against new housing and developments, I just wish they didn’t have to be so dull. It feels to me as though no thought has gone into them — no interesting questions have been asked about the ways that people might like to live in towns like this. Despite the loss of some of these fields — hidden away behind branded hoardings — the town feels greener and more alive with Spring than any other year I can remember. Having spent five weeks prior to this in Seville — a drier, hardier place, yet still generously perfumed with orange blossom — our local landscape welcomes us back with an exaggerated version of British Spring time. Vibrant, practically neon, rapeseed is everywhere, oversized tulips stand open and enticing in front gardens, and the magnolia still lingers, to my surprise. The notion of front gardens being a generous gift to the street and passers-by is something we have been talking about a lot lately.
About halfway home a new retail development has been built. It’s unclear to me if it’s finished or not — the shops are open but there are still corrugated metal hoardings up, and a nearby bus stop is being engulfed by metal fencing. The whole area has been designed to be accessed via car, so walking by it feels strange, like I am more exposed. I do that awkward little half run when crossing the road, putting a hand up to thank the car driver for not running me over as they pull off the roundabout and into the Costa–fronted complex.
Once up the hill I walk through a chase that leads me home, passing by my old school. I check my phone and am surprised that so little time has passed, that it could be moving so slowly. ●
Originally published 8th May 2019.
Last updated: 26th March 2020.