Farewell Forster Country?
This a painting I did of St. Nicholas Church in Stevenage. The current building as you see sits proudly atop the hill across some fabulous rambling fields. The tower itself dates back to 1100 AD and an ancient stone font with a medieval carved wooden cover.
In 2012, my father came to visit us in England. He was 84 at the time. We took him on many walks around Forster Country which surrounds St. Nicholas Church. One day, on our walk, we stopped in to visit the church. The Rector of St Nicholas Church, Dave Brown, came out and gave us a great tour of the building. He showed us some fantastic little Latin graffiti on the center columns of the church. I can't remember what it said though. It was probably something like "Dave Was Here".
The church survived the plague and escaped the Blitz (a nasty piece of work sponsored by Herr Hitler). I don't know of many Hitlers in Germany (not that I know many people in Germany). Did all of the Hitlers corporately change their name to something else. Maybe Hitler was an Austrian name. Anyway - he was, as we all know dreadful. I would certainly change my name if it was Hitler.
My dad was blown away by how old the church was and how friendly the Rector was when he basically gave us a private tour. It was one of the highlights of his visit.
Back to Forster Country...
Way back in 1883 through the summer of 1893, a fella called Edward Morgan Forster, known as Morgan to those close to him, more popularly known today as E.M. Forster, lived in a little place off the Weston Road close to Stevenage in Hertfordshire. His early family home, called Rooks Nest House, was the model he used for the home described in his novel as Howard’s End. Other works you might know include, Where Angels Fear To Tread, The Longest Journey, and A Passage To India.
We still often walk the fields and farms around Rooks Nest House. The house, which sits atop four and a half acres of land, was recently put on the block for 1.5 million pounds. The decision to sell was probably prompted by the uninvited encroachment onto their spectacular pastoral views. You see, The Stevenage Borough Council has approved the development of an inordinate number of homes to replace this lovely greenbelt area. It will surely decimate this tranquil and peaceful setting. I’m sorry to see the fields and farms succumb to our wanton exploding population.
Forster was unhappy with the expansion of New Stevenage when it occurred. He said, “it would fall out of the blue sky like a meteorite upon the ancient and delicate scenery of Hertfordshire” (Hertfordshire Life, 12 August 2010). New people started pouring into the new town in 1952 and the population has steadily climbed since that time.
I’m sure Mr. Forster would be equally opposed to this encroachment on to Forster Country today. He may, I imagine, like his name removed from the abomination it could become.
Though the plan was passed in 2017, the development plan has been placed on hold for the time being. The local MP, Steven McPartland, asked to have the plan put on hold. It means no development can currently proceed. It is not a permanent fix but it means there still might be a glimmer of hope that this amazing greenbelt can be saved.
I will enjoy the walks while I can though. It is beautiful.
I love this place and I thought you might like to see it before you hear the engines of the bulldozers grind to life.
I will keep my fingers crossed.
Until next week I wish you peace.
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