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Monday, 17th December 2007
Hi-de-Hi

HORSHAM, SUSSEX 1947
A fashion in wildlife films

has a 'year in the life' theme. There is a period of feast followed by a period of famine. The surviving animals we have been following begin to look very debilitated and barely able to lift a hand to help themselves.

It is at this point the rains fall, the world springs into life and our little furry friends leap into action.

All rather unlikely but the power of television is we believe it. Some are better than others.

For many of the villages depicted in Ogdens, Picturesque Village [1936] there are certain parallels. The winter months are spent in hibernation, nice, quiet, pleasant villages and then the summer hits.

Every year the hibernation has seen the death of another business, strangled by superstore competition or red tape.

...all looking for that chocolate box England that never existed.
     

Now the locust hoards descend, all looking for that chocolate box England that never existed but must have done because we have seen it on TV so often.

The Ogdens, Picturesque Village [1936] is an interesting showcase for these villages. To start with the cards are not artistic but rather taken from photographs and they are in black and white.

The streets depicted are empty and the houses are far from wearing the twee holiday plumage of 'Britain's best kept village' competition entrants.

It is the last vestiges of unconscious village life, going back to a time when this was how life was lived. The motor car appears in a number of the views but still horse power in its purest sense is the dominant form in these cards.

Card 34 depicts Dunster, Somerset, unusual because it shows two motor cars which appear parked outside the wonderful Yarn market in the town centre. The card explains the nearest town is Minehead about 2 miles away and the nearest station Dunster 1 mile.

...all speak of a time when this village was a cut above.
     

The old nunnery, one of the finest churches in Somerset with magnificent rood-screen and the castle overlooking the village dating back to the Norman period all speak of a time when this village was a cut above.

On card 15, Frampton-Upon-Severn, Gloucestershire (pronounce it Glosturshear) gives the view for which this village is renowned, the green. It comes complete with three sheep grazing upon it.

You are not going to see sheep grazing on village greens today but not only did it keep the grass down but it also meant cheap foodstuff for people's animals when the village common had more living things on it than signs telling you what you cannot do.

OGDENS: PICTURESQUE VILLAGES

Gloucestershire is a favourite part of the country for me, I have fond memories of steep roads and closely lined with stone walls behind which stand houses of determined stone structure.

Closer to home Cavendish in Suffolk has a picture of note given it is dominated by two teams of heavy horses pulling goodness knows what, which would have been a common enough site.

As is the little group of school children playing by the local village pond which was always so central to village life. These were in the days before they became useful places for throwing supermarket trolleys.

The same sort of scene is to be found in Aldbury, Hertfordshire (card 21). This time the group of children are not noticing the village pond or indeed the village stocks but are heading towards two coachbuilt cars which have parked nearby.

...cars and the telegraph poles are the first concession to modernity.
     

Those cars and the telegraph poles are the first concession to modernity (and many of the cards on show do not have these concession) which will bring, tarmac roads, pavement curbs, parking restrictions, television aerials/dishes, crowds of tourists, endless signs directing and demanding and above all noise pollution.

Even the graffiti will be applied by spray can now rather than carefully carved into stone or wood, is there no pride in anything :-)

There are still places in Britain where you can see the stars at night and hear the birds in the day but they get fewer and further between. Progress so far has brought a lot of benefits and I am all for it but it is not perfect.

KERSEY
OGDENS: PICTURESQUE VILLAGES

Shere, Surrey is an unusual sort of place if the card is anything to go by. It has nothing in it beyond a couple of houses. There are no people and there is no transport, there are no telegraph poles, there is nothing but a couple of houses.

Other villages seem to have a public house in view, complete with ornate pub sign. Kersey, Suffolk showing what could only be a pub called The Bell in shot as the High Street disappears into a distance dominated by the local church.

Shere's card does not have the village pond so fond of being seen in the other cards, there is not even the village pump as can be seen in Lowther, Westmorland..

There is no reason to expect to have a dramatically ruined castle dominating the scene but if Corfe Castle Dorset (card 11) can have one why not. Perhaps expecting the sort of view of Banburgh, Northumberland (card 30) might be pushing your luck with the skyline dominated by a castle nearly a quarter of a mile in length.

   
Card 38
Shere, Surrey
Nearest Towns: Guildford and Dorking about 6 miles
Nearest station: Gomshall and Shere 1 mile

Shere, lying on the little River Tillingbourne midway between Dorkin and Guildford, is one of the most beautiful of Surrey villages. The houses show a great variety of construction - brick and half timber, plaster-faced and tile-hung walls. The church, which was well restored 40 years ago, has among many interesting features, an octagonal timber spire, a fine Norman doorway, a Purbeck marble font, a large 15th century chest, and an unusual outside entrance to the west gallery. The White Horse Inn is another interesting building, containing some fine fireplaces.
 
 

Certain cards such as Horning, Suffolk (card 26) have a natural advantage situated as it is on the River Bure. The card shows an old sail barge plying its trade perhaps 50 feet from a little row of houses and businesses. A timeless event now lost in time.

Shere appears almost as grim as Wicken, Northamptonshire (card 29) but at least the photograph of Wicken has included a tree.

But like a lot of things it is best not judge on appearance alone, the reverse of the card tells us there is a bit more going on than the picture is letting on.

So there you have it a little collection of villages many of which will be inundated with tourists wishing to take away a little bit of the place, even if that is only a traditional cream tea at the Old Tea Shoppe which I must say didn't seem much in evidence on any of the cards seen here.

By the looks of it most of the villages on the south coast ensured there was employment in the fishing fleets rather than the cream bun industry.

Still given the choice you would find me winding cream buns in rather than fishing nets any day of the week.