The Village is old. It has a Saxon arch on the church doorway, and ancient trees shade the houses. There are fat loafy cottages in it with thatched roofs (now subdivided for letting to well-behaved professionals) and there are still paddocks, with sheep and horses, although the barns have been converted into business workspace long since. As the city steadily swamped the village, it clung onto its village nature by refusing through roads. Instead there are pedestrian paths, and into the village I went, along one of these.
Behind the high old stone walls covered with Erigeron and Red Valerian, pergolas and arches were just visible in the gardens covered with fancy clematis and Thunbergia, the occasional tall Hollyhock or Sunflower peering over the walls. The far end of the passageway dropped me back in the tidy lower end of the estate beyond, with front gardens full of cats, cars and tidy specimen shrubs. At the end of a cul de sac, the houses became a little more rambly and overgrown and then a steep passageway fenced on both sides, bordered by nettles and overshadowed by dark trees took me back down to the village corner, where it joins the main road. On the turn, a row of expensive houses have become almost a traffic island and their gardens express a sort of variability of affluence; in one garden, tumbledown landscaping and a smart Monkey Puzzle tree bounded by ancient Lonerica hedges slashed back to the brown; in the next, a tidy drive bordered by smart, colourful semi-professional planting; in the next, dark parched ground, stacked timber under a single, massive, mature tree and a tickle of clematis on a rusted arch; in the next a Chelsea-perfect courtyard proud.ly flaunting prestige shrubs, deep rasied beds full of big tropical leaves and colourful Katsura trees.
As I emerge onto the main road, I take a sharp left to cut through the playing field, past the first of the houses of our estate. The front gardens have the eccentricity that starts to emerge as houses get closer to allotments (these are on the other side of the playing field) with houses proudly sharing climbing roses and Wisteria with their neighbours, competitions for the fanciest front shrubs in full flush and the presence of obsessively tended sunflowers marking out the houses with children.
There are dogs on the meadow, chasing after balls. As a watch one, in his enthusiasm to beat a very fast spaniel to the ball, does a double sideways roll on the soft grass, bounces to his feet and trots off, triumphant.