An Area of Outstanding Natural
A few weeks ago, as part of my preparations for a walking holiday, I was flicking through a book itemising walks in the most beautiful areas of the country. The book was published by the AA and all of the expected favourites were there the Lakes, the Peak District, the Yorkshire Dales and the Downs. So you can imagine how delighted I was to discover that Godmanchester had been included in such illustrious company.
They had selected a walk from Huntingdon across Mill Common and Portholme to Godmanchester Lock. From there it continued over the Chinese Bridge to St Marys Church, past the Cricket Club, under the A14 to the old railway lines. Then it followed the route of the new cycle path to Hemingford Abbots and across Hemingford Meadow to Houghton and back along the river to the Avenue and Huntingdon.
Maybe it is true that familiarity breeds, if not contempt, then maybe a failure to fully recognise the beauty around us. However, on a warm summers evening, the peace and tranquillity to be found in the meadows of that walk, makes its inclusion in that book unsurprising.
Yet it was a surprise. Most of the other walks selected were to be found
in either one of the National Parks or in An Area of Outstanding Natural
Beauty. So what is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty? There are 41
of them in this country as well as 11 National Parks. They have been
There are two AONBs in the Eastern Region, the North Norfolk Coast and Dedham Vale. I have walked through both of these areas and wouldnt attempt to deny their claims to being beautiful areas. But it isnt pure parochialism that would lead me to claim that Godmanchester and its environs have as good a claim as both of these. In addition, neither of these AONBs are under as much of a threat from the forces of development. Over the next decade or so, the government has decreed that the land along the M11 A 14 corridor must accommodate an additional half a million homes. This huge increase in the areas population will demand a corresponding increase in the infrastructure necessary for modern life roads, schools, hospitals and so on. They will also require increases in employment opportunities and leisure facilities.
This is not, I hasten to add, a mere NIMBY diatribe. I recognise the
need for sympathetic economic development. On the other hand, when I look
at the examples of development that we already have such as Papworth Everard
and Cambourne, I fear for the future. That is why I believe that it would
be for the benefit of all if the area could apply for AONB status immediately.
The National Association of Areas of Outstanding Natural Beautys own web-site says, The most vulnerable areas are not the wild, open, high places but the gentle, smaller-scale landscapes including hedgerows, spinneys and bluebell woods, heath, marsh and meadow. Under pressure for change, much of this traditional countryside has already vanished. AONB status protects the finest examples which remain
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