Thursday, August 26, 2010

In which I find Jonathan Meades's Severn Heaven

The first programme on The Jonathan Meades Collection DVD is Severn Heaven, which looks at the plotlands beside the Severn near Bewdley. (I can find no trace of it on Youtube, even at the MeadesShrine.)

Plotlands? The London Grid for Learning Redbridge page explains:
During the 1890's, agriculture declined because of a series of poor harvests and cheap grain imports from America. Fields were sold off to land agents, who auctioned them off as small plots.
After the First World War, the British Government promised 'a land fit for heroes' and building one's own home in the countryside was encouraged. Later, the Depression of the 1930s drove people to settle in the Plotlands and build themselves a place to live.
As the Bewdley plotlands have their own halt on the Severn Valley Railway, I decided to find them for myself.

They turned out to be extensive, occupying one side of a wooded valley. The buildings were not quite as ramshackle and anarchic as Meades made them seem. I did not find any former railway carriages, for instance.
Perhaps the most decrepit have been replaced in the 20 years since the programme was made, or perhaps he chose the ones he filmed with great care.

Anyway, the setting is idyllic and this settlement is a reminder that planning laws curb individual creativity as well as protect us from big business. Today the lands appears to be owned by something called the Alfred Halford Trust.

Nearby, an aqueduct crosses the river. It carries the 73-mile pipeline from the Elan Valley reservoir in Wales to Birmingham. This remarkable piece of engineering opened in 1906 and any pre-war book about the Welsh Border will have it marked on its maps.

You can also find these aqueducts in the woods above Ludlow and crossing the lanes beneath Cleehill.

Later. The film has at last appeared on Youtube.

Even later. And then disappeared again.

Later still. A short excerpt has reappeared.

3 comments:

gawain said...

If you visit the field of similar structures at Larford Farm opposite Lincomb Lock on the Severn near Stourport, there are - or were in the 1970s - certainly some made from railway carriages.

iain said...

I was first introduced to this style of settlement in Colin Ward's book 'Cotters and Squatters'

http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/reviews/cotters-and-squatters-housings-hidden-history-by-colin-ward-648614.html

gawain said...

See also

http://englishbuildings.blogspot.com/2009/06/deepest-worcestershire.html