Hands up if you remember Trumptonshire! If you were a child in the 1960s or 70s, or if you were the parent of such a child, chances are that you do remember your weekly visits to Trumpton or the smaller communities of Camberwick Green or Chigley. For a blessed quarter of an hour after lunch you’d all sink yourselves in front of the TV to catch up with news from Trumpton fire station (‘Pugh, Pugh, Barney McGrew, Cuthbert, Dibble and Grub’), or Windy Miller’s windmill, or Lord Belborough and his steam engine of Winkstead Hall near Chigley.
Trumptonshire was a quiet and ordered little county. And one of its communities, Camberwick Green, was the picturesque village that embodied all that rural life is supposed to be about: the sense of community, the dramas that enliven everyday life and bring everyone together, the charming mixture of contemporary technology and Edwardian costume, the idiosyncratic mix of characters from every walk of life.
Reader, we’ve just moved to Camberwick Green. Well, in fact our village is called North Stainley, but we’ve heard plenty of people who don’t live here refer to it disparagingly as ‘toy town’. I can see why. The traditionally designed houses clustered round the village green (home of the cricket club) are not old cottages, but have all been developed and built over the last few years. The original village consisted of a very few houses near the main road, a small church and (now ex-) chapel, a tiny village school at risk of closure, and three duck ponds.
The local landowner, however, saw the potential of the community and gradually sold off land to developers, who built houses. These developers however, didn’t throw up standard estates. They grouped the new homes round existing open space and those duck ponds. There’s a large, well-appointed and well-used village hall. There’s an adventure playground for the children: because the village has plenty of children now and that tiny school is bursting at the seams: some classes take place in the village hall. And the families who moved in all bought into the idea of village life at its best.
This community has a regionally important cricket club, training the young players of the future. There are women’s groups, a book group, a WI (obviously), a drama group, a social group which fundraises for the benefit of the young people in the community…. and so on. Perhaps because most people can remember what it’s like to move to a community and know not a soul, they’re unusually welcoming to newcomers. We’ve been made to feel at home amongst them, and encouraged to join in.
This morning, for instance, a large group of us were painting the walls of the long-closed village shop and garage, to smarten it up before the Tour de France passes through the village next month. Tonight it’s the second and final night of the Arts Society’s production of Blood Brothers. The village website demonstrates that this is a busy, sociable and purposeful community. We’re very happy to be here.