Glimmers of Hope after Forty Years of Farmland Loss in North-West Surrey?

On Runnymede at Egham in 1215, feudal nobles forced King John to sign the Magna Carta, which curtailed his powers. If Magna Carta was the dawn of British freedoms, the district around Runnymede today reflects the erosion of public space and a paranoia to keep others out of jealously guarded private space. The notices said it all. Often there were too many to take in, notices nailed to gates, trees, fences. The wording differed but they all meant ‘Keep Out’. The metal chains and padlocks and the CCTV cameras reinforced the message.

St Ann’s Hill

Standing on St Ann’s Hill at Chertsey in Surrey, I looked westwards over Green Belt. My camera revealed trees, fields, a few roofs and chimneys, the epitome of English countryside, a testament to the success of the Green Belt.

I was experiencing something quite different, the background drone of traffic on two motorways, and the roar of jet engines as a plane took off from Heathrow every 90 seconds. The trees hid a multitude of urban intrusions.

This tranquil wooded landscape is just five miles due south of Heathrow. The vantage point is on St Ann’s Hill, Chertsey, looking west towards Virginia Water, and Ascot. Who would believe that two motorways cross the picture? The M25 is hidden in a cutting, the M3 is behind the trees in the middle distance.

I used to live on a farm amid the trees, and I came back to see how much farming was still going on. The verdant views hinted at a vibrant farming scene: what exactly would I find?

Forty years on

So I came to be wandering about north-west Surrey in 2008, in a ‘Forty Years On’ reprise of a study I did in 1968 of farming in the three urban districts of Chertsey, Egham and Staines, on the south-western fringes of London.

Land-Rovers, Jeeps and other SUVs swished past as I tried to cope with roads that have become hostile to pedestrians. The few lone children that I saw crossed to the other side of the road to avoid me, obviously well-drilled in the avoidance of strangers. The occasional pensioner pushing a shopping trolley-bag would be walking to the nearest parade of shops, but mostly people were in their car-bubbles, leaving the protective custody of their vehicle to enter an office or shop, not lingering on the way.

I did pass the time of day with some dog-walkers, their pets making their walk legitimate. There were joggers, too, often listening to iPods as, wearing baseball caps and sunglasses, they tuned out the world about them. One day in a country park where there had been smallholdings in 1968, a mother whose toddler was playing about 20 yards away from her shouted “Come here Georgie” and, sweeping the child up, moved away from where I was photographing the changed landscape. The geography has changed so much that north-west Surrey in 2008 was a different land from 1968, and I blame the roads primarily. First the M3 slashed through the fields, and then came the hugely damaging orbital M25. The motorways are like separation walls with designated crossing points for other roads. These transport corridors, closed to pedestrians, cycles and other non-motorised methods of locomotion, have no connection with the landscapes they cross. Like the monoliths of old, they are a cultural representation, but are imposed on areas like badges of colonisation. Fields split, farmsteads divided from their fields, footpaths terminated, for the sake of moving more people and goods in chains of constant movement.

I didn’t think about motorways much when I was a young driver. They shaved my journey times, but of course they are not really intended for private motorists, but for goods traffic. Without motorways to distribute the products of globalisation, the financial benefits of outsourcing manufacture to parts of the globe where wages are much lower would not stack up so smartly. Criminals would not be able to move so fast, either. Could there be a link between the motorways and the angry ‘Keep Out’ signs and the CCTV cameras?

I didn’t see anyone riding a horse on the roads of north-west Surrey as I revisited the area in 2008. There were a few cyclists, of the sort who ride for sport and fitness, and outside the towns even fewer pedestrians than cyclists. On motorways, pedestrians, cycles and horses are all prohibited, anyway. I thought about where I used to ride my grey pony Sixpence (below), in the late 50s and early 60s.


Our frequent routes were through Longcross to Chobham Common; down Stonehill Road to Stanners Hill; on and around Thorpe Green; over neighbouring Lyne Farm to St Ann’s Hill; and often down Trumps Mill Lane to the former and largely dry gravel pit, about 20 acres reclaimed by grass and woodland, that lay over the river Bourne immediately to the west of Redlands Farm, where we lived.

Only one of these rides would be fairly pleasant in 2008, along the tree-lined Stonehill Road to the open land at Stanners Hill. When I looked up Stanners Hill on Google Maps, I could see that the former open heath was now extensively wooded, and adjoined a golf course. Stonehill Road has golf courses on both sides, shielded from prying eyes by thick woods.

The ride along Longcross Road to Chobham Common is feasible but more than a tad dangerous because of the vehicles whipping past in rapid succession. Sixpence’s ears used to prick up when we reached the common, and he was eager to gallop a mile towards the other side. We would take different routes, sometimes trotting or cantering, sometimes just walking beside the gorse and heather. It was one of my favourite places. Now the M3 bisects the common, taking away its former quiet, and it is no longer possible to ride wherever one wants. In the 1970s the common’s owner, Surrey County Council, began to try and limit riders’ access. The council brought in a permit scheme in 1976, and prosecuted riders who rode permit-less onto the common. The permit scheme was scrapped in 1989, but only so that the council could control riders more closely by forcing them to keep to designated bridleways, a plan that the Chobham Common Riders Association accepted reluctantly, as the alternative seemed to be no access at all. From the council’s viewpoint, riders are an intrusion for the indigenous plants and animals in what is now a nature reserve, but the corralling of riders and walkers onto separate pathways on a common crossed by a noisy motorway illustrates, for me, a significant loss of freedom to enjoy open countryside.

Thorpe Green, a 31-acre triangle on the north side of Green Road, Thorpe, is now prohibited to horses and riders, by order of Runnymede Borough Council. St Ann’s Hill, a larger and elevated open space of 53 acres bordering the junction of the M3 with the M25, is also off-limits to horses. I would not be able to reach it by my old route, in any case, because a depot for household rubbish has obliterated the path. I could venture to the heathland in the former gravel pit, across the Bourne river from Redlands Farm, but only to a fraction of it because the M3 split it in two.

The benefits of roads are usually calculated in figures, as journeys shortened by so many minutes, and traffic flows increased by so many per cent, but the damage that roads do is not quantifiable in the same way. Roads destroy the cohesiveness of rural communities, by splitting up farms and reducing their viability, and by expanding commuter zones, thus creating demand for new homes in a vast suburbia dependent on the car for work, shopping, and leisure. Swift access to and exit from suburbia attracts fly-tippers and criminals as well as families looking for smart new homes in gated developments.

How it was — farming in north-west Surrey in 1968

Back in 1968 farming on the outskirts of London was already in decline, despite the planning designation ‘Green Belt’.

In 1968 the urban districts of Chertsey, Egham and Staines contained 180 farms, according to the Ministry of Agriculture’s annual census. In 2008 there is not even a Ministry of Agriculture. It was vacuumed up and emptied into DEFRA, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, in June 2001. The farms of 1968 were small: 53 were under five acres, and only 23 were 100 acres or more. There was a lot of specialist horticulture – plant nurseries, glasshouses, outdoor vegetables – and a fair few pig farms reliant on swill for feeding the animals. Swill, waste food fed to pigs, has been illegal since 2001, a consequence of the foot-and-mouth epidemic that year, as swill-fed pigs were identified as a primary cause of the contagion. There were a few small dairy farms. ‘Small’ was out of favour in 1968 and although it is due for a comeback, the official rhetoric is still about the benefits of scale, and further automation and mechanisation.

Back in 1968, this portion of London’s Green Belt had plenty of local authority smallholdings, 36 in all, 31 of which were owned by the Greater London Council (the GLC, the body that Margaret Thatcher’s second government later abolished in 1986). The smallholdings that I studied then were not functioning as the bottom rung of a ladder into farming, because the tenants lacked the capital to compete at that time of aggressive oil- and gas-fuelled intensification. While owner-occupiers could offer their property as security for loans to buy large machines and equipment, tenants generally had, and still have, much less collateral. Forty years on, as a time of re-localisation dawns, and with it the replacement of much fossil-fuel energy with human effort, the context for smallholdings should become more positive.

Thirteen of the 36 smallholdings in 1968 appeared to be producing nothing commercial at all, and were used for grazing ponies, or for industrial storage. I interviewed the occupiers of the 23 other smallholdings, and found that 11 of them had held their tenancies for over ten years, five of them for over 30 years. Two-thirds of these ‘commercial’ holdings relied on keeping pigs. The remainder produced mainly vegetables and other horticultural crops (7 of the 23) and the tenant on one holding grazed beef cattle. The smallholdings were far from flourishing. The land and buildings on the majority were in poor condition.

Between 1908 and 1970, local authorities had a legal duty to provide smallholdings The 1970 Agriculture Act downgraded the responsibility from a duty to a power. All during the 1970s, 80s and 90s, the idea that local land should produce local food had no political clout, and plenty of go-ahead councillors saw smallholdings as an anachronism, and had no desire to exercise an optional power to provide them. They could point out truthfully that there was no farming ladder for tenants to climb up; farming had become just another capital-intensive industry, to the detriment of tenants of all types.

In the 1960s and 70s my mother grew all our vegetables and also most of our fruit – apples, pears, plums, gooseberries, raspberries, red and blackcurrants, strawberries, and more. She bottled a lot of it, so we had a very varied diet even in mid-winter. I didn’t follow her example. Why? I had a full-time job and a long commute, my mother was a farmer’s wife and spent her days at home. The financial pressures for all adults to do paid work outside the home — often with long commuting journeys — have a negative impact on sustainable living because so often people are forced to take the fastest, most energy-intensive option.

Farmers in north-west Surrey in 1968 struggled to find workers because of the availability of well-paid jobs in the emerging service sector. Farmers could not compete with the wages and perks on offer at Heathrow Airport. The two issues that most concerned farmers then were shortage of skilled labour, and shortage of land for expansion. Both factors made it very hard for farmers to grow their businesses. It was the farms owned and run by families that struggled most. The farms run by employed managers generally had more capital behind them than the small family farms. They were becoming amenity holdings, financed by money that came from lucrative activities outside farming, and so the owners were able to offer either relatively good wages, or benefits such as a pretty farm cottage to live in. On farms where a manager was in charge, there tended to be more employees than the crops and livestock on them appeared to warrant, but the opposite was true of full-time and part-time family farms.

My father farmed in Surrey then. He owned about 65 acres, mainly for field vegetables such as leeks and cabbage, but had no cottages. He struggled to recruit farm workers, and so he converted an outbuilding at the end of the large barn into a three-room bungalow with a concrete floor, metal-framed windows, electricity, a cooker and a sink but no indoor bathroom. A family from the Canary Islands lived there for several years. When I look back I realise that I accepted it as quite normal that their accommodation was smaller than ours, and less comfortable, although compared to homes in the 21st century, our own farmhouse was fairly primitive. When we arrived in 1956 several rooms, including the sitting room, had no electricity. A diesel engine pumped our water up from a well, the toilet was in a hut in the garden, and effluent went into a cesspit that a tanker from the local council would empty every so often. My mother cooked on a coal-fired Rayburn range, and the only other heating was from open fires. On cold winter nights the upstairs windows would be ice-covered inside.

At that time, 2% of the area’s farmland was being lost to development every year and I wrote that if this rate of loss continued, the area would be “wholly urban in 40 or so years” – i.e. by 2008. I was worried by the quality of the land being covered in concrete, as much of it was class 1A, the most fertile soil inBritain.


Twenty years later, in 1988, local vet and farmer Carl Boyde gave me stacks of data to help with an update. Farming had declined in the face of urban pressures for homes, roads and leisure. Public authorities and private corporations held wide tracts of land, often renting it on grazing licences to farmers who, to cope with the fragmentation of holdings, would manage farms and farmlets scattered over many miles. Golf courses and pretend farms were spread all over the area. The mock farms were created to get round the planning restrictions of the Green Belt, which allowed agricultural activity in open countryside but not urban development. So people wanting to build a house bought a few acres – land was a lot cheaper[1] then – and put some chickens or pigs on it, or some beef cattle, and then claimed they needed to live on the premises to look after the livestock. It didn’t always work. I remember one former town mayor who wanted to build a house in the middle of his 20 acres or so, but whose applications were turned down time and time again. Often, though, houses went up on tiny smallholdings, creating ribbon developments encircling open land. (The ex-mayor sold his land in frustration, and his successor built a smart timber-and-tiled livestock building, and by 2008 part of it had been converted, with permission, into a home. Same rules, different answers.)

In 1968 the largest farm in the area, after the Crown Estate lands in and around Windsor Great Park, had been The Grange at Staines, which had 575 acres then compared with 650 acres in 1960. In 1988 The Grange was without its house and buildings, which had burnt down.

The Hersham and Trumps Farm Estate at Lyne and Longcross, 576 acres in 1960 and 536 in 1968, was a farmed estate no more. The bulk of Trumps Farm was a waste disposal site for Surrey County Council. The M3 motorway had cut across the estate in 1974, passing close to the house and buildings at Trumps Farm. Housing nibbled at the fringes of the estate-that-was. The motorway and its traffic, and the landfill site and the lorries supplying it, turned the estate into a suburban utility.

Next in the 1968 size hierarchy came the Foxhills Estate at Longcross, then 500 acres, and owned by the Borthwick family.  The estate was 350 acres of woodland and a 150-acre farm, France Farm. As a child I used to ride around the estate with the manager’s daughter, Sandra Nettleton, but in 1968 the land was on the market. The Irish airline Aer Lingus bought it and constructed two golf courses, which opened in 1975. The house and model farm buildings at France Farm were converted into a smart residential development. Aer Lingus sold the business on for £1.4 million in 1983, to an entrepreneur called Ian Hayton, who created the Foxhills Club and Resort.

Hithermoor Farm at Stanwellmoor, Staines, 400 acres in 1960 and 1968, was down to about 50 acres in 1988. Much of the rest had gone for gravel extraction. Another large farm, Simplemarsh at Addlestone, was home to the Roote family in 1968, but 20 years later Simplemarsh had been cut up by new roads, and a school, St Paul’s, was constructed on part of it. The Rootes continued their market-garden business on odd parcels of land in and beyond the area studied.

In 1968 there were three farms between 200 and 300 acres, all gone or degraded by 1988. Only one of the eight farms that, in 1968, were between 100 and 200 acres had not lost land or reduced output. That one farm, bequeathed on an inheritable tenancy to Barry and Sheila Bransden by Charles Glenie, a farmer of Scottish descent and well-known local magistrate, became a trendsetter in ‘exotic’ vegetables like fennel and calabrese, sweetcorn and chard. The other farms which had been in the same size bracket lost land to gravel extraction, golf and housing.

So the designation ‘Green Belt’ had not prevented the loss of farmed countryside. The Thorpe Park theme park occupied worked-out gravel pits that had themselves replaced pasture land. Golf courses were more numerous than large farms. The Urban Districts of Chertsey, Egham and Staines morphed into the Boroughs of Runnymede and Spelthorne, transit zones inhabited by commuters. The larger farmers were in the transit business too, hauling machinery along the roads between their scattered parcels and blocks of farmland. Subdivision became endemic, like a contagious rash.

2008 to 2011

Heathrow Airport by 2008 covered 3,000 acres. I dusted down a report called The Horticultural Industry of Middlesex, written by Dr L G Bennett in 1952, and on page 15 read:

“When the airport was projected in 1943 a total of 1,300 acres of horticultural land was appropriated and 20 growers displaced either wholly or partly from their holdings. The 1,300 acres of land concerned included 70 acres of orchards and 2.75 acres of glasshouses. The original loss of land to the horticultural industry represented some 15% of its former acreage [in the county of Middlesex]. ”

Dr Bennett calculated that between 1900 and 1950 two-thirds of the horticultural land in Middlesex was lost to development, including the airport.

Heathrow is built on the best and most productive farmland, much of it now buried under concrete and tarmac. Friends of the Earth[2] pointed out that just the area under tarmac is equal to 200 miles of three-lane motorway. The huge new Terminal 5, the largest building ever constructed within the Green Belt, opened in March 2008, and then government turned its attention to plans for a third runway, which would mean the demolition of the village of Sipson which, like Heathrow itself, is in the Green Belt, a designation that was supposed to prevent the loss of countryside.

Heathrow’s Terminal 5, north of the Staines Reservoirs, seen from St Ann’s Hill, Chertsey. The buildings in the foreground are at the village of Thorpe, home to Thorpe Park theme park, which is beyond the photo to the right. Houses on the fringe of Staines are in the middle ground, and beyond them, Staines centre. The open land between Thorpe and Staines is mainly gravel workings that have been filled in, and which provide rough grazing. 

So far, British governments have not worried too much about the national supply of land, or about the soil on that land. Much of the best farmland in the UK is barely above sea level – around half has an elevation less than 50 feet – and so is vulnerable to rising sea levels and river flooding. There is no national strategy for looking after soils, let alone for improving them.

By 2030 or so Heathrow is likely to be a monument to the age of profligate energy use. The land under the concrete and tarmac will be of more value for food production than for the runways, and a smaller airport will suffice then. We may be trying to reclaim land at Heathrow for farming. We produce only about 10% of our fresh fruit and 60% of our fresh vegetables, and thus are too heavily dependent on imports.

Now, though, protecting the 70,000 jobs at the airport, and the over 100,000 additional jobs dependent on the airport, has more political importance than growing food. Heathrow “is the biggest single-site employer in the UK”, says the British Airports Authority.[3] That gives BAA a powerful voice.

A man walked his dog in a park at Stanwellmoor, a village in the shadow of Terminal 5. Planes were taking off in such rapid succession that often I had two in vision at the same time. The noise was not deafening, as Concorde used to be (but that was such a beautiful aeroplane!). It was a background whine, the sort of noise that prevents relaxation. The park, which must have been at least five acres, was empty apart from one man and his dog, and me.

Heathrow Airport, and surrounding roads, homes and offices have been built on Class 1A soil. Class 1A is the best. Government ministers ignored the loss. Food, they argued, could be purchased from anywhere in the world. Britain was a rich country and could afford it, and thus questions of the future availability of food were not important.

Farming had only a vestigial presence by 2008. Some of the nurseries had intensified into retail garden centres. Derelict glasshouses were reminders of a past life. Fragments of previous farms were cultivated by mobile farmers whose patchworks of land formed agricultural outliers in an urban landscape, farmers like the Rayners, whose company J Rayner & Sons Ltd farms over 3,856 acres all around London, from Upminster in the east to Henley in the west, from Gerrards Cross in the north to Guildford in the south. The Rayners, headquartered at Horton west of Heathrow,  restore land from gravel pits and landfill tips, they manage land for Thames Water and other big landlords, they provide leisure activities such as fishing, they convert redundant farm buildings for other uses, they are landscaping professionals too. In fact, they say on their website[4] that landscaping generates more income than farming.

On the northern edge of my study area, what had been an estate of smallholdings at Stanwellmoor now lay beneath Terminal 5 at Heathrow. Manor Farm at Poyle was a depot for Wiggins Transport Ltd. Former smallholdings at Bedfont had changed into parking lots or workshops, or the land was simply unused. The buildings were invariably well protected, with gates and dogs. I noticed a Rottweiler kept as a guard dog on one ex-smallholding. In nearby Ashford, the Clockhouse Lane estate of smallholdings had become Bedfont Lakes Country Park. Moor Farm, in Moor Lane, Staines was a nature reserve.

To the south, Hersham Farm and Trumps Farm had in 1968 formed a single agricultural estate between the villages of Lyne and Longcross. The urban uses of 1988 continued in 2008.

2008: the buildings at Hersham Farm are a business park. Some of the land is used for open-air auctions (see the notice on the right).

Hersham Farm was home to a business park, and the site of open-air markets. Trumps Farm was a closed landfill site, on which the owners had applied to build a composting plant. Two or three miles to the south-east, the Brox area of Ottershaw, formerly a centre for hardy nursery plants, had altered into a zone of quiet suburban housing, with patches of horticultural crops. Ash Farm on Bousley Rise was a polo club. Great Grove Farm grew a crop of parked lorries.

Agricultural survival depended on diversification, it seemed to me. The Rayners embraced diversity with gusto. So did the Smiths at Crockford Bridge Farm,[5] Addlestone. The 75 acres of Crockford Bridge grow around 20 different fruit and vegetable crops for pick-your-own, and for purchase in the exceptional farm shop. Crockford Bridge found that the slogan “We’re the nearest farm to London” enticed lots of customers. The Smith family started the Crockford Bridge enterprise in 1977 and against the odds made a great success of it.

 Trumps Farm, Longcross, was in 2008 managed as a closed landfill site.

Laleham Farm[6] and Lyne Farm, separated by about four miles and on opposite sides of the river Thames, were in 2008 run as one unit by the Bransden family, growing vegetables and herbs for wholesalers, greengrocers, farm shops and farmers’ markets.

All farmers face security threats, from petty damage to major thefts, and these threats are heightened in areas like north-west Surrey where farms are few and far between. I can remember my father, aged over 80, standing in a gateway to block the entry of unfriendly travellers who were intent on parking their trailers in a farm field. The travellers had broken down the gate. Crime affects Crockford Bridge Farm. The Daily Telegraph reported[7] in July 2010 that staff at Crockford Bridge called the police during the two previous weekends, when pick-your-own customers tried to leave without paying. One had £80-worth of strawberries stashed in their car boot.

For each surviving farm, there must be a dozen with a few acres of grass, where ponies and sometimes beef cattle graze. On the fringes of Windsor Great Park, former farms like Castlehill and Town Green have become into mansions in their own elegant grounds, protected by elaborate security.

The remaining farms are newsworthy because they have survived. What about allotments, space for people to grow their own food?

In June 2007 the following petition had reached 10 Downing Street:

“We the undersigned (1,173 names) petition the Prime Minister to provide more land for allotments for people to grow their own vegetables.”

The response from the Prime Minister’s Office said very little in rather a large number of words:

  • Local authorities have to obtain the Secretary of State’s approval for selling off allotments, or for using them for another purpose.
  • Local authorities have to make provision for all types of open space that may be of public value.
  • If an authority is “of the opinion that there is a demand for allotments in its area, it is required under section 23 of the Small Holdings and Allotments Act 1908 to provide a sufficient number of allotments and to let them to persons residing in its area who want them”. If six residents ask for allotments to be provided, that request has to be considered.
  • Even if a council accepts that there is a demand for allotments, “there is no time limit for provision”.

So all that councils have to do is to consider requests, and even if members vote in favour of providing allotments, this good intention can be deferred from year to year indefinitely. And if they want to sell their allotments, they just need a nod from the minister in the appropriate department, which for England in 2008 was the Department for Communities and Local Government.

A fistful of padlocks

One morning in 2008 I was photographing the productive allotments in Kings Lane, Englefield Green, one of the allotment sites managed by Runnymede Borough Council. As I clicked away, a blonde-haired woman wearing gardening gear strode down the lane, carrying her key to the padlock on the site gates. ‘Excuse me,” she said, “but why are you taking photographs of the allotments?” I explained about my follow-up study to 1968, and just then a police car rolled past. “Just as well you were talking to me,” she said, “If they saw you taking photos you might have been arrested.”

Who, then, is the countryside for? In north-west Surrey it is for people with keys!

The Kings Lane allotment field is one of the nine within Runnymede borough that are managed directly by the council. The nine sites contain 373 separate allotments, and none are vacant. The council reported in response to a freedom of information request in January 2011 that the waiting list stood at 117. Runnymede has in recent years tried not to cut the number of allotments, but 373 plots for the 33,992 households is only one per 91 homes. There are in addition three privately-managed sites with another 221 plots, but even with their inclusion, the plots are sufficient for just one household in every 57.

Farms nearly gone, allotments scarce, but Windsor Great Park remains. Thank heavens for the Crown Estate! Imagine the endless sprawl there would have been, along the 50 miles west from Charing Cross to Reading, without the 16,500 acres of the Windsor estate, with its rolling parkland, 7,000 acres of forest, and five let farms. The Crown Estate lands remain as a farmed and forested barrier to…. to what exactly? The view west fromSt Ann’s Hill was not urban, it was pleasantly green. But it was not agricultural. ‘Countryside’ and ‘agricultural land’ do not have to be synonymous. Golf courses and scrubland are green especially in summer. Parks and gardens are green. Pony paddocks are green. The ‘Green Belt’ has, to an extent, preserved a representation of countryside, but the image is detached from the rural activities that created it in the first place. It is a different reality with visual similarities.

I still have all the questionnaires from my 1968 study. Looking at them now that nearly all the farmers I met have retired, or passed away, I feel that if only the few surviving farms and market gardens can hang on a little longer, the glimmers in the twilight will glow longer and stronger. When it is no longer economic to transport food over vast distances, local production will become important once again. In another 20 years, the view from St Ann’s Hill may be both green and agricultural, as it was when I rode my pony there 50 years ago, and when my mother drove a horse and cart, delivering bread in the 1940s. My priority now would be to stop the land being built on, and then when we need it for food again, the switch will at least be possible.

[1] Agriculture in the United Kingdom 1999, from the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, in Table 7.2 gives the average 1988-90 price of vacant possession farmland in England as £4,537 a hectare, £1,836 an acre. The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, reporting on the whole UK, revealed that in the first six months of 2008 the average price was £12,965 a hectare, £5,247 an acre.

[2] ‘Heathrow Airport & Terminal 5 – a Growing Problem, briefing from Friends of the Earth,, accessed March 4th 2008.

[3], accessed March 3rd 2008.




[7] ‘Farmers report rise in ‘pick-your-own’ thefts, by Rebecca Lefort, July 25th 2010.


5 Comments on “Glimmers of Hope after Forty Years of Farmland Loss in North-West Surrey?”

  1. A very interesting analysis of the Chertsey area – I hope your positive expectations come to fruition. The local authority (Runnymede) seems to have had no interest in preserving the environmental benefits of this beautiful (officially semi-rural) area. We can live in hope.

    • Thank you for your comments. I have great admiration for those farming families who have held on in the Chertsey area, just wish there were more of them. The urban pressures seem to be intense — I was shocked to read about the plans for what seems a new town at Longcross. I know there is a need for homes, but here in West Wales we have empty houses. The difference is we have very few well-paid jobs — if only we could disperse jobs rather more evenly!
      I really like your Historic Chertsey site. Although we moved away from Surrey over 25 years ago, my mother’s family lived there for many generations and my brother still does.

  2. T. says:

    A fascinating read, I grew up around that area in the 1990s and am always fascinated by the farming area it used to be, and the remaining evidence.

    I’d also had the thought about covering over soil (Although I did not know the soil was actually prime stuff)

    Is it recoverable if the concrete is removed?

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