diamond geezer

 Monday, January 02, 2017

There is an English village called Newyears Green.

It's tiny, and rural, and not entirely gorgeous, but it has the most wonderfully seasonal name.

Oh, and it's in London.

You'll find Newyears Green in the northwest reaches of Hillingdon, in the undeveloped green swathe between Ruislip and Harefield. The last suburban avenues come to an abrupt halt beyond the primary school and crematorium, and then the narrow winding lanes begin. There are no pavements on the way to Newyears Green, nor is there a bus service, although there was going to be a tube station before the Green Belt quashed it.

Annoyingly, for photographic purposes, Newyears Green doesn't have a village sign. What's more its one constituent road - that's Newyears Green Lane - only has a street sign at one end, and that's concealed behind a sign for the local dump.

I should point out from the start that Newyears Green is going to be a disappointment, and the Civic Amenity Waste and Recycling site is only the start of it. This is where unwanted household goods come to die, and if you don't have your Hillingdon First ID card to hand you can expect to pay £10 for the privilege. What's more its grim gates are locked at 4pm sharp in winter, which might encourage latecomers to deposit their refuse along Newyears Green Lane instead, so the council have been forced to intervene. All the way along what ought to be a remote single track lane are weatherbeaten signs warning of a £20000 fine for a discarded fridge, and a succession of lofty CCTV cameras to scan rogue numberplates should any misdemeanour occur. Rarely in deep countryside have I felt under so much municipal surveillance.

There are more farms in Newyears Green than houses, which is unusual. They have names like Braemar Farm and Elm Tree Farm but also Pylon Farm, which is considerably less endearing. The latter is a Beware of The Dogs establishment, while St Leonards Farm has a mobile home for sale advertised on a piece of hardboard rammed into the verge. Crows Nest Farm offers top quality compost, skip hire and car repairs, because that's the rural economy for you. There's also a New Years Farm, a bloated gabled property whose owners are currently having two massive security gates installed at the bottom of the drive, I suspect more for our protection than for theirs.

The hamlet boasts only four 'proper' houses, in two pairs of two, in resilient brick cottage style. Elsewhere is a cluster of chalets, like you might find on a caravan park, divided up by haphazard fencing and each crammed in with space to park a white van. One such chalet has Logs For Sale, assuming you don't nick them from the pile across the road, while its neighbour offers 'Free Range Eggs Sould', with a simple choice between Duck and Chiken. There was once a bungalow up the lane called The Bungalow, but that's now boarded up and locked away behind barbed wire, with a sign warning against illegal grazing on site. If you're familiar with The Archers, Newyears Green is a lot more Grundy than Aldridge.

Infilled amongst all this development are the kind of extensive amenities that other areas clearly didn't want. Up on the hilltop near the phone mast is a Waste Transfer Station, while several lorries can be seen parked up at the entrance to Arbrem Soil and Stone Remediation. Neighbouring company West London Composting is allegedly Europe's largest "in-vessel facility" for the recycling of landfill, its organic heaps forming a dark alien landscape which gently steams. Meanwhile poking over another hedge is a piled-high enclosure for the recycling of metals, while the sound of barking drifts across the fields from the Dogs Trust Rehoming Centre in Harvil Road. I tried to like Newyears Green, but it was really hard.

A number of public footpaths lead off from Newyears Green Lane, the best of which leads to Bayhurst Wood Country Park, part of the complex of ancient semi-natural woodland that forms Ruislip Woods. This is horse country, so the surrounding fields are mostly paddocky rather than intensively farmed. I spotted a lone Shetland pony in one, munching what was left of the grass beside an abandoned pushchair. Elsewhere in the village I found two car seats discarded on a woodchip verge, a scattering of drinks cartons and soggy cardboard boxes beside a large concrete block, and another footpath permanently blocked by some nailed-in corrugated steel. Newyears Green won't be winning a Best Kept Village trophy any time soon.

And it could soon be getting worse. HS2's intended route skims the fields below the village, breaking off from the Chiltern mainline corridor to cross the Colne on an intrusive viaduct. As it veers it'll carve through the far end of Newyears Green Covert, a Victorian plantation of mixed woodland, most of the remainder of which will be devoured by the attached 'satellite worksite'. What's more, all the visible farmland to the north of Newyears Green is to be used for "sustainable deposition of excavated materials", as if the engineers have noticed the village's downbeat ordinariness and sought to enhance it. Latest plans show HS2 works are due to begin this summer, with footpaths closed for up to 10 months, and the surrounding environmental disruption lingering until 2022.

Should you fancy visiting Newyears Green you'd best get a car - that's how all the residents get around. Alternatively the U9 bus drops off at the top of Newyears Green Lane, or you can take the 331 to the far end of Ruislip, but you'll have to walk the last half mile, and drivers won't necessarily be expecting to see pedestrians with a deathwish skulking in the hedge. I walked from the nearest tube station, which is West Ruislip - forty minutes of golf course, riverside mud and intermittent car-dodging, plus an almost-local pub, the Breakspear Arms. But having ventured out here in search of seasonal solace I'm going to suggest not visiting unless you have some household waste to dump. Simply know that London has a village called Newyears Green, and let's leave it there.

Hidden London: Newyears Green

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