Magazine article The Spectator

Long Life

Magazine article The Spectator

Long Life

Article excerpt

To say that you live in south Northamptonshire doesn't usually inspire much envy.

Not many people dream of living between Northampton and Milton Keynes. But from where I'm sitting at my kitchen table I have a peaceful view over the wide and shallow valley of the river Tove, dominated on the horizon by the handsome tower of the church of St Mary the Virgin in the village of Grafton Regis, where Henry VIII used to stay when he went deer-hunting with Anne Boleyn. The former deer park in which the royal couple did their hunting remained the property of the crown until King Charles I gave 400 acres of it to Sir Francis Crane, a courtier, entrepreneur and founder of the Mortlake tapestry works in London, in settlement (it is sometimes claimed) of an enormous bill for two suits woven from cloth of gold.

A small piece of the land that Crane was given at Stoke Park now belongs to a family trust of which I am the beneficiary. The big house he built here burnt down in the 1880s.

Two Italianate neoclassical pavilions, built in 1630 as a chapel and a library, and attributed to Crane's friend and fellow courtier, the architect Inigo Jones, do however survive;

and I sit here in a late-Victorian house built after the fire, gazing in melancholy fashion between these architectural gems at the above-mentioned view. I might be feeling a little less melancholy if one of my six ducks (a Khaki Campbell) hadn't had its head bitten off this morning by a visiting terrier, and if a Spanish energy company called Gamesa wasn't planning to build a windfarm along the length of the Tove Valley, running for about three miles from where I am living to the racecourse at Towcester (often described by the late Jeffrey Bernard, this magazine's original 'Low life' columnist, as the prettiest racecourse in England).

This proposed windfarm is called a 'park'.

The word 'park' used to denote something pleasant, but now it more often means something nasty: an 'amusement' park, a 'business' park, an 'industrial' park, or an 'energy' park. I am talking in this instance about a project that goes under the name of 'The Tove Renewable Energy Park'. The current proposal is for ten gigantic turbines to run along this quiet, unspoilt valley, generating almost no electricity (or, at any rate, not nearly enough to have even the smallest impact on carbon emissions) but greatly enriching an already quite-rich-enough farmer with subsidies paid for by the rest of us with higher electricity bills. …

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