Sunday, 6 May 2012
The joy of Brick Hill.
Drivers heading west out of London on the M3 and just a couple of miles outside the orbit of the M25, may catch a glimpse of what appears to be a wilderness of heather, gorse, pine and silver birch. This is Chobham Common, home to such rare creatures as the Dartford Warbler, Red Barbed Ant and, some would have it, the elusive Surrey Black Panther. There is no way of accessing the common from the M3 that bisects it but come off the M25 at junction 11 and with a bit of determined map-work you can enter one of the best preserved heathlands in the country. But it's not just the wildlife and landscape that are so interesting because poke about a bit on the fringes of this nature reserve and you come across all kinds of interesting stuff. This remember is probably one of the poshest bits of the Surrey/Berkshire border. Just to the north of the common lies Sunningdale with it's notoriously snooty golf club. To the south west is Chobham Place now renamed Wentworth Place for some reason. This huge pile was one of the dwellings considered for Fergie when she split from Prince Andrew. It sold for a reputed £12m a few years back. I have no idea who owns it but with it's gleaming white exterior and formal garden it has an air of naff opulence that screams "Dubai". Also on the fringes of the common you can find Dads Army locations, a mysterious military establishment and best of all the peculiar little settlement of Brick Hill. The place gets it's name from the brick works once located there and consists of perhaps a dozen houses, some Victorian and no doubt connected to the old brick works, plus an assortment of bungalows. With it's abandoned vehicles and half completed "good life" projects the place has a marginal, plotland feel to it that is quite wonderful. For some reason that neither of us can put our finger on, Brick Hill has become one of our favourite places.