Less and less a rural idyll Not such a rural idyll: letter

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The Independent Online
As a resident living in exactly the area of Herefordshire about which Martin Wright wrote so picturesquely ("A secret history", Review, 30 June), may I respond with a few, less romantic, facts.

Provided visitors observe only the superficial, it is easy to believe that it is, as Mr Wright describes, "England's most secret county". Sadly this is not so. Before the M50 was built, it was truly tranquil. Now accessible, it is proving attractive for potato farmers from Lincolnshire who, having turned their county into a desert, are beginning to buy land here. To farm potatoes successfully, hedges have to be grubbed up and trees felled to create a prairie. Lorries, which can barely negotiate the country lanes and which have made horse-riding, walking and cycling hazardous pursuits, have to collect the crop. The high street of the village in which Martin Wright stopped for lunch is a favourite route for commuters and commercial vehicles travelling at reckless speeds between Hereford and Ross, and in turn, the M50. A survey clocked 780 vehicles per hour during the rush hour. The area is designated one of outstanding natural beauty but there are no concessions when it comes to speed and weight limit.

Herefordshire's housing quota for the end of the century had been exceeded by 1994 but new building continues at a frenetic pace. Had Martin Wright explored behind the pretty main street of Fownhope, he would have discovered serried ranks of new and stark housing estates.

The proposed Hereford by-pass will cross the Lugg Meadows, an even more ancient botanical area. The ensuing inevitability of out-of-town supermarkets, residential and industrial development will ensure that the idyllic walking country Martin Wright describes will be no more.

Anthea Watson

Fownhope, Herefordshire

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