Or more accurately a walk round the edge of Ponteland which is mainly surrounded by land designated as ‘Green Belt’. It is what you might call a ‘nice place’. They’ve got flowers, sculpture and historical buildings.
It’s also got people in expensive houses who are pretty clear that they want your attention and that they do not want more houses to built next to their town.
The greenest part of Ponteland and its surroundings is not in the Green Belt. It is of course Ponteland Park which is 18 acres of gorgeousness right in the middle of town. It’s got a river, bridges, apple trees, majestic trees, commemorative trees, sports, and most of all it has actual people using it, of which more later.
To the west of the town there is an old railway line which is used by walkers and athletes.
To the southwest there are some fields of grazing horses. This was a Tuesday lunchtime and no riders were about, but I presume that in the summer evenings and weekends people enjoy taking their equine beasts for a ride. It’s an expensive hobby, but they look like fine animals and the users don’t ask for a public subsidy as far as I know.
To the south of Ponteland is the Darras Hall estate and to the south of that is the site of an old windmill and Birney Hill Farm which is a listed building and so protected from any development within its designated boundary.
The fields that are immediately outside the boundary of Birney Hill Farm and some fields to the southeast of the town totalling well over 200 acres have recently been subject to a planning application which was unsuccessful and the Ponteland Green Belt group are ‘delighted’ about this.
Here’s what a couple of the fields in question look like:
The first is wheat, the second is rapeseed. Both are intensive agricultural land which get a piece of the UK’s £3 billion a year farm subsidies. Based on obesity statistics, insufficient food production is the least of the problems in the north-east of England or the UK generally. Note that if you own around 100 acres of farmland you are probably a millionaire based on your assets, you get subsidised diesel, an inheritance tax exemption for your land and yet you’re still getting a cheque from the government. We could do almost anything at all with these lands and we as a country would be less poor. They are green now but will be yellow for a month as the crops mature, and then brown after harvesting. We don’t label them brown field sites though, even though that is their colour for half the year. And note also that there is nobody there. The road from Callerton Hall down the east side of the land has no footpath so you take your life in your hands if you plan to walk here to enjoy the view which admittedly is nice now, but apart from me and my water carrier (!) there was nobody else visible within a mile and no-one in their right mind would attempt to come here on foot along the roads. There are no public footpaths options on the land either. The government’s 2004 Barker report was absolutely right to say that land like this has an amenity value to the public less than 1/50th of land like Ponteland Park based on what I saw this day.
For info the developer in question called Lugano had these plans for the area. The proposal failed because the land is designated Green Belt and there’s a set of rules for this which require an exceptional need be demonstrated. Whether the plans were better than what we currently have here in terms of more trees, more urban parkland, more jobs and more nice houses doesn’t really matter because the current rules are based around demonstrating exceptional need apparently.
To the east of the town there is a lot of land centred on Hold House which is owned by the Callerton Hall estate, and a couple of public footpaths cross here
Nature 1 : 0 Footpath Sign
Ponteland has nice people, a cracking urban park and fine houses. But looking at the estate agent-style signs objecting to development on the green belt, the residents do not want any more of the things that make it nice.