HS2 and Me – March 2021

Alison’s former home in Ellesborough Road can be seen in this photo taken by Graham Evans over the middle weekend of January 2021 when the bridge was blocked off.

On a typical British November day in 1976, just one week after our son’s first birthday, we arrived in Ellesborough Road, Wendover. Forty years on to the month, not sure about the day, we left. We didn’t want to leave, but we had no choice. Our home for all those years was in the way of “progress” ie HS2.

Now 4 years on, perhaps sufficient time has passed for me to reflect on how HS2 has changed our lives, especially now that work appears to have begun in Ellesborough Road. In fact it was was already blighted in the 1970s by plans for a new much needed By-Pass. Luckily in the end, no houses were demolished for the new road and a new bridge re-connected Wendover to the historic Ridgeway Path to Bacombe Hill and beyond to Coombe Hill.

Wendover is a beautiful town and just popping to shops in the High Street could turn into a prolonged outing, especially on Market Days. There was always a friend or neighbour happy to chat.

Our neighbours in Ellesborough Road were a quiet and gentle group. People gave willingly of their time for the well-being of the Wendover community. There are plenty of activities, a volunteer-staffed Community Library, loads of local clubs and special events. All things I greatly miss. Wendover is a very hard act to follow. Why, unless forced, would anyone want to leave Wendover? We certainly didn’t.

Yet things had begun to change from the moment they announced the route of HS2. We hadn’t wanted to move but their plans made it inevitable as our home was to go.

For almost 2 years we searched for somewhere to settle. We looked as far afield as Canterbury, Chichester and Stratford-upon-Avon. Key factors were dependent on HS2. Would the protestors win out and the project be cancelled? What was the real timescale? Having lived in the same house for 4 decades what price would HS2 pay and therefore what would we able to afford? Could we stay in the same area? Would that be financially viable? Would it be distressing?

Though it seemed a never ending process, HS2 were ultimately fair. But by then, the community we knew was no more. Our neighbours had scattered and the new short term occupants had no interest in investing in their homes or neighbours.

As Heraclitus commented, “The only constant in life is change,” and HS2 has certainly brought about change. Wendover has already changed and is no longer the place we left. Things have moved on and perhaps one shouldn’t scrutinise from a distance.

And HS2 goes on regardless, demolishing homes and destroying local ancient woodland. I hear they have invested in community amenities like the cafe in Wendover Woods. I do hope they were better in consulting with the community on which projects to support. In the end, I know I am lucky to have lived so long in such a remarkable place.

Alison Black