Six miles from Exeter where we farm the soil is deep red and, until now, the atmosphere has been one of hard earned rural tranquility. The old railway still runs by the river Creedy and the local pub brews its own beer.
All that may soon change if a letter that I received by hand this morning, an otherwise tranquil Sunday, is to be believed. The Church Commissioners who own a 260 acre farm by the pub and railway are planning to turn it into an open cast gravel mine which will rumble seven days a week for the next twenty years. Twenty lorries a day will leave the site.
Next week (19th May, 7.30pm, Newton St Cyres Village Hall) there will be a public meeting to discuss the plans, and I shall be there. I shall also make sure that our newly elected MP Melvin Stride and the Bishop of Exeter know about the plans. I shall also be in touch with the chairman of Devon Country Council as they are being asked to include the plans in their mineral planning policy.
In an area of productive farming, restrictive planning and a settled community, even the idea of an open cast mine on this scale is a further insult to the countryside. As any economist will tell you, it is far cheaper either to import gravel from Poland or an existing British gravel mine.
A far better use for a small portion of the land would be to extend the existing car parking and offer a 'park and ride' railway service to lessen traffic congestion into Exeter. The train journey takes eight minutes into Central station.
That the Church Commissioners are even considering this desecration is an insult to church goers in this area. But, i well remember, in the 1960s, how they ripped out all their hedgerows on this and other local farms they own. Not so bright or beautiful.