them charmingly. “They’re welcome”, the former in- habitants (now in council houses) say: “who wants an old place where you butt your head every time you stand up? Give me a nice modern house”. The neat, convenient bungalows have shot up along the roadsides with gardens that would put a public park to shame.
When I first came here, the surnames scored into the old tombstones in the churchyard were the same surnames that you often met in the little shops, on the farms, and in the four (still flourishing) pubs(2), and many of them were related to each other and could tell you many long, often libellous or ribald, stories of each other when young, in a Hampshire burr that lent col- our and emphasis to their speech.
There are fewer owners of these names now, and they are growing older. The parish boundaries, the rights of way, the history of the village, are locked up in the memories of these mem- bers of the over-sixties club, and the sense of being part of a place with its own tradi- tion and quality will die, I think, with them.
Is it a bad thing? Is it a good thing? Has it been replaced with better things like the well-educated children, the prosperity, the knowledge of the world, and perhaps the feeling of belonging to the world rather than to the village?
Will they ever be able to say, or want to say, of any place, as I after 30 years can say, “This is a Place I Know?”
14 — Ropley at the Millennium
The Star in a bygone, thirstier time
Editorial notes: (1) – mains drainage is still not available in the village. (2) – the four pubs are now cut to two, the Anchor and Chequers. The loss of the Star is particularly grievous as it means there is no pub in the heart of the village.
Much of what Grace Strong talks about as being of central value in her experience of the village can not be recovered. To put it briefly, her generation was the last to enjoy the countryside before it was changed for ever by modern agricul- tural practices, chemicals, and mass transport by road and car. It was also the last before the advent of modern medicine for everyone through the NHS, better living conditions all round and the wide- spread use of modern conveniences like vacuum cleaners, washing machines, and widespread, acces- sible, education, leisure and transport. Two genera- tions on, we live with this inheritance, and face the task of keeping the best of the old and the new, mitigating the adverse effect of the one on the other.
The Star just prior to its closure and conversion to a private residence