Online House Hunter: Our village greens

Alan Cleaver
finchingfield 300x199 Online House Hunter: Our village greens

A five-bedroom house for sale in Finchingfield, Essex - the most photographed village green in Britain

THE quest for the perfect commuter village takes Ruth Bloomfield in today’s Independent to a number of quintessentially English villages – all boasting warm welcomes, fine ale and good food. I suspect most of them have that other iconic English landmark: the village green.

Everyone has an image of that perfect green – manicured grass, a solitary oak tree, a village sign and perhaps a few morris dancers performing in the centre. I do wonder, however, when that image was created and suspect the village green of medieval times was full of sheep, cattle and muck.

Lately the village green has become an unlikely battle ground. Designating somewhere a village green has serious planning implications and can be seen as a way to scupper new developments. We may all have an idea that village greens are green and in a village but in planning law it’s not so clear cut. That tarmacked bit of ground in a town centre that’s been used by local kids to kick a ball around might just have the same rights as a ‘village green’ as the one with the morris dancers on. Defra is now looking to reform the system for registering village greens due in part to the recent flood of applications to register new greens.

While the politicians and lawyers sort this Gordian Knot out, here’s a quick tour of some of the more typical and picturesque village greens you may be looking for when looking to move house. The links will take you to the Independent Property Search engine page for that particular village.

The largest village green: A number of villages lay claim to the largest green in Britain or England. Great Bentley in Essex is one of them and at 43 acres who is going to argue? Well, Old Buckenham in Norfolk which also claims the largest village green in Britain.

The smallest village green: If various villages are claiming the biggest green who has the smallest? I could only find Albury in Surrey making such a boast.

The prettiest: It would be difficult to judge the prettiest village green but Finchingfield in Essex makes the claim that it is the most photographed village green and it’s difficult to argue with such an idyllic-looking spot.

The Oscar winners: A number of villages and their greens have been used on TV and in films because of their picturesque appeal. Hambleden in Buckinghamshire is so often seen on the likes of Miss Marple that it amazes me directors can find new angles to shoot the village so it’s not immediately recognisable as a previous location. And a little further down the road is Turville which was used for The Vicar of Dibley, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and that classic movie, Went The Day Well.


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  • RaymondVison

    Letchmore Heath, Herts, ‘Village of the Damned’ 1960.

  • Dorothea

    Only journalists and estate agents think of the word “manicured” in relation to a lawn in a private garden:  only journalists would think of it in relation to a village green.  Who do they imagine has the time or money to keep a village green smoothly mown?  Who would want them to?  Village greens are usually a traffic island holding a few protected trees and some wild flowers – and to encourage these you only mow once or twice a year.

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