It’s an afternoon in August and, after the morning’s continuous rain, my wife and I have been out for a brisk walk around the wooded roads of Brownhill, Merdon, Lake and Lakewood. It’s warm and the overpowering sweet smell of Scots pine and Douglas fir pervades the landscape. There are still large numbers of conifers among the mature oak trees where they were once a dominant species.
I first moved into Lakewood Road in 1955 when the woodlands prevailed; the area to the west of the Lake was a pine forest through which I regularly went horse-riding. It is now, tragically, an inaccessible tangle of overgrown species – but that’s another story!
At that time, in the rectangle of land formed by Hiltingbury, Hocombe, Lakewood and Hursley Roads, there was little development, the oldest house being our neighbours’ house,The White House, the land for which had been acquired in 1908. The area was woodland and heathland. I galloped across this land frequently and, like many other boys, rode my bike aerobatically over ‘the bumps’ behind the present Ashdown Road.
As a young boy, I had that wonderful sense of freedom, space and adventure. The land was ripe to be plundered and developed and, from the 1890s, the land from Ford to Brownhill, and Hiltingbury to Hocombe was destined to fall under the woodman’s axe to make way, initially, for exclusive houses.