Our suburban future
I walk out of the library, putting this week’s reading – the latest fantasy novel by my favourite author and an old book on gardening – into my bag. I head home, passing the general store which sells everything from seeds to jam, screwdrivers to baked beans. The smell of freshly baked bread fills my nose and makes my mouth water. Ignoring my rumbling stomach, I walk on, past the doctor’s and the pharmacy, the café and the hairdressers. I pause outside of the community centre to look at the notice board. There’s a schedule which includes yoga on a Monday, ‘knitting and nattering’ on a Tuesday and youth club on a Friday. There’s also a poster for a lost cat and an advert for the local football team inviting new players to join.
The summer sunshine makes an appearance from behind a bank of cloud and by the time I’m halfway up the hill, I have to unzip my jacket. Ten minutes later and I’m approaching my road. I live in a detached bungalow near the end of a cul-de-sac, a typical design for this area. A few years before I moved in, the whole cul-de-sac was pedestrianised.
On each side of the road, the houses are set back from the pavement with small front gardens, most of them a mix of lawn and flowers and bushes. The old pavement remains outside the front gardens but the grass verge has been planted with dwarf variety fruit trees, fruit bushes and wild flowers. The tarmac road has been replaced with a hardy mix of clover and chamomile. An underlay of hidden mesh means that vehicles can still drive on it when necessary for deliveries or services.
Emma and James from number six are playing with a frisbee in the middle of the road.
The spaniel from number two has escaped again and is trying to join in the game. A black bird sings loudly from the nearest apple tree. Bees buzz around the lavender frothing over the front wall of number fifteen. An admiral butterfly flitters indecisively between the red current and gooseberry bushes.
Not all of the suburban streets are pedestrianised like mine but more and more are opting to do so. Private car ownership has fallen dramatically over the past few years. Most of us work from home and most of the services I need are within a fifteen minute walk from my house. If I want to go to the city centre, the electric buses run every ten minutes from the bottom of the road or I can make use of the excellent cycle lanes or I can call one of the subsidised taxis or use one of the car pool vehicles.
I turn into my road and Terry from number one gives me a cheery wave.
“Hello, Terry,” I greet him.
“Hi, are you all set for the annual picnic on Saturday?” he asks.
“Looking forward to it,” I say.
We have a Green Close get together the first Saturday in August. It’s a chance to catch up with the neighbours.
We all bring something.
Some of us bake or make salads and sandwiches. Ben always wheels out his big gas BBQ. June usually plays her guitar and Vera’s grandson has been learning the saxophone and has promised at least one song.
“I’m not much of a baker, I’m afraid,” I confess. “I’m going to deadhead the roses, though and prune the pear trees.”
“You’re so good at looking after the community garden here, you and Liam and Jenny,” Terry says. “If you pick any blackcurrants, I’ll get Sophie to make some jam.”
“I’ll bring a tub of them over tomorrow, I noticed some ripening earlier.”
“Sounds great. See you later.”
As I walk under the plum tree outside my house, I test one of the fruits to see if it is ripe and it falls easily off its stem. It’s sun warmed and smells delicious. I take a bite and the sweet juice fills my mouth as I walk up the path to my home.
Following on from last week’s post about gardens and how we can make meaningful local changes, this week, I wanted to step outside the front door to think about how our houses fit into our streets and communities. I was interested in exploring how our urban spaces can be improved for nature and for people, integrating concepts around food production, transport and socialising.
You can read last week's post on gardening and the previous post introducing this series, Visions of Hope, here.
Feel free to discuss in the comments your thoughts on the future of our urban spaces.
Links to further information:
https://www.udg.org.uk/ The Urban Design Group has lots of information about designing urban spaces.
https://www.ted.com/talks/carlos_moreno_the_15_minute_city/transcript A TED talk on the concept of the 15 minute city, where everything you need is within a fifteen minute walk.
https://suburban-taskforce.org/ The UK Government has set up a taskforce to look at suburban development.