Author: Mike Tunstill

 

I enter Ravenswood.

Ravens Wood.

The Raven stands sentinel, through half-closed eyes a decent shot at a village pub for a village new-formed at the turn of the 21st Century.

A sculpture, idealised figures soaring like a squadron of bright-metal Peter Pans, hint at a heritage of flight. Propeller motifs on fence and wall, housing that was once a control tower look out still over a broad green apron, reinforcing what the guide book claims, and that I know; that the windy, sixty hectare site was for sixty years home to a municipal airport offering flights to Clacton-on-Sea, Southend, the island of Jersey, and connections to Amsterdam and Manchester and the wider world.

I call to mind a parachute club, and the smart little Dornier of Suckling Airways flown by Captain Suckling. The captain’s wife would vacuum the aircraft, greet her passengers at check-in and serve drinks on the flight. Their son was responsible for loading baggage, and keeping the plane airworthy.

The war brought the RAF, and No.3619 Fighter Control Squadron. Peace heralded lost opportunities, and decline.

I wander an architectural scrap-book of styles; cod-Georgian townhouses give way to chocolate-box cottages huddled round courtyards, and great Modernist six-bedroom sheds stacked on end like shipping containers. I turn a corner to find myself in New England. A Parisienne boulevard bisects the lot. In searching too hard for an identity, the place loses itself.

Traffic calming measures crowding each upon the next, an exit from the development exclusively for public transport, and cycle paths everywhere all speak of a town planner’s green dream that here was a place the motor car might fall from use. The tyre-churned greensward, un-worn cycleways and notices in bus shelters of reduced services all tell a different story.

And yet I have come to like this place. Social housing among the private brings tensions but also colour, interweaving the chaos in the built environment with that of everyday life. It’s comfortable to surround yourself with people that share your preoccupations and your concerns and your beliefs. Share the way you think, and feel. This is natural. But it’s essential also to make an accommodation with the wider world; with your own Ravenswood. Did I say I have come to like this place? In fact I rather love it.

 

This guide was written by:

Mike Tunstill
Suffolk Writers Group

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