Melissa Kite Melissa Kite

Surrey is the capital of denial

Its inhabitants persist in the delusion that everything is fine with our countryside

[Photo: Sam Oaksey / Alamy Stock Photo]

Driving through the road widening works at junction ten, I noticed a horse being ridden down a muddy passageway that was about to become the hard shoulder.

It had not yet been tarmacked, but the diggers had cleared away the trees from the slice of heathland and it was being flattened, in readiness for surfacing works.

A woman with a determined look on her face was coaxing her mount along this clearing, next to the machinery and the workers in their Day-Glo outfits, the Portaloos and logging machines, the lorries taking vast piles of felled trees away, and the hundreds of cones dividing this stretch of cleared woodland from the existing dual carriageway.

One should never live in a county that sounds like an apology

A few days later, I was again driving home along the A3 where it interchanges with the M25 at Wisley when I noticed a group walk going along the same stretch of cleared land: half a dozen people with walking poles and backpacks, again wearing implacable expressions, as if to say: ‘These roadworks aren’t going to beat us! We’re going to enjoy the Surrey heathlands until the very second they disappear!’

It came to me at that moment that Surrey is the capital of denial. People here, more than anywhere else, stubbornly keep going with this delusion that everything is fine with our countryside, and they will do so until the very moment reality bulldozes their last little slice.

To be fair, Surrey is in the frontline of whatever term you want to give to the disappearance of green space. But because of that, you would think the inhabitants would have the most realistic view.

Instead, they have the least realistic. Here you will find walkers in designer hiking boots with their hands over their ears to drown out the noise of the diggers, and ladies riding horses through major roadworks.

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