Page:Old Towns and New Needs.djvu/46

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OLD TOWNS AND NEW NEEDS

importance of them, and much has been done towards securing such islands of rural relief, both by private generosity and by corporate energy. In fact, the point need not be pressed here—but there is another aspect of the open-space problem which I think deserves a little special thought.

Have you ever realised that some foreign towns possess an element of beauty almost unknown in England, and have you ever discovered what that element is? I allude to the fact that here and there one comes across an ancient township in which the lack of wealth or enterprise, or the absence of population-pressure has made it unnecessary for the transition between town and country to be marked by a suburb of graduated ugliness.

I know one town in England where the shops suddenly end and the country suddenly begins. One sees many such abroad. But in England what do we generally find? By degrees, as you leave the town you discover that the good, gay shops give way to meaner shops mixed with mean residences. These give way to residences without shops, less mean but more dreary. Then follows a tract of desecrated country waiting to be eaten up in building lots, then a derelict farm, then a hideous market garden, next villas, beyond them a village, once rural, now aping town manners, beyond it, more villas and horrible new-laid roads, and last of all, very shyly and very slowly, with a gradual diminution of the apologetic sale-boards, unrural fences, mutilated hedges, and general sense of town oppression, you are welcomed by that fair and desirable thing, the country.