Hampshire Day – and the importance of ‘place’

I’ve been enthusiastically marking the first ‘Hampshire Day‘ – established as the 15th July, which is also the feast day of St. Swithun, the patron saint of Winchester Cathedral.

The Hampshire Flag

The day is meant to celebrate the diverse culture, tradition and history of communities across what is often referred to as ‘the first shire‘.

It means a lot to me because, in years of amateur sleuthing, I’ve traced my own family history across many, many generations wandering the fields and commons of this one particular corner of North-East Hampshire – Yateley; Eversley; Minley; Hartford Bridge; Elvetham; Dogmersfield; Crondall; Winchfield; Odiham; Hartley Wintney and over to Sherborne St. JohnTadley and Mortimer – for at least 400 years.

Looking out over the nature reserve at Castle Bottom, which is between Eversley, and what is referred to as Hartford Bridge Flats, Hampshire.

As our lives become more ‘virtual’, and there are less opportunities for people to be brought together to physically interact, counties can be one of those things which help us reclaim a sense of ‘place‘, and even rebuild some ‘spaces’, to be human, to revel and grow in the time spent together, and the relationships generated, rather than society becoming further atomised.

My old terrier, Sparky (rip), preparing for ‘take-off’ on the disused runways at Blackbushe Airport, on Yateley Common, Hampshire.

By some coincidence, it is 41 years ago on this same day – 15th July, 1978 – that Bob Dylan performed at Blackbushe Airport, up on Yateley Common where I live.  I was there as an 8 year old, along with a huge crowd estimated to be in excess of over 200,000 people. More details here.

The airport is as much a part of my home town’s sense of place as anything else – I love nothing more than laying in my back garden and listening to light aircraft coming in to land.  But I would never have dreamt that 41 years after Bob Dylan’s concert (alongside Joan Armatrading and Eric Clapton), that the authorities would have allowed part of Yateley Common which hosted it to be de-registered as common land. Read more here.

Common land.

Common land is an important principle, and I am sure there could have been other ways for the airport’s future to be supported or secured without violating this principle.  I am worried about the precedent it has set – and other issues the decision raises.

But for today, I am flying the flag for ‘Hampshire Day‘ – and celebrating the idea of ‘place‘, and our common spaces.  Let’s cherish them, rather than expend too much time or effort in  allowing them to disappear, merely to pretend to recreate them with private, ‘pseudo’ ones instead.

Postscript:  Some important organisations I’d like to share links with –

Civic Voice / Common Ground / Open Spaces SocietyProject for Public Spaces /

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