Visitors to our Junior boys’ school turn right off Cannon Lane (SL6 4XX) and after a short distance turn left to find the 1/2 mile drive that leads west in a straight line to the building of Ridgeway, a fine example of a family home of the Edwardian era. When we first acquired Ridgeway in 1964, the estate was of 12 acres, with building permission for two more houses in the vegetable garden. During the late ’60s, as this land was rezoned from white to green plannng permissions were pulled in, so my parent chose to build the two bungalows that can be seen to this day, just before the entrance to the front of the main house. The profits from the sale of one paid for their building, the disposal f the second funded the building of the main teaching wing at Claires Court, reducing the estate to 10 acres.
The 48 acre field which greets the visitor to Ridgeway on the left hand, south side of the driveway as they embark upon the journey along to the school has been in the private ownership of the Simmonds partnership for many years. Previously part of the Ridgeway estate built up by the diamond merchant Gillow, it was disposed of after his death, and to my knowledge has not passed hands since. So when the land came up for sale this Summer, 2012, it seemed obvious that we should try to purchase the land, and I am delighted to confirm that we completed the purchase on Wednesday 3 October. Since it had not been on our radar at all that the land was to become available, we have not a development plan ready to go now we have made this acquisition. Suffice it to say, it’s clearly a game changer for the school, and a decision, given the geography of the area , as vey much coming from Left Field.
To clarify what is meant by the term Left Field – those over the pond use Left Field (technical term borrowed from baseball) to describe someone who is a touch mentally unbalanced (“oh, she’s really off in left field”) – resulting from protracted boredom waiting for a pop flyfrom the rare southpaw batter. A decision of this kind would therefore by many be categorised as ‘Loony’, but I don’t ascribe to that sentiment at all. Nor is it thinking ‘outside the box’, because it’s been pretty obvious to anyone for years that our organisation could only benefit from the enlargement of the Ridgeway campus, it’s just not been possible.
The front page of the current Maidenhead Advertiser (4 October) highlights just how concerned our borough is at the growing threat to its green belt that has protected Maidenhead from expansion out into the beautiful country side beyond, but the national drums have been beating for some time that we simply can’t play the NIMBY card if the country is going to house the rapidly growing population in the South and East of the country. The nice thng for us I understand is that our neighbours around Ridgeway are delighted to hear that we are the new owners of the land, with the presumption that schools are a good thing to have on your doorstep compared to industrial or residential development. Suffice it to say that as our other laying fields at Taplow are lease hold, the assumption that we will apply to develop our playing fields in this enlarged estate at Ridgeway for the benefit of all of our school community is a pretty fair one. Just watch the fur fly however when the planning panels gets down into the detail, and don’t hold your breath too early in the process. Permission to develop could be some time in the coming; in the meantime, our small holding is to grow winter wheat for the next two years, and staff development days could be adjusted to included the use of the scythe and winnowing machine. You think I am joking?