Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Reflections on my Ashton Court walk

I spent Sunday on a lovely walk with The Educator around Ashton Court, owned, administered and looked after by Bristol City Council - publicly.

The little museum in the Guest Shop gave me pause. The estate passed to the Council in 1959 because there was no male heir close enough to the line who was willing to take it up, and because of course of high taxes and death duties. These were the cause of not a few cause celebres for Conservatives such as the infamous 'Pilgrim Case', in which a property owner hanged himself because the compulsory purchase price of his house was less than what he'd paid for it.

But the interesting point was that we are in the opposite position today. The grotesque rise of the incomes of the richest ten per cent which has marked out the last thirty years in Britain (click on one of the graphs) means that there's no way vast estates, stately homes and the like will pass to the people and their democratically-elected representatives today. They'll be snapped up by one of the new-old rich, or a footballer, or a Russian gas magnate.

Lots of progress has been made on access to the countryside - via national trails, or the previous administration's admirable Right to Roam legislation.

But my walk around Ashton Court won't be replicated and multiplied any more on grand old rural or rural estates with beautiful country houses at their core. Another of the things we value will have been 'progressively' privatised.

Just a thought.