Old and New Memories

The autumn colours have been extraordinary this year. A couple of weekends ago, we had our friend Amy staying – the day was bright but the wind was bitterly cold and we found ourselves heading up the track that is the old driveway to the big house, rather than walking over the hills.  I recall, as I always do at this particular moment of the year, my dear friend Catriona, who died eight years ago this week from a destructive cancer. I miss her so often. She loved trees, and this walk, and this time of year, so much.

The days have been exceptionally clear and bright, and long, slanting autumn shadows stretch across the valley in the afternoon. 

We visited our friend Caddy, who’s beautiful vegetable garden is inspiration to us all. 

The following morning was another brilliant, bright day. Charlie and Amy went to the year’s last vintage market in Bridport.  I took the dogs out (for once). 

And then we had the happiest of evenings on Sunday night, Harvest supper in the village hall – a fine turnout, Mum and Dad came over, and I forgot to take any photographs at all.

A couple of days later I was on my way to Inverness, as I think I’d mentioned in the last blog.  Rob from the office and I were up to visit the Tornagrain New Town project that we’ve been working on for so long now.  We are beginning to look at the detailed masterplan of the next areas and there is no substitute on the planet for walking the fields where one day streets will be built.

The hills above Inverness looked icy already, as we flew in.  Beautiful Scotland.

For two days the weather shone brilliantly and the town gleamed.

Here is the Croy Road, the first street to be constructed.

The new development is moving out well to the east now.  I’m so happy with the way that apricot-coloured house catches the light (unintended pleasures of urbanism). 

Garages have flats, or coach houses, above – they are designed in a simple stripped timber style. 

This little one is one of my favourite houses:

New villas still under construction: 

The three storey apartment buildings make all the difference to the massing, and to creating a sense of place at the squares and important junctions.  This building, which has a shop on the ground floor, has jaunty red window surrounds. 

The evening sun took on an amazing glow – the golden hour. 

The apartment building with red window surrounds terminates the end of this vista. I can’t wait for the scaffold to drop.

White painted estate railings form an economical but rather beautiful boundary treatment.  Beech hedges are planted behind, in accordance with the local tradition.

Malvina Green (named after our client, John, Earl of Moray’s mother Malvina) is lined with tiny brightly coloured cottages.
Several have white-painted ‘knobbly spruce’ columned porches – taking a detail from the local 19th century estate vernacular. 

A simple terrace of small cottages climbs the Croy Road, with glimpses beyond. 

John loves the use, here and there, of the curved headed walls – which make the idea of a garden just that little bit more sociable.  The way the road curves down and round at the same time was a gift of the site, but it has an extraordinary impact on the whole feel of the place as you move through it. 

A fiery sun was setting. 

The following morning was frosty, still and bright. 

We were back at Tornagrain bright and early for a further long day of work.  The sky and colours completely different…. 

The bus turning up regular as clockwork from Inverness airport on its way into the city.  So important to get these things in early.

I’ve written about Tornagrain before, as regular readers will be aware – here, and here for instance. Every time we visit, things have changed immeasurably. There’s little, these days, which gives me more excitement than seeing a whole town, on this grand scale, slowly begin to grow up in front of our eyes.  We reminded ourselves that I’ll be dead, or at least well over 100 when the town is finished; curious to think, if it gets that far, that these first streets themselves will then be fifty or sixty years old. And that’s the amazing, wonderful thing about projects like this. We are creating a frame for lives to come.

New build developments are in the news at lot at the moment – for instance, the initiative announced this week by the government – well, I can only hope and pray that it becomes more than just another report to sit on dusty bookshelves, while the voracious ineptitudes of the current house building system, and the nearly-on-the-brink-of-collapse planning system delivers their worst. Time, as always, will tell.

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