Funny how these things start.
You leave behind the traffic congestion and urban sprawl which gradually enveloped your previous home — and which, incidentally, you were blissfully unaware you could even try to have any influence over (would that the cork could go back into that particular bottle!).
You wave goodbye to the allergy-inducing smog that passed for air in your previous life, pausing awhile several months later to clear out the nest of inhalers gathering dust and past-their-use-by dates in a drawer, because now, dear friends, you can breathe again!
You wave goodbye to everything and everyone that you’ve known for your entire life to up-sticks and follow a removal van up the M6 to Junction 40, before turning left and heading almost as far as the Irish Sea (so far west that there are those who consider I now live in a ‘Land Far, Far Away’. So far, far away, that only the most intrepid should venture there).
You settle in to a beautiful ‘gem’ of a town, reflecting — as you gaze out of your right-hand office window towards Skiddaw and through your left-hand office window across hedgerows, open fields and gently ruminating cows — that this truly is a little piece of heaven.
And then it lands. The invitation. The first of many. Nothing fancy, no need to dress up, alcohol not included (although, we discover, we’ll definitely be driven to it). All we need is a keyboard and the ability to string a few words together. And an infinite amount of time, patience and commitment. Oh yes. We’ll need plenty of that.
And so it was that in June 2014, we are invited (sorry ‘consulted’) as ‘adjoining owners’, to register any objections we might have to the development of not just a couple, not even a couple of dozen, but three hundred and twenty (THREE HUNDRED AND TWENTY!) new homes in the fields on the other side of this peaceful country lane. Well, I say peaceful. Apart, that is, from Mr Death-on-two-wheels (I am assuming it’s a mister, but hey, might not be) who, every weekend without fail, opens the throttle as he turns into the lane and screams to a distant crescendo at a lot of miles per hour. He can be heard, I imagine, for miles around. One day, I also imagine (although I really do hope not), that the town of Cockermouth will collectively hear the almighty bang when he meets something coming the other way. And our hearts will leap as one in shock.
But I digress.
We knew, my new pals and me, there was always going to be the potential for development. That the bucolic scene we fell for would become a battleground and there was a possibility our ruminating neighbours might not be the victors. But what we never realised then was just how passionate, how deeply involved we might get with the whole process. How much we would fight for this corner of England.
We’re a long way on now. Planning permission was granted, in December 2014, at a meeting wracked by controversy, and thus began a tale of effort and frustration which must surely be echoed across the entire country. But within that bigger tale are many smaller ones, not least of all the ‘tale of the blue netting’, the ‘tale of the riverbank’ and, most fascinating of all, ‘the tale of the Tom Rudd Beck’.
We might no longer be able to stop the brutal devastation of green fields and wildlife habitats (or the blinkered belief that Cockermouth will never flood again and that 320-homes-worth of concrete straddling a beck upstream of town will have no effect on that), to build homes which apparently this town needs (yet, we suspect, few will be able to afford). But we can still tell the tales.