Spirit of place: HS2 and the seclusion of Hartwell

Sam Weaver is a Media and Communications intern at the National Trust. Over the next few months he will be following the politics of preserving our heritage. Check out last week’s post here

Past an idyllic public house, a small patch of woodland and over a picturesque stone bridge, sits the historically important Hartwell House.

hartwell

Considering the property’s wonderfully preserved nature and seclusion, it isn’t surprising it now functions as a hotel and a spa. However, this might all change as the proposed High Speed Rail (HS2) route plans to steamroll straight past the building.

Hartwell has had an impressive history. It was the home to many prominent individuals, including the exiled Louis XVIII of France during the early 19th Century. It was in the library where he signed the reinstatement of his rule once Napoleon had been defeated.

The grounds also have served as a retreat from the urban sprawl of Aylesbury. Its lake is perfectly landscaped across the length of the land, which is home to a plethora of ducks and swans. Additionally, two lines of trees and a fence hidden in a neat ditch (known as a ‘ha ha’) create a far reaching ‘avenue’, which adds a certain tranquillity to the landscape beyond explanation.

Hartwell's avenue

Hartwell’s avenue

Hidden fence or 'ha ha'

Hidden fence or ‘ha ha’

The fact that parts of the estate will be destroyed for the railway, the undervalued ‘spirit’ of the building and surrounding landscape is likely to be at risk.

Not only will the route cut into the important screen of trees already in place to ensure the properties seclusion, it would also run across the end of the avenue, which will mean it will be in sight of the property.

The noise from the high speed railway is also a worry. As it stands, HS2 have calculated the noise could be kept to an acceptable level.

Consulting sound engineer on the National Trust’s HS2 project Alan Nethersole has said that: ‘with current plans, it will be impossible to not hear the railway from the building. If Hartwell House benefits from being a quite retreat, then the sound from the trains every few minutes will be a problem.’

Alan also noted that guests will notice the sounds much more than someone who is used to the noise. Considering this, the sound would have disastrous effects on the experience of the inhabitants of the hotel.

Although the English Heritage listing system can protect historic properties from destruction, project leaders for HS2 are still yet to recognise the railway could harm the visitors’ experience of buildings like Hartwell.

Whilst the National Trust is neither for nor against the idea of HS2, it feels that it should be built so that ecology and heritage are protected.

Watch this short video explaining National Trust’s plan to reduce the impact of HS2 on Hartwell.

Samuel Weaver is a Media and Communications intern at the National Trust.

He is a recent History graduate from the University of the West of England. When not selling sausages in a deli, he usually occupies himself by researching and blogging on our nation’s more overlooked heritage.

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One thought on “Spirit of place: HS2 and the seclusion of Hartwell

  1. Pingback: Spirit of place: HS2 and the power of space at Hardwick Hall | National Trust Places

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