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Good Fences Make Good Neighbours

By Janice Cooke All Rights Reserved ©

Romance / Drama


In a small close of newly-built houses live people with hidden sorrows or regrets, young people learning about life,and older people reflecting on the past. Assumptions are tested and strengths and human frailty are revealed as they learn to appreciate each other and build a community.

Chapter One: The Thropley Estate

The Thropley estate in Temporal St Giles had been in the safe hands of the Grenwold family since the seventeenth century. That is to say, the hands had been reliable before Peregrine started running the estate.

Until the age of thirty-five he lived a carefree, playboy life, travelling the world and spending freely of his inheritance. His mother indulged her only child and kept from him the financial concerns that daily beset her. When she became ill and too frail to continue he took over the estate with great enthusiasm and many ideas. At the same time he took a young wife who presented him with three children in three years. The need to make a living became imperative.

His plans and proposals cost money to instigate and lost money when they failed. His propositions were not on the same grand and foolish scale as the Tanganyika Groundnut Scheme of the late 1940s but he failed to take local conditions into account. His orchards of lemon and orange trees struggled and ultimately failed and the vines fared no better in the heavy clay soil. Ostrich farming was interesting but short-lived, providing a place for parties from local schools to visit. There had not been the interest in ostrich meat that Peregrine had been led to believe.

After his mother died Peregrine was forced to face the reality of his situation. He had considerable death duties to pay and if he wished to retain the family manor as a home for himself and his young family he must consider selling some of his land. In desperation he sought advice from his solicitor and sold forty acres, keeping ten acres surrounding the house and a further four hundred and fifty acres of mixed pasture and woodland. His solicitor also advised him to consider ways of making money from the house and remaining estate and Peregrine had paid close attention. He engaged an estate manager who undertook the planting of an arboretum that would be opened to the public once it was established. He organised the excavation of an extensive pond that was filled with trout and rudd and perch and opened to local anglers. Fishing licences were sold for the stretch of river that ran through the estate. A herd of fallow deer was introduced and venison from them sold to local butchers. Peregrine agreed to the installation of a small petting zoo near the café in one of the old stables. Chickens ran free and produced fine eggs which were sold from the estate shop along with mementoes like postcards, keyrings and home-made Thropley fudge. In addition, parts of the house were open to visitors from February to November. The Manor housed some important paintings and a collection of rare porcelain and fine glass that had been in the family’s possession for centuries. There were tapestries on the walls and paintings on the ceilings. A trip to Thropley Manor soon became a favourite outing for people in the county and attracted interest from art historians and anglers from further afield.

After five years had passed Peregrine finally began to realise his assets. His privacy was not compromised as he had feared and he found he enjoyed seeing visitors strolling through his grounds or eating cream teas in the Old Stables café. The sale of some of his land had enabled him to make necessary renovations and a steady income from the farm and the paying guests meant he could continue to live in the Manor and, in time, pass it on to his children. He was determined to make sure they didn’t have the death duties to pay he had suffered.

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1. Chapter One: The Thropley Estate
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