|Selling The Family Jewels
Unaccustomed as I am to seeing the great and the good in South Wales, it was cheering to see the Ryder cup taking place. Here is a fine golf course set in beautiful countryside, with commanding views and a lovely hotel attached to it. True, it’s over £140 a round, but people seem happy to pay this. The decent weather on the Monday coupled with crowds of people enjoying something of a freebie set me thinking about another golf course closer to my ‘home’ that has a fine hotel attached and is also set in acres of lush countryside – Haigh Hall.
I’ve got fond memories of being taken around Haigh Hall on Christmas Day for a walk in order to burn off some of that Turkey. At the time, my teenage angst meant that I would probably rather been anywhere other than there and most preferably at home, listening to Jesus Jones and playing on a Megadrive. However, with hindsight I now realise that my parents’ intentions were good. Just occasionally, the Christmas weather wouldn’t be the dull damp affair that it is now, but a bright blue crisp day with air so fresh and pure that taking a lungful of it made you feel good to be alive. These were the times that thrusting your hands in your pockets you realised that the solid fuel handwarmer that Granny bought you was useful after all. It was also the time that you realised what a fine old building Haigh Hall was and how beautiful its grounds must have been.
Now, nearly 200 years since construction of the Hall first began, time is catching up with her. Large cracks have appeared in the walls of the lower floors and the upper floors are cruelly exposed to the worst of the weathers. As with many fine old buildings, upkeep is becoming increasingly more difficult and expensive. The state of the nations coffers mean that any state sponsored rescue of Haigh Hall is unlikely to be forthcoming in the near future. So what to do? Well, we could just amble on, sticking a plaster on what we can, hoping for the best and praying for a bit more global warming in order to dry up the damp. We could draw a line under it and pull it down – better its demolished in a controlled way than have a chunk fall on someone. Or my option to preserve Haigh Hall – sell it.
All the attributes that make Haigh Hall such a wonderful place are those keenly sought by developers. There is no reason that the building couldn’t be restored into a stunning country hotel, the type so sought after for weddings, golf weekends and film sets. It’s going to take a lot of money to restore her to health and this is money that the public sector is unlikely to have for the next decade if the prophets are to be believed. Only the private sector can afford to pump the money in and they will want to see a return. So why shouldn’t we set her free from the constraints of the public purse, free to pursue her life as a grand old lady of the countryside once again?