We used to live in Farncombe, sandwiched between Guildford and Godalming in the beautiful Surrey Hills. Farncombe is euphemistically described as a 'village' but it is actually a commuter hub, serving those who zip up and down the Portsmouth Harbour to London Waterloo South West Trains line. Some stop at Guildford, some at Haslemere, most go all the way. Almost all the commuters leave Farncombe for the day, returning after dark. They don't shop, bank or use the Post Office in Farncombe. The Indian restaurant and take-aways are popular. They certainly don't consider themselves to be part of the community of Farncombe.
Last week, I did a quick shop in the Co-Op in Farncombe. It is a lovely shop, recently refurbished, with a good selection of fresh fruit and veggies, as well as quality meat and bakery products. The staff are friendly and familiar, even though we moved away eight years ago. I also popped into the Post Office, dropped off repairs for Mr B at the tailor, got the Boxers' chewy worming tablets at the vet, picked up a prescription at the pharmacy. Then because it was a lovely day, I browsed in the Debra shop.
My Dad still lives in Farncombe, and on that sunny Wednesday, it seemed as though only people over 70 live there. It was very quiet. There was no hustle and bustle. The streets are lined with parked cars, which I presume belong to commuters. There are boarded up shops - some have been unoccupied for at least 10 years. Farncombe seems to have been forgotten by development and investment. I admire those businesses which remain - I wish I could support them all, but I fear it will take more than my support alone to keep them all solvent.
Three months ago, I wrote to the Godalming and Farncombe Neighbourhood Planning (GOFARNP) forum. My ideas were mainly focused on the role of the Farncombe Day Centre in the community, but there is no doubt that more work needs to be done to bring together businesses and residents, visitors, church-goers and commuters, to better understand their needs, how they can help each other and support the future of the Farncombe community.
Councillor Steve Cosser, you have been very supportive of initiatives in Farncombe and of the Farncombe Day Centre. The Staycation Family Fete in August was fantastic. Please help to stop the rot in Farncombe. Please help to bring back independent businesses in Farncombe. Please help to foster community spirit in Farncombe, for future generations.
I have written about Farncombe, because I care about it, but I'm sure that Farncombe is not alone in being neglected. Bring back community.