Edward Chadwick finds peace and tranquillity in Harborne's historic Moor Pool Estate, where residents are fighting to protect it from development.
Retired Mike Jones sweats in the sunshine as he toils over his manicured hedges in a scene which captures British summer.
Just yards away, Lesley Callahan hopes for a bite as he fishes in a crystal-clear pool which is famed for its big carp. If he strains his ears he can hear the genteel chatter of bowls players doing battle on a village green.
But this is not the 1930s nor a rural idyll, but an everyday scene being played out on an estate just four miles outside of traffic-choked Birmingham.
So perhaps it is understandable that residents on Harborne’s unique Moorpool estate don’t want to see any changes to the character of their tree-lined roads and open spaces which have been enjoyed for more than a century.
But locals fear an end to the area’s rare charms if developers are granted permission to build 16 new homes in the picturesque garden suburb, which dates back to 1907 and remains home to a village hall, theatre and tennis courts.
Bulldozers are poised to begin levelling 137 garages and 12 allotments if Oxford-based landowners Grainger win a long battle.
As a decision by the council’s planning committee looms next week, homeowners and tenants on the estate spelled out their worst fears.
“We used to have something special here but if they are allowed to build these homes, we’ll just be like any other estate,” said Mr Jones, aged 67, of Ravenhurst Road. “When we had the tenants’ trust, there was a sense of ownership and a real atmosphere of community.
“But I think most of that feeling has gone and if a developer is allowed to come in and build houses, something very special will have been lost.”
It is a view shared by more than 140 angry residents who have written letters to city planners who are due to meet next Thursday to consider the plans.
They will also be urged to throw the plans out by English Heritage and conservation campaigners who claim Moorpool is as important an example of history and architecture as Bournville.
Although the frontages of houses are protected to stop modern windows being fitted, the covenants do not extend to the protection of open spaces.
As angler Mr Callaghan, aged 82, of Woodgate Valley, sat next to the village’s own fishing pond, he said he feared that any new development could set a dangerous precedent for the estate.
“They obviously want to make as much money as they can and it’s a worry what could come next,” said the retired painter. “I’m sure they don’t make a lot of money from the fishing or from the bowls club so what is their incentive to keep them.
“There’s nowhere else like this. You’re four miles from the city centre but it feels like a different planet.”
His views were echoed by 49-year-old IT consultant Andy Cunningham.
“We want things back how they were when we had people working the allotments and being allowed to enjoy the open spaces,” he said.
But a small minority of residents have tentatively backed the scheme, saying it would clean up the row of garages off Ravenhurst Road, which have become a magnet for vandals and flytippers.
“People don’t feel safe walking down by the garages because you get drug users and kids drinking down there,” said bowls player Maisie Hewis, aged 76, of Carless Avenue.
“I think something does need to be done but the new houses have got to be right.”
Grainger’s representatives have told the city council that they are committed to preserving the character of the area and had taken two years to come up with proposals which it was happy to put before the committee.
Moor Pool Facts
* In 1905, John Nettlefold, the head of Birmingham’s housing committee, began to tackle the problem of central slums. His idea to encourage migration to the suburbs gave birth to the vision for Moorpool.
* Building started in 1907 using a German model and took five years to complete the 500 homes across 54 acres to the north of Harborne.
* Harborne Tenants Ltd was set up to oversee the ownership and administration of the homes which were let at modest prices and the profits split among tenants.
* The arrangement of the roads and houses worked with the undulating contours to provided a range of community spaces not seen elsewhere in the city.
* Roads were made 16 inches narrower than standard to allow more space to be allocated for grass verges and front gardens.
* The gardens and allotments provided a much healthier environment with mortality rates far lower than the rest of Birmingham.
* In addition to the open space considered so important by Nettlefold, other facilities were provided including Moor Pool Hall with a stage and basement skittle alley, as well as a rifle range used by the Home Guard during the Second World War.
* In 1994 Harborne Tenants Ltd was taken over by BPT Residential Investments and subsequently in to Bromley Property Investments Ltd. In 2003 the BPT companies were taken over by Grainger plc.