“I remember along Trumpington Road,” says Tanya, now 41, who grew up in Chesterton, on the other side of Cambridge. “There used to be a little newsagent’s and he’d go and deliver milk to them and they’d make him a cup of tea and give him a Mars bar. And if the kids were with him, we used to get a drink and a Mars bar as well. So that brought back memories for me when we moved here. Now it’s a bike shop.”
When Tanya used to visit Trumpington as a kid, there were acres of fields and trees stretching across from Shelford Road towards
Addenbrooke’s Hospital. She had no inkling that one day she might end up living on one of those fields in a brand new house that’s part of Great Kneighton’s 40% affordable housing stock to provide local people with places to live in a city where house prices have skyrocketed by one third in the past seven years.
Tanya and her partner Rod were some of the first people to move into Partridge Close in July 2013 in a cluster of houses known as Seven Acres built by the Swedish developer Skanska – along with their three children Ben (5), Jessie (10) and Lauren (15), their Yorkshire terrier Ziggy and their cat Pudding.
Seven years ago, they had moved into a brand new two-bedroom housing association property on the Accordia development, built by Countryside Properties, near the railway station in Cambridge. But with a growing family, they needed more than two bedrooms. Tanya put her name down for a bigger house as soon as she knew she was pregnant with Ben, who’s now five.
For four years, she was bidding for every available three-bedroom house through the Home-Link website, which helps housing association and council tenants find suitable properties across the region.
“As it came to the end, I was expressing an interest in every single three-bedroom house that was coming up,” she says. “Then one day out of the blue I had a phone call to say I’d been offered a new-build in Trumpington. I couldn’t even remember bidding for it because it was about four months before. I think it was in November I bid for it. I got the call in April.”
“We went driving around to find out where it was,” she says, but the whole area was still more or less a building site. All the hoardings were still up as the builders hammered away behind the scenes. It took another three months before the family could actually move into their new home. Tanya takes up the story.
“There was a delay on the house because it hadn’t been finished.
We kept on driving up here every two weeks to see how they were getting on. Originally the moving in date should have been at the end of April. Normally when they phone you, it’s ready for you in two weeks. We had a few phone calls to say it had been delayed. It was getting a bit frustrating, because we’d started packing – and telling our other housing association, because you have to give notice that you’re leaving.”
“We couldn’t actually see inside the house until the housing association had the keys in their hand to give to us,” she says. “So it was all exciting.”
Eventually Tanya got the keys at the end of July 2013, just in time for the summer holidays.
“It was quite nice actually, because when we first moved in, the kids only had two days of school left before the six week holiday started,” she says. “So they had six weeks to settle in before they started their new school.”
I know how the housing issues are. If they’ve got space to build then they will
The new house has been a big hit with the Jolley family.
“The kids love it,” says Tanya, who used to work as a teaching assistant before becoming a full-time mum. “My youngest has got his own room now. And we’ve got a bigger garden than we had before, which is quite strange for a new build. The other house, the garden was much smaller. This garden’s about three times the size, which is really nice, specially for the dog.”
“I like these houses because they’ve got high ceilings,” she beams. “This house seems bigger than some of the other three-bedroom houses on the Abode development. And we’ve got wider hallways. These houses over here are more spacious. Unless you’re buying one of the big six bedroom houses, I suppose!”
Tanya loves the way the house is laid out – the three bedrooms, the kitchen diner and living room, as well as the walk-in utility room and downstairs toilet. She also appreciates the triple glazing that blocks out the sirens of the ambulances travelling to and from Addenbrooke’s, and the airflow system that takes away the condensation from the wet-room when you turn the lights on.
And she loves the garden too.
“My eldest daughter Lauren likes gardening, so between us we try and do things,” she says. “Whether we’re getting it right, I don’t know.”
With its whitewashed walls covered with smiling family photographs, full-length windows overlooking the garden and comfy brown sofa with matching rugs and floor-to-ceiling curtains, Tanya’s home already feels well loved. There’s even a china dog bearing a welcome sign next to the front doorstep, alongside milk bottles waiting to be collected.
The washing machine is whirring away in the background. With its combination of Scandinavian airiness and typical chaos of family life (when we visited, the dog Ziggy was having his hair cut on the kitchen table!), Tanya’s house feels very welcoming indeed. Her partner Rod, who works as a paint sprayer in Fulbourn, is equally pleased with their new home, specially the location on the edge of Cambridge close to the M11. He’s studying to become a London taxi driver in his spare time and has to drive around London at the weekends to learn all the different street names. So the location is ideal. It only takes him 45 minutes to drive down the motorway.
The only down side, according to Tanya, is the floor-to-ceiling feature windows in the three bedrooms upstairs. Although the windows have railings across the bottom half, she is too worried to open them in the summer for fear that one of her children (or animals) might fall out.
But that’s really the only bad thing Tanya has to say about her new house. She didn’t even mind that the development was still a pretty much a building site when the family first moved in last year. They were used to that from moving into their new-build on Accordia seven years earlier.
“Where we came from, it was still being built up a few years after we moved in,” she says. “Now it’s starting all over again! I know a few people where we used to live moved out before it was finished because they didn’t like it… At the end of the day, I know in a few years’ time it will all be done. Just like it was where we were before.”
When they first moved in to Partridge Close, the three-storey town houses that now overlook her garden hadn’t even been built. And she could see across the fields to Addenbrooke’s
Hospital. But gradually more and more houses have been built on neighbouring streets including Kingfisher Gardens, Lapwing Avenue and Skylark Road – covering the fields where skylarks once sang, and obscuring her view.
“I liked being able to see across so I could watch the children in the park,” she admits. But she is sanguine about the changes.
“I know some of the older residents don’t like to see all the fields being taken away,” she says. “But it’s just life. It’s progress. I know how the housing issues are. If they’ve got space to build then they will.”
Tanya’s back garden is now over.looked by a row of four-bedroom, three-storey townhouses that are selling for upwards of £600,000 and a block of flats that’s reserved for affordable housing. Along her road, there are five three-bedroom houses in a row that are all rented out via the Bedford-based housing association bpha. On the other side of the road, identical three-bedroom hous.es are selling for around £460,000. As far as Tanya knows, all the houses on the Seven Acres development – both the private housing and the affordable housing – have already been filled. But in spite of all the new neighbours moving in, it’s still a lot quieter than the community where she used to live. Most of the residents in the private houses, she says, are retired people. There aren’t many other children around. And the children who do live in the cluster of houses in Seven Acres mostly go to private schools, she adds, so they’re not out and about as much.
“It’s quite peaceful,” she says.“Obviously in the summer people are out in their gardens later. I haven’t moaned about anyone and I don’t think anyone’s moaned about me. It’s a lot quieter here because there are fewer houses. Here I don’t hear anything because of the triple glazing. I don’t even hear the traffic sometimes – even being on the end.”
“I find my neighbours fine,” she says. “I get on with all my neighbours. I talk to the people in the houses behind and the people this way. I don’t have any problem with any of them, really.”
“If you’re walking around with the dog, you just get to talk to people,” she says. That’s how she got to meet people on the Accordia development where she used to live too. There the affordable housing was kept more separate from the privately owned housing. But it doesn’t make any difference to Tanya what kind of house people live in. And she still stays in touch with some of her old neighbours from the more expensive end of the development.
“There was a lady who had a dog and my eldest daughter sometimes still goes and walks him after school,” she says. “And we sometimes look after him when they go away.”
Tanya also has some friends on the Abode part of the Great Kneighton development, people who she’s met through her kids’ school – the newly built Trumpington Meadows primary school, which opened in September 2013, just in time for her two youngest children to start there. In the first term, there were only eight children in her middle daugh.ter Jessie’s shared Year 5/6 class. But today there are nearly 30 children in the same class. And through the parents, Tanya already feels quite well integrated into the new Great Kneighton community.
Recently she thought about applying for a job as a teaching assistant. But eventually she decided against it. If she’s careful with the household budget, the rent of £154 a week is just about affordable.
“There was a job going at their school, actually, and I was sort of umming and ahhing to go for it,” she says. “My oldest daughter had just been diagnosed with autism, I still cycle to school with her in the mornings sometimes because she has little panic attacks. And my younger son, well, I think he’s autistic as well. He’s very hard work. So I’m trying to get him tested. But it took five years to get my daughter diagnosed and to get her an appointment. So I just think it’s going to be the same with him.”
“I think it weighed up that I really ought to think about my own children before I go back,” she says. “At the moment we can manage on what we’re doing. So I might just leave it a year and see what happens.”
“Also, you have to think about the school holidays as well,” she says. “If you get a job that’s not within a school you have to pay the childcare. And you think OK, I’m just going to be working to pay someone else to look after my children. It’s all swings and roundabouts, as they say.”
What Tanya does remark on is that she doesn’t feel so much a part of the existing community in Trumpington yet.
“I use the post office sometimes and I always feel welcome in there and I’ve been in the hairdressers. They’re the only facilities I’ve used,” she says. “I’ve kept my old doctor. I’ll move to the new one when it’s open. Touch wood, I don’t need to go to the doctor that often.”
“I go over to Asda to do my weekly shop because Waitrose is not my cup of tea,” she says. “I think it’s some of the prices, really. I buy my milk and bread from there because that’s no different. And I’ll go and see what offers they’ve got. I sometimes find the people in there a bit arrogant as well. I don’t know if it’s just me.”
Tanya tries to go along to as many neighbourhood events as she can, including a series of coffee mornings that were launched recently for local parents. She’s keen to meet more people as she and her kids settle into the area.
“Jessie (who’s 10) has been doing drama club and I try to take them to all the things in the holidays,” says Tanya. “I do like to think that the children are happy and that they’d be able to go around and visit people.”
“I want to try and get my kids to interact with other children so they can go into town with people their own age rather than with me all the time,” she says. “Specially with my daughter Jessie, because she gets so bored being at home all the time. She feels a bit isolated from people here. She wants to go off and do her own thing. I would prefer her to be with other people her own age rather than hanging around on her own. My older daughter, Lauren’s quite happy staying in the house.”
Fifteen-year-old Lauren still cycles across town to her old school (Parkside) in the centre of Cambridge, while Tanya’s youngest two go to the newly opened Trumpington Meadows primary school, which draws in children in all the new housing developments being built around Trumpington.
“My children seem to be getting on OK apart from a few friendship issues,” says Tanya. “So I can’t really fault the school.”
As well as a planned new secondary school that should be open for her daughter Jessie to start next September, Tanya is looking forward to some of the new facilities being ready for her to use. She admits that she does feel a bit cut off from the local shops – specially as she doesn’t drive, and it takes her 30 minutes to cycle along the guided busway into town to get to Asda. She’d like to see another supermarket over this side of town. And she’s looking forward to the new shops opening up on the community square, as well as the new doctor’s surgery.
“I took my daughter over to the doctors [in Chesterton] and it cost me £8 because we had to get two buses and there were two of us,” she says. “And it took ages.”
“From our old place, the kids would quite happily walk into town,” she adds. “From here, they’ll cycle. I just think buses are too expensive. Sometimes we cycle to the Park and Ride and leave the bikes because three children under 16 are free. But we still have to get to the Park and Ride.”
Tanya has never ridden on the guided busway, but she and her children use the cycle path that runs along the side of the busway all the time as a route into town. Although her oldest daughter is reluctant to use it on her own. And Tanya does worry about the safety aspect.
“The buses do go quite fast down there and there’s no barrier,” she says. “Where we come from, we do have to cross the busway. There’s an issue of getting across there safely. I don’t know whether there should be some sort of push button system. Or even some flashing lights to show that people are crossing.”
The other thing that Tanya is really looking forward to using is the country park. She’s hoping there’ll be more of an area for her kids to play on eventually among the rows of newly planted trees and the lake that’s already providing a new home for flocks of wading birds. Grey partridges and skylarks are also still breeding there, in spite of all the building work going on.
“I’m excited to find out what the country park and the bits for the kids are going to be like,” she says. “When I see bits opening up, I wonder down there and take the dog.”
So, after living here for a year, does she feel part of Trumpington? “I always tell people I live in Trumpington,” she says, without hesitation. “I’ve never called it ‘Great Kneighton’. It’s ‘Trumpington’ to me.”
“When we moved here, there was a sign on the front of our bit that said it was Seven Acres. I’ve never really had Great Kneighton in my head at all.”
Tanya does admit, though, that she wouldn’t want to live any further away from town than she is now.
“I don’t want to move any further out because I don’t drive,” she says. “I like to be able to cycle into town.”
And has her view of Trumpington changed since she was a child riding round the village on her dad’s milk float?
“I think it’s still there [the sense of being a village],” says Tanya. “I suppose that’s why they haven’t got big major supermarkets everywhere. But I think eventually it will just be part of Cambridge city.”
For the time-being, Tanya and her family aren’t planning to move anywhere else at all. They’re perfectly happy with their new home on the southern tip of Cambridge.
“My other half’s quite happy living here,” says Tanya. “He says it’s a nice area and it’s easy for him when he finally gets the job he wants to do. He says he can’t fault it at all. Like me, he feels lucky to have been offered this house and we should make the most of it.”
“We’ve got a lifetime tenancy on here and so we’re planning to stay,” she adds. “For as long as we’re allowed.”