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There are many villages, roads and streets of this name all over Britain; the one I am particularly interested in, seeing as I live there, is the village in north Wiltshire, England. It takes its name from what is today known as Back Lane, one of only two roads in the village. Walking along it today one can still see the white sea sand seeping up through the tarmac.

Sandy Lane is surrounded by some of the most beautiful scenery in the country. Rolling fields, dark copses and steep hills in the distance frame a lanscape which calls to mind Jane Austen's words about nature being in perfect harmony with culture - the quintessence of the traditional English countryside. From the top of Back Lane one can see the White Horse at Cherhill, as well as Cherhill Monument and Cromwell's Castle (a clump of trees under which Lord Protector's army camped before waging a major battle in the vicinity).

The village has a predominance of thatched houses. Most of them were built in the 18th century as crofter's cottages for workers on the adjacent Bowood estate. However, their picturesque charm coupled with their location on a main Chippenham - Devizes thoroughfare has conspired in recent years to turn most of them into privately owned weekend homes for wealthy town dwellers. A large proportion of the houses have been extended, and while they retain all original features they are still a far cry from the modest working man's dwellings of yore.

It is a sad and ironic twist of fate that virtually none of the old inhabitants of the village can afford to live in it any more. No farm worker or even farm owner can compete with the sort of prices a City merchant banker can pay for a house. The newcomers do not integrate with the locals, nor do they always live and let live. To cite just one infamous anecdote, when a city family bought the big Victorian mansion on Back Lane, they made a complaint to the council that the cockerel in the farm next door was "noise pollution". The council concurred, and the farmer had to do away with his cockerel - as well as all of his chickens, who of course would not lay without a male.

The weekenders and commuters may own the properties, but they do not spend their money in the village; rather they come down from the city with their shopping in tow, and go back to Devizes or Bath for their amusements. The village used to have a shop, a police station, two churches and two coaching inns. Nowadays only one inn - the George, still owned by Bowood Estate - is operating. One of the Chapels, as well as the police station and the shop, have been converted to residential homes.

The other church in Sandy Lane no longer has a congregation to serve, which is again tragic in its way, seeing as it is unique - the only fully-timber thatched church in the UK. It is desperately in need of repairs but so far there seems to be no light at the end of the fundraising tunnel.

The village was inhabited as long ago as Roman times, when a town called Verlucio was situated around a hot spring not far from the current village site. It is fairly self-evident that Sandy Lane has been a place inhabited by local people since time immemorial. It breaks one's heart to see this beautiful, fertile place reduced to a chocolate-box, picture-perfect museum piece for the casual tourist, with BMWs instead of tractors and prissy gardens instead of paddocks.

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