Surrey by Eric Parker. (Robert Hale “County Book” series, 15s.).
Those who are interested in the countryside through which they motor, as well as in the cars they drive, will be glad to learn of the books in this beautifully-produced series. These depart, to a considerable extent, from the formal guidebook approach. That on “Surrey” is very satisfying from this view-point in parts, but we would have liked even more about present-day Surrey, less about ancient history, and fewer nature notes. This volume is noteworthy from the enthusiast’s angle because chapter one is entitled “Brooklands.” The coming of the famous Motor Course is referred to, items are quoted from the prospectus of the first race meeting of the B.A.R.C., and the nature of the races held thereat is detailed, as they are in “The Story of Brooklands ” by W. Boddy. But otherwise the references to Brooklands Track are unfriendly, and the author quotes a poem he wrote at the time, emphasising the undesirability of Locke King’s transformation. Each man to his taste, but it is a pity Eric Parker has had to exaggerate to make a case against the Motor Course. He writes of “the betting ring of bookmakers that followed motor-racing on the track,” refers to Brooklands as “that great cement-rimmed saucer, with its race stands, its hangars and its sewage works, . . . corrugated iron and arrangements for the disposal of drainage.” We are asked to believe that because Locke King built a race track in Brooklands meadow, “no boat goes on it (the Wey) today, that “planes roaring overhead shut out the song of larks,” and that the place became noisy with “the strident clamour of the betting ring.”
That is one point of view and, we feel, an unfortunately biased one. Brooklands is known to have remained a picturesque (and on non-race days a singularly peaceful) place right up to the sad day when Vickers-Armstrong turned it into an ugly straggling aerodrome-town. It has even been said that the Track was less an eyesore than the uncultivated marshland it replaced, and certainly the idea of the stands and sheds and fences overshadowing it as if Brooklands were a sort of super football ground or dog track is so much bunkum, but bunkum which, alas, many of Eric Parker’s nature-loving readers will readily believe. Moreover, the sewage works served Addlestone and district, not the Motor Course, and Locke King would gladly have had this eyesore removed had the local council been prepared to accept a reasonable sum for the land thus occupied. Fortunately the very vastness of Brooklands swallowed up such excrescences. The Wey was never closed, as many punting parties can testify, and betting was never a predominant feature of racing at Weybridge, particularly in the early days.
Eric Parker might, one feels, have had the decency to spare the feelings of those who believe in progress, especially that established in such pleasant surroundings as prevailed at Weybridge. However, those who are more tolerant of such things as insect life, birds, folk-lore and country life in general than Parker is of our sport should not let the author’s indiscretions deter them from reading his book.