It was when Nigel and his wife, Sheena, a teacher, walked their toddler daughter along the pavement in her pushchair, breathing in all the car exhaust fumes in Balham, South London, that they decided it was time to move. Sheena’s sister lived in Highmoor so they knew and liked the area. That was back in 1991.
Having moved to Peppard, Nigel continued commuting into London for his work as an architect. It was really the obvious career choice. He is creative and artistic but, at the same time, he is very practical. He had wanted to be an architect since childhood: like most children he drew houses but he went on to draw buildings – and chairs too. Always hopeless at Maths, it is ironic that it was his Maths teacher, who, spotting Nigel’s drawing of a chair, expressed relief that there was actually something that he could do, admired it, and set him on his future path.
He enjoys large architectural projects such as hospitals and airports – he designed an MRI at the John Radcliffe and was part of the team that designed Heathrow Terminal 5. In fact, during the course of this project he crossed paths with the late Lord David Silsoe – fellow resident of Peppard and leading QC at the Terminal 5 Inquiry. With an eclectic taste in architecture, Nigel admires many of the famous new buildings in London, e.g. the ‘Gherkin’ and the ‘Shard’, although he dislikes the ‘Walkie Talkie’.
Once settled in to Peppard, Nigel developed a love of the commons. He regularly walked or cycled on the commons and encouraged his children to run wild, play and build dens on the commons. This love of the commons prompted him to become more involved and he became a Commons Conservator – he remained a Conservator for 14 years, was Chairman for 2½ years, and only resigned last year because of working overseas. However, he is still acts as a consultant to them and finds this is a perfect compromise as he remains involved, goes to meetings and gives advice. Even though he was Conservator during the, sometimes heated, debate over grazing he wouldn’t like see any dramatic changes to the Commons – he would like them to stay open and accessible to all. He believes the paths need to be maintained and that the Kingwood and Peppard Commons Volunteers and the Green Gym do excellent work.
Not content with being a Conservator, Nigel also gave his time and energy to being a Parish Councillor. For twelve years he worked alongside five different chairmen, was Vice-Chairman himself for seven years and was Chairman of the Planning Committee. There had always been a Conservator on the Parish Council so he found that the two roles dovetailed as well as using his professional expertise for the benefit of the community.
Perhaps his talent for involvement and leadership are inherited traits. Nigel recently learnt that his Great Great Uncle was the former Liberal Prime Minister, Herbert Asquith. Furthermore, further research into the family tree has revealed connections to the local Bonham Carter family and that he is a distant cousin of the actress, Helena.
In the years that Nigel and Sheena have lived in Peppard, their daughter has grown up and is now working, their eldest son has just graduated and their second son is now settled at university.
Nigel is currently living in Bahrain, working for a large Reading-based American company refurbishing a university in Saudi and hence has had to give up his involvement in local organisations. This is his second stint of working in the Middle East – it provides the opportunity of working on the big projects that he enjoys. He returns home for a break every 12 weeks and the family has all been to stay with him there on different occasions. He anticipates being involved locally again once he returns home.
His love of the outdoors means walking and cycling on the Commons are favourite activities, but he still cycles when in Bahrain (in temperatures sometimes over 50oC) and, as a family, they have spent many happy holidays camping and walking in both the UK and France.
One thing is certain, however much Nigel likes the modernist style of architecture, if he has anything to do with it we will never find ourselves with an office block built on the Commons!