Saturday, December 03, 2005

Trust publish their vision for Jefferies Land at Coate and a history of the area

Jefferies Land Conservation Trust


3 December 2005

Trust publish their vision for Jefferies Land at Coate and a history of the area

The Jefferies Land Conservation Trust has published two pamphlets that provide a guide to the literary and historic interest in land at Coate and their vision for an alternative use of this special area.

The first pamphlet entitled Coate and Richard Jefferies was written by a local historian. John Chandler, who lives near Salisbury, examines the links between the Victorian author Richard Jefferies and the land where Jefferies was born and raised at Coate. The report discusses this area in the context of the life and career of Jefferies, its topography and character during the period of his acquaintance with it, and major references to the area in his works. It concludes with an assessment of Jefferies as a topographical writer, as formed by literary opinion since his death, and considers the importance of the Coate area in his works.

The second pamphlet An alternative use for Jefferies Land forms the basis of the Trust’s vision [1] for the area. It looks at the recent history and how the existing fields and buildings could be put to best use for the future economic, educational, social and environmental well-being of Swindon and its residents.

Jean Saunders, Secretary of the Trust said:

“We are delighted to make these pamphlets available to the public who might not be well acquainted with the special qualities of the area. At the same time, we want to ensure that the greatest assets are protected and enhanced in order that future generations of Swindonians can derive as much pleasure from them as their ancestors.”

The pamphlets can be obtained by sending postage stamps to the value of £1 to Pear Tree Cottage, Longcot, SN7 7SS. Copies can be picked up on Saturday 10th December at 1pm at the Community Crossroads, the former railway museum in Faringdon Road, where the Trust will be holding a special meeting.

For more information contact Jean Saunders on 01793 783040


Editor’s notes
[1] The main elements of the Trust’s Vision are to:

§ maintain the landscape setting of Coate Water in the countryside; to preserve the adjoining Jefferies land as an ideal place for "rambles" to see the links to Jefferies' writing; and .... just simply a "place" to relax and enjoy.

§ enhance the biodiversity of the Site of Special Scientific Interest and the nature reserves at Coate Water, Day House Copse and Burderop Wood North. Extensive new habitats and wildlife corridors would be created, stressing the ecological value of streams, trees and hedges, etc.

§ provide a centre to study and appreciate literary landscapes as an inspiration to UK writers; the history of British nature writing; and to include a special focus on Richard Jefferies' key role in this evolution ;

§ demonstrate and study traditional crafts and environmentally sensitive alternatives that reduce man’s impact on the land, including managing land organically as an educational tool and for local food production;

§ feature the archaeological qualities of the area dating back about 3000 years and the links to others at Liddington Hill and Barbury Castle;

§ provide educational opportunities for local children linking in with local schools and community groups

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Trust meeting 10 December

The Jefferies Land Conservation Trust is holding a special general meeting on Saturday 10th December at 1pm in order to formally adopt a Constitution and elect Trustees that will manage the organisation.

The meeting will be held at The Community Crossroads [the former Railway Museum] in Faringdon Road, Swindon.

There will be an opportunity to update Members about the Trust’s emerging vision for the land at Coate.

This proposes rules by which the Trust will operate. They follow a model provided by the Charity Commission. The draft document also contains a mission and policy statement and describes briefly how the organisation is structured. Once the Constitution is agreed, the Trustees will apply to the Charity Commission in order to formally register the Trust as a Charity.

Trust members will elect from amongst themselves a Chair, a Secretary and Treasurer and up to five additional trustees.

For more information contact Jean Saunders on or phone 01793 783040

Friday, October 28, 2005

Just Before Winter

Just Before Winter
by Richard Jefferies [1886]

A rich tint of russet deepened on the forest top, and seemed to sink day by day deeper into the foliage like a stain; riper and riper it grew, as an apple colours. Broad acres these of the last crop, the crop of leaves; a thousand thousand quarters, the broad earth will be their barn. A warm red lies on the hill-side above the woods, as if the red dawn stayed there through the day; it is the heath and heather seeds; and higher still, a pale yellow fills the larches. The whole of the great hill glows with colour under the short hours of the October sun; and overhead, where the pine-cones hang, the sky is of the deepest azure. The conflagration of the woods burning luminously crowds into those short hours a brilliance the slow summer does not know.

The frosts and mists and battering rains that follow in quick succession after the equinox, the chill winds that creep about the fields, have ceased a little while, and there is a pleasant sound in the fir trees. Everything is not gone yet. In the lanes that lead down to the 'shaws' in the dells, the 'gills,' as these wooded depths are called, buckler ferns, green, fresh, and elegantly fashioned, remain under the shelter of the hazel-lined banks. From the tops of the ash wands, where the linnets so lately sang, coming up from the stubble, the darkened leaves have been blown, and their much-divided branches stand bare like outstretched fingers. Black-spotted sycamore leaves are down, but the moss grows thick and deeply green; and the trumpets of the lichen seem to be larger, now they are moist, than when they were dry under the summer heat. Here is herb Robert in flower--its leaves are scarlet; a leaf of St. John's-wort, too, has become scarlet; the bramble leaves are many shades of crimson; one plant of tormentil has turned yellow. Furze bushes, grown taller since the spring, bear a second bloom, but not perhaps so golden as the first. It is the true furze, and not the lesser gorse; it is covered with half-opened buds; and it is clear, if the short hours of sun would but lengthen, the whole gorse hedge would become aglow again. Our trees, too, that roll up their buds so tightly, like a dragoon's cloak, would open them again at Christmas; and the sticky horse-chestnut would send forth its long ears of leaves for New Year's Day. They would all come out in leaf again if we had but a little more sun; they are quite ready for a second summer.
Brown lie the acorns, yellow where they were fixed in their cups; two of these cups seem almost as large as the great acorns from abroad. A red dead-nettle, a mauve thistle, white and pink bramble flowers, a white strawberry, a little yellow tormentil, a broad yellow dandelion, narrow hawkweeds, and blue scabious, are all in flower in the lane. Others are scattered on the mounds and in the meads adjoining, where may be collected some heath still in bloom, prunella, hypericum, white yarrow, some heads of red clover, some beautiful buttercups, three bits of blue veronica, wild chamomile, tall yellowwood, pink centaury, succory, dock cress, daisies, fleabane, knapweed, and delicate blue harebells. Two York roses flower on the hedge: altogether, twenty-six flowers, a large bouquet for October 19, gathered, too, in a hilly country.
Besides these, note the broad hedge-parsley leaves, tunnelled by leaf-miners; bright masses of haws gleaming in the sun; scarlet hips; great brown cones fallen from the spruce firs; black heart-shaped bindweed leaves here, and buff bryony leaves yonder; green and scarlet berries of white bryony hanging thickly on bines from which the leaves have withered; and bunches of grass, half yellow and half green, along the mound. Now that the leaves have been brushed from the beech saplings you may see how the leading stem rises in a curious wavy line; some of the leaves lie at the foot, washed in white dew, that stays in the shade all day; the wetness of the dew makes the brownish red of the leaf show clear and bright. One leaf falls in the stillness of the air slowly, as if let down by a cord of gossamer gently, and not as a stone falls--fate delayed to the last. A moth adheres to a bough, his wings half open, like a short brown cloak flung over his shoulders. Pointed leaves, some drooping, some horizontal, some fluttering slightly, still stay on the tall willow wands, like bannerets on the knights' lances, much torn in the late battle of the winds. There is a shower from a clear sky under the trees in the forest; brown acorns rattling as they fall, and rich coloured Spanish chestnuts thumping the sward, and sometimes striking you as you pass under; they lie on the ground in pocketfuls. Specks of brilliant scarlet dot the grass like some bright berries blown from the bushes; but on stooping to pick them, they are found to be the heads of a fungus. Near by lies a black magpie's feather, spotted with round dots of white.........
The short hours shorten, and the leaf-crop is gathered to the great barn of the earth; the oaks alone, more tenacious, retain their leaves, that have now become a colour like new leather. It is too brown for buff--it is more like fresh harness. The berries are red on the holly bushes and holly trees that grow, whole copses of them, on the forest slopes--'the Great Rough;' the half-wild sheep have polished the stems of these holly trees till they shine, by rubbing their fleeces against them. The farmers have been drying their damp wheat in the oast-houses over charcoal fires, and wages are lowered, and men discharged. Vast loads of brambles and thorns, dead firs, useless hop-poles and hop-bines, and gorse are drawn together for the great bonfire on the green. The 5th of November bonfires are still vital institutions, and from the top of the hill you may see them burning in all directions, as if an enemy had set fire to the hamlets.

Deliberate decay?

Is Swindon Borough Council deliberately neglecting Coate Farm that houses the Richard Jefferies Museum?

It would appear to be so.

There is no apparent attempt made to look after the house and grounds let alone honour the home and name of this influential and well-respected writer.
With proposed major development on the doorstep, is Swindon Borough Council hoping to sell off the house and grounds for more?
Not over our dead bodies!

Monday, October 24, 2005

On the Downs

'The wind blows, and declares that the mind has capacity for more than has ever yet been brought to it. The wind is wide, and blows not only here, but along the whole range of hills - the hills are not broad enough for it; nor is the sea - it comes across the ocean and spreads itself whither it will. Though invisible, it is material, and yet it knows no limit. As the wind to the fixed boulder lying deep in the sward, so is the immaterial mind to the wind. There is capacity in it for more than has ever yet been placed before it. No system, no philosophy yet organized in logical sequence satisfies the inmost depth - fills and fully occupies the well of thought. Read the system and with the last word it is over - the mind passes on and requires more...

The Downs are lit with sunlight - the night will cover them presently - but the mind will sigh as eagerly for these things as in the glory of day. Sooner or later there will surely come an opening in the clouds, and a broad beam of light will descend. A new thought scarcely arrives in a thousand years, but the sweet wind is always here, providing breath for the physical man. Let hope and faith remain, like the air, always, so that the soul may live. That such a higher thought may come is the desire - the prayer which springs on viewing the blue hill line, the sea, the flower...

From the blue hill lines, from the dark copses on the ridges, the shadows in the combes, from the apple-sweet wind and rising grasses, from the leaf issuing out of the bud to question the sun - there comes from all of these an influence which forces the heart to lift itself in earnest and purest desire.
The soul knows itself, and would live its own life.'
Richard Jefferies, 'On the Downs', The Hills and the Vale

the music of water

'No one else seems to have seen the sparkle on the brook, or heard the music at the hatch, or to have felt back through the centuries... Perhaps after all I was mistaken, and there never was any such place or any such meadows, and I was never there.'

Richard Jefferies
'My Old Village', Field and Hedgerow

Monday, October 03, 2005

Power of nature

Richard Jefferies

Tom and I have returned from a holiday in Dorset where much pride of place is given to local writers. Thomas Hardy was undoubtedly influenced by Richard Jefferies. T E Lawrence's [Lawrence of Arabia] retreat at Clouds Hill had Jefferies' books displayed on the shelves. John Fowles has gone so far as to sign the Save Coate petition.
Literary Dorset is a real tourist attraction.
Influenced by the natural beauty around his Coate home, Richard Jefferies wrote in 'Wild Flowers':

"If we had never before looked upon the earth, but suddenly came to it man or woman grown, set down in the midst of a summer mead, would it not seem to us a radiant vision? The hues, the shapes, the song and life of birds, above all the sunlight, the breath of heaven, resting on it; the mind would be filled with its glory unable to grasp it, hardly believing that such things could be mere matter ... too beautiful to be long watched lest it should fade away."

Coate was very special then as it is to those of us now who see with Jefferies eyes. Let it be a literary attraction for tourists who want to marvel at the images that created such passionate prose.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Jessie Baden's home

This is Day House farm. It is a Grade 2 listed building and the former home of Jessie Baden who married Richard Jefferies.
It seems to be Mark's home in 'Bevis' and his 'prison' when he is not allowed to go out and play with his friends.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Coate Water nature reserve

This is part of the nature reserve at Coate Water. It was created about 35 years ago to act as a flood storage area for the main lake.
It was the first local nature to be designated in Wiltshire and it forms part of Coate Water Site of Special Scientific Interest.

The nature reserve is not open to the public although bird-watches can obtain a permit to access the bird hides. It supports a large heronry and many of the breeding birds are on the endangered species list. Whilst the reed beds aren't extensive enough to support breeding bittern, they visit the nature reserve every year, much to the delight of bird spotters who rarely get to see this secretive bird.

Another welcome return to the nature reserve is the otter. Fifteen species of dragon-fly have been recorded and four species of bat swoop over the lake to feed.
Part of our vision is to create an extended reed bed into the field that floods next to the nature reserve.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Jefferies' favourite view

Liddington Hill was a favoured haunt of Richard Jefferies. He regularly walked there to get away from people. The experience uplifted his soul as described in the opening page of 'The Story of My Heart', his autobiography.

Now the views are scarred by Swindon's expansion - not least of all the new hospital to the right of the picture. Coate Water is still visible from the hill whilst the fields in the foothills to the Downs still form a grand setting for the town.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Flower rich hay meadow

Part of our vision for Jefferies Land would be to create flower rich hay meadows that would be cut for hay after the seeds have shed and then grazed by sheep, cows or horses.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Mighty oak

One of over 170 trees with a Tree Preservation Order on Jefferies Land.
Some oaks date back to the 17th century.
The oak can be home to 240 species of insect.
Trees help you get better. A survey showed that patients with a view of trees left hospital 20 per cent earlier that those who didn't.

Sunday, September 18, 2005


- 'Jefferies Land' Conservation Trust
New conservation trust leaps into action to protect local literary landmark
The newly formed 'Jefferies Land Conservation Trust' has written to English Heritage requesting that the government's protector of historic monuments might place a preservation order on a milestone, opposite the old Coate Cottages. The old stone marker was immortalised in Richard Jefferies' 'Meadow Thoughts', published in 1884 in the book, "The Life of the Fields".
The Trust is concerned that this literary landmark might be removed or damaged as it falls within the proposed development area of Coate.
The opening lines of 'Meadow Thoughts' read:
"The old house stood by the silent country road, secluded by many a long,long mile, and yet again secluded within the great walls of the garden.Often and often I rambled up to the milestone which stood under an oak, to look at the chipped inscription low down--'To London, 79 Miles.' So faraway, you see, that the very inscription was cut at the foot of the stone, since no one would be likely to want that information. It was half hidden bydocks and nettles, despised and unnoticed."
'Meadow Thoughts' inspired Reginald Arkell, another writer, to seek out the countryside that Jefferies brought alive. Arkell's clue was that he was looking for somewhere "79 miles from London". In his book about Jefferies published in 1933, he records how his investigations led him to Coate and to the famous milestone.The 'old house' is now Jefferies Museum.
Whilst the oak has disappeared the milestone can still be seen along with the nettles alongside the original Coate lane that now runs south of the dual carriageway A4259, MarlboroughRoad.
Today the milestone still stands upright bearing the chipped inscription 'To London 79 miles'. The stone is about 41 inches high and it also displays the mileages to other towns although the inscriptions are not so clear. 'To Swindon 2 miles', 'To Hungerford 14 miles', 'To Marlborough --- miles' andthere is one other illegible place name with just a '9' visible.
A spokesperson for Trust said:
"This milestone was old in Jefferies' time. To still be able to see the stone and read theinscription mentioned in his book adds extra delight. This is just anotherreason, on top of the thousands that people have expressed already, to Save Coate from the developers".

Saturday, September 17, 2005

New conservation trust is born


'Jefferies Land' Conservation Trust

12 September 2005

New conservation trust is born

The Save Coate coalition is backing the launch of a new conservation trustin a bid to propose an alternative use for the countryside east and south ofCoate Water Country Park.

The trust is adopting the name, the 'Jefferies Land' Conservation Trust, in honour of the Coate born Victorian author, Richard Jefferies who lived from1848 to 1887.

The Trust's long-term vision for the area would place Swindon squarely onthe map as a literary heritage site, as a place for visitors to enjoy aspecial rural climate, and as a centre for study of the environment and historic landscapes.

The group hopes to create extensive new habitats thatlink up the nature reserves at Coate Water, Day House Copse and BurderopWoods and ensure that the open views between the country park and Liddington Hill are protected forever from development. Given access to existing buildings, the Trust aspires to open study centres to focus on literary landscapes as an inspiration to British writers and to provide educational opportunities for local people to appreciate nature, art and the rich history of the area.

A spokesperson for the Trust said:

"In his books, Jefferies immortalised every plant and creature existing inthe Coate area - nothing escaped his keen eye. As England's foremost natureand countryside writer, he must be turning in his grave at the latest threatto build on his beloved homeland. We believe that Jefferies would approve ofour vision for the area and that we will get the support of the tens of thousands of local people who have backed the Save Coate petition."