Sunday, September 18, 2005
ACTION TO PROTECT LITERARY LANDMARK
- '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".