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."