Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Annual Report and Winter Newsletter


and Winter Newsletter

The objects of the Jefferies Land Conservation Trust [JLCT] shall be to promote, for the benefit of the public, the conservation and improvement of the physical and natural environment of Jefferies Land near Swindon and to advance the education of the public in the study of literary landscapes [with particular reference to the role played by Richard Jefferies] and environmentally sustainable lifestyles.

The JLCT was founded on 13 September 2005. A constitution was formally adopted on 10 December 2005 when five Trustees were also appointed. The organisation then registered as a charity [Number 1112836], for gift-aid and as an Environmental Body.

This Annual Report has been put together by the Trustees. The accounts cover the period from 13 September 2005 to 30 November 2006 that includes the initial months when the Trust was managed by a Steering Committee. There is a summary of the Annual Accounts at the end of the report and the agenda for the Annual General Meeting that will be held on 27th January 2007.

To promote the most environmentally sustainable use of the countryside between Coate Water, the M4 motorway, the Great Western Hospital and the Marlborough Downs that adds value to the ecological, literary, educational, recreational and historic quality of the landscape.

The following Trustees were appointed to serve the JLCT at the first Special General Meeting held on 10 December 2005.
Chairman Alan Haywood
Secretary Jean Saunders
Treasurer Sue Birley
Marilyn Beale
Simon Bridewell

The contact details are provided on the back page.

Message from the Chairman

This is the first annual report of the JLCT. It has been somewhat quiet with regard to the Save Coate! campaign, until now. There has been no formal feedback from Swindon Borough Council about the Trust’s proposed alternative use of the land in question. I posed questions on behalf of the Trust to Swindon Borough Council’s cabinet on 17 January 2005, partly to ascertain whether any councillors had read our report. The leader’s response, loosely interpreted, was that we had a ‘pie-in-the-sky’ vision and where would we get the money to buy the land? A minor detail! Whilst our ultimate dream was to purchase the proposed development land next to Coate Water and put it into Trust, the Lottery Heritage Fund would not entertain such a proposition. At the same time, the land-owners affected had nearly all entered into legal agreements with either Redrow Homes or Persimmon Homes to sell their land to the housing developers in the event of planning consent being gained.

So we decided to focus our efforts on land where we might make a difference – hence all the activity related to Richard Jefferies’ birthplace and home at Coate that abuts the proposed development area. The gardens were neglected and unloved, but the Trust has changed all that.

The months have whisked past and the first Annual General Meeting is now approaching. It will be held at the Jefferies Museum on Saturday 24th January 2007 at 11am. This will be an opportunity to see the work in progress and to discuss the latest developers’ plans for Coate and what we should do about them. Please come along and support the Trust.

Alan Hayward
Honorary Chairman
Trustees’ Report

We have succeeded in carrying out nearly all of the proposals for future work outlined on page 9 of this report apart from supporting the Ecobash. More than that, many members have been undertaking “extreme gardening”, as Simon Bridewell described it, turning the grounds of the Richard Jefferies museum into a more attractive place for both visitors and for wildlife. As the Museum has attracted a record number of visitors this year, the improvements have been noticed, if not appreciated, by Swindon Borough Council, the owners of the property. On the other hand, the Richard Jefferies Society, who provide the volunteers to open the Museum, is extremely grateful for the improvements. Their volunteers are no longer embarrassed to show visitors around the gardens even though there is much work still to be done. We missed out on a bid for substantial funds to restore out-buildings and the gardens because of Swindon Borough Council’s lack of support. Not only was this extremely disappointing it also involved a lot of hard work and time.

Currently, membership of the Trust stands at 74 subscriptions representing thousands of people. This is made up of 19 family memberships, 8 organisations/Parish Councils and 47 individuals. Two thirds of the membership live local to the Swindon area. The remaining third are drawn from all around the country and the globe.

The Save Coate campaign
There is still no planning consent to build 1800 houses, offices and a university campus next to Coate Water Site of Special Scientific Interest. The planning application submitted in April 2005 by the Swindon Gateway Consortium [Redrow Homes, Persimmon Homes, University of Bath and the Swindon & Marlborough NHS Trust] is still sitting on Swindon Borough Council’s desk. In the meantime, an extensive archaeological study of the proposed Coate development area has been undertaken by the developers. Extensive, because there is so much good archaeology to be found ranging from Bronze Age to Roman to Medieval and with tales of a World War II bomb landing on Day House farm and creating a massive crater in the fields, who knows what might be found?
Just in time to make this newsletter, the developers announced that they were proposing an increase in buffer size of 40%. However, this figure masked the real proposal. The picture on the front cover of the newsletter is the developers’ indicative master plan published in November 2006. Those of you who saw the September 2004 plan will note that there is virtually no difference apart from an increased buffer south of Coate Water. As this area was intended for the university playing fields, this inclusion is of no great significance but it should help protect, what is thought to be, the site of a Neolithic settlement. The green hatched areas on the map also have major archaeological features – the developers aren’t giving away anything there either. Evidently exhibitions of the new plans will be held in Swindon in the New Year and the new planning application will appear soon after. Watch this space!

‘Coate and Richard Jefferies’ pamphlet
The report written by John Chandler has been distributed far and wide. It has been used by the Trust and the Richard Jefferies Society to argue the case for giving special protection to the literary landscape associated with Jefferies’ writing. So far this has fallen on deaf ears both at local and national planning law level.

Works in Richard Jefferies’ Gardens
What was an un-negotiable overgrowth of brambles and nettles is now a place to soak up the atmosphere of the gardens and see nature return. There are a couple of before and after pictures on page 12. Whilst Richard Jefferies hated to see nature tamed and was not averse to the odd bramble or two, even he would have despised the lack of biodiversity in his beloved gardens and orchards. So many people have given up their free time to dig and prune, plant and weed that if you were to add up all the hours this year spent gardening, it would amount to something like one person working in the grounds full-time. A special thanks must go to Peter Reuby who has uncovered paths that have been buried for years and has left most of his gardening tools at the Museum. A man seen wearing shorts and sporting a scythe escaped being locked up when seen travelling on a Thamesdown Transport bus from Parks to Coate! The numerous work-parties that have helped out include Nationwide Building Society staff, TWIGS [therapeutic work in gardens] and Wiltshire Wildlife Trust who have given the restoration work a massive boost. So many Trust members have worked over and above the call of duty that include Carmela Masi, Steve Nethercot, Brian Burrows, Kate Brailsford, Simon Bridewell, Sue and David Birley, John Webb, Margaret Fryer, Sam and Jason Reeves, Alan Hayward, Jean Saunders and Dawn Manser and daughters. Many have raided their own gardens to bring plants and it is thanks to Carmela that we received a £500 grant from Royal Mail to buy flowers, shrubs and trees for the gardens. We now have two garden benches as well, even though we have all been too busy to sit around and use them!

The summer newsletter provided information about the Trust’s bid to the Lottery Heritage Fund and Biffawaste to get a substantial grant to restore some major features in the grounds of the museum. Despite enthusiasm to support the project by both funding bodies, neither was able to offer a grant. The main reason given was the lack of support by Swindon Borough Council. Whilst missing out on funding was extremely disappointing, much of the work that needed to be carried out in the gardens has been achieved by volunteers. The Trust even succeeded in getting listed building consent to restore the walls, fences, paths and out-buildings. This permission will not go to waste.

There are grave concerns that Swindon Borough Council would prefer the profile of the museum not to be raised. Does the Council just view the museum and grounds as a potential development asset? With the recent news that Lower Shaw Farm, a fantastic educational resource in west Swindon, is to be sold off by the Council for housing development, our misgivings may well have a strong basis.

Whilst the Council jumps up and down at any suggestion that Swindon is a cultural desert, it does nothing to allay the criticism.


This is the title of a little book compiled by J Lee Osborn of Liddington in October 1937. It seems that even then local people were up in arms about the destruction of countryside and great buildings around Swindon, partly “to widen the road for a few yards in order to facilitate the speed of motorists who have no time to spare”, according to Mr Osborn. The chapters of the book were gathered up “as a souvenir and a message, probably final, to many friends, greatly valued, old and new, near and far… Several of these chapters have appeared in the Wilts and Gloucestershire Standard.” In the foreword, Mr Osborn writes:

“To adopt a too familiar phrase, a trough of low pressure is extending over the British Isles. Much of the art, literature, music, architecture of to-day— especially architecture, has become debased, unlovely, meretricious, vulgarised; manners, too frequently, ungracious and uncouth. What has hitherto been deemed sacred and beautiful is derided, defaced, destroyed.”

The ‘fragment’ in the book referring to Richard Jefferies reads as follows:

Any who have learnt to know and delight in the writings of Jefferies and who have occasion to travel along the Great Western Railway, might do worse sometime than break their journey at Swindon for two or three hours, take the bus up to Old Swindon, and run on to Coate, if time permit to Chiseldon as well, and see for themselves this glorious " Jefferies Country," to most people a terra incognita. They will see some of the finest landscape and downland that even England has to show.

This was written before the nature reserve at Coate Water was created as a flood area for the main lake to the south-east. I wonder if Mr Osborn lived to see it? What is for sure is that he would be the first to line up to fight the Coate development plans.

Richard Jefferies Society

The Society was founded in 1950 and has about 300 members around the world. Most of their activities are based in Swindon, although much of Richard Jefferies’ best writing was undertaken elsewhere during his short life. However his heart was always at Coate. Whilst the JLCT does not organise regular public meetings, the Society’s meetings are open to the public. Below is the diary of meetings for 2007 to which you are invited to attend. More information from Jean Saunders.

Saturday 3 March* Joint meeting with the Friends of Alfred Williams. Select an appropriate short extract [no longer than 5 minutes] for reading or just come along and listen.

Saturday 14 April* The Man on the Hill The showing of a two-part documentary film made by HTV in 1987 as part of the Jefferies’ centenary celebrations. Readings by Paul Scofield.

Saturday 12 May* The Weasel’s Story a walking story-telling event by Hilda Sheehan adapted from Wood Magic and in partnership with the Swindon Literary Festival event. Please book a place in advance as numbers are limited.

Saturday 28 July STUDY DAY. ‘Jefferies and children’s literature’. 10.30am to 4.30pm. Jefferies Museum.

Saturday 27th October Birthday Lecture. Details in the next newsletter.

Saturday 1 December* Reading of Paul Casimir’s [a Swindon librarian] paper entitled 'Richard Jefferies and Other Writers' and was given in February 1956.

*Meetings begin at 2.00pm in the Jefferies Museum, Marlborough Road, Swindon. See directions and map on page 7. There is no charge. The Museum will be open from 1.00pm on meeting days for visitors to explore.

The Museum is also open on the second Wednesday of the month throughout the year from 10am to 4pm as well as the usual Sunday arrangements from May to September [First and third Sundays from 2-5pm]. The “Footsteps” writers’ workshop is also held on the same Wednesdays.


Saturday 27th January 2007 commencing at 11am
Richard Jefferies Museum, Marlborough Road, Coate.

1. Welcome and apologies

2. Minutes of special meeting dated 10 December 2005 [see page 8]

3. Matters arising

4. Annual Report 2006

5. Treasurer’s Report [see page 10 ]

6. Appointment of Trustees

7. The Save Coate! campaign

8. Any Other Business

1pm Meeting ends

Opportunity to look around the Museum and grounds.

The Trustees who have held office for the last year are willing to stand again but additional nominations will be welcome. Any motions or resolutions for debate should be sent to the Hon. Sec. (Jean Saunders) before 3rd January, as should nominations for Trustees. Both should be proposed and seconded.
The entrance to the Jefferies’ Museum is opposite the petrol station and next to the Sun Inn public house at Coate Water roundabout. Car-parking is free at Coate Water Country Park – only 3 minutes walk away.
From Swindon town centre, there are several bus services that stop next to Coate roundabout. These include: Monday to Saturday - daytime: Numbers 10, 12, 13, 14 and 21. Monday to Saturday - evenings: Numbers 12, 13 and 14.

Minutes of the Special General meeting of the Jefferies Land Conservation Trust held at the Community Crossroads, Faringdon Road, Swindon on Saturday 10 December 2005

PRESENT: Marilyn Beale, Sue Birley, Keith Brain, Simon Bridewell, Margaret Fryer, Alan Hayward, Fay Le Coyte [part of meeting], Sandra Matthews, Jean Saunders and Gordon Wilson [representing Liddington Parish Council].
Alan Hayward was in the Chair and welcomed members to this first special meeting of the Trust. Introductions were made.
Apologies were given in respect of Roger Chacksfield, Patrick Esmonde, Philip Greig, Charmian Spickernell, Graham Walker and Martin Wicks.
a. Planning Inspector’s report: Swindon Local Plan 2011 inquiry. Jean Saunders highlighted the main recommendations made by the inspector related to Jefferies Land that would provide the Trust with scope to achieve its objectives to protect and enhance key features in the landscape and push for the most sympathetic design where development takes place.
b. Launch of the A5 pamphlets. The Trust had just produced two reports. The first “Coate and Richard Jefferies” by John Chandler provided information from Jefferies works relevant to the area and a history of Coate around 1880. The second pamphlet written by Trust members, “An alternative use for Jefferies Land” described the environmental qualities of the area and how the Trust might manage the area for the benefit of wildlife and local people. The pamphlets had been distributed to the media, Swindon Borough Council members, Anne Snelgrove MP and the National Trust. Further distribution of the Chandler pamphlet was discussed through schools, libraries and other events.
c. Jefferies milestone. English Heritage will revisit the Grade II listed building located along the old Coate lane in order to update the designation as proposed by the Trust in order to include reference to Jefferies and his quote in ‘Meadow Thoughts’. Sandra Matthews mentioned a nearby well in a private house that is still subject to legal use by neighbours. Trust to investigate whether it is a building worthy of listing.
d. Membership. The Trust has forty members mostly made up of individual and family members. Four organisations had registered. Funds had been set aside for a new membership leaflet.
e. Internet. A dedicated web site and news page had been set up for the Trust.
4. ACTING TREASURER’S REPORT. Sue Birley had produced an interim report to detail the accounts for the last three months. A dedicated Triodos Deposit Account had been opened in the Trust’s name to deposit funds. No money had been withdrawn from the account. Trust registration fees amounted to £308 and donations £1726.88. Some donations had been ring-fenced for a specific purpose. For example; to pay for the printing of the two A5 pamphlets, the Constitution, future membership leaflets and postage. Total expenditure amounted to £917.08. This included the fee to register the web site, for printing and postage and a small handling fee for the online Paypal account. This left a balance of £1,117.80. All incoming and outgoing transactions had been entered on an Excel spreadsheet. An auditor would be needed to examine the accounts at the end of the financial year. The Trust intends to register with Gift Aid and will approach members to seek authority to recover income tax paid on their individual contributions.
5. ADOPTION OF THE CONSTITUTION. Having already placed a first and final draft constitution before members during the consultation stages, along with a mission and proposed policy statement, no member raised any further matters for discussion. The document was drawn from a model recommended by the Charity Commission. Sue Birley proposed the formal adoption of the draft Constitution, seconded by Simon Bridewell. The motion was carried.

Marilyn Beale, Sue Birley, Simon Bridewell, Alan Hayward and Jean Saunders had been nominated to act as Trustees. The role of Trustees was explained. The Chair invited other members to put their names forward but no others were forthcoming. It was proposed by Marilyn Beale and seconded by Sue Birley that Alan Hayward should be elected Honorary Chairman. This motion was carried. Sandra Matthews proposed and Keith Brain seconded that Jean Saunders should be nominated Honorary Secretary. This was carried. Marilyn Beale proposed Sue Birley as Honorary Treasurer, seconded by Gordon Wilson; it was carried. Jean Saunders proposed Simon Bridewell as a Trustee, seconded by Alan Hayward; it was carried. Marilyn Beale was proposed as a Trustee by Sue Birley seconded by Sandra Matthews. It was carried. All Trustees would serve until the first Annual General Meeting that would be held in a years time.
John Stretton had been approached and had agreed to examine the accounts at the end of the financial year, accepted as 30 November 2006. Jean Saunders proposed that John be elected to serve next year. Alan Hayward seconded the proposal. It was carried.
It was proposed by Alan Hayward and seconded by Keith Brain that a deposit account should be opened with Triodos Bank in the name of the Trust. This was carried. It was moved by Marilyn Beale that the Honorary Trustees should all act as signatories to authorise transactions from the bank and that any two signatures would be required. This motion was seconded by Gordon Wilson and carried. As Jean Saunders and Sue Birley were already registered with Triodos to operate the Trust’s opening account, the bank would be provided with a copy of the new rules, list of Trustees’ names and a request to add Alan Hayward as a third signatory.
The Trustees signed the Constitution and a declaration that each would act in accordance with Charity Commission’s guidelines. It was approved that an application would be made to register the Trust with the Charity Commission.
Main proposals for future work
a) Growing the membership This would now be a priority for the Trust by firstly approaching like-minded community groups along with councillors and nearby parish councils and wards. Selected corporate bodies in Swindon would also be approached. Alan agreed to invite all Borough Councillors and Swindon’s MPs to join the Trust.
b) Education and promotion The Chandler report would be further promoted through schools, colleges and libraries. The Trust would provide speakers as appropriate.
c) Eco-bash Support the Eco-bash in April 2006 and similar events. Lynn Forrester also manages a Quality of Life awards scheme; explore opportunities for funding events or educational materials through the award.
d) Grants Discussions about potential grant sources were explored such as the Heritage Lottery Fund and local grants. Marilyn receives news of potential grants. Goal for Trust: to purchase Coate Water buffer land to put into conservation trust and focus on best use of Coate Museum and grounds that are suffering from neglect.
e) Planning process To respond to any planning matter related to Jefferies Land in order to secure as much nature reserve and landscape value as possible and to push for best environmental and sympathetic design.

The meeting ended at 2.15pm. Jean Saunders,
Hon. Sec. 11/12/2005

Treasurer's Report for year ended 30 November 2006

This is the first official statement of our accounts and extends beyond the year to include a period of over 3 months grace when the Trust was in the process of growing the membership but had not adopted a formal constitution. The figures set out below show the Receipts and Payments from August 2005 to 30 November 2006.

Thanks to members, who have largely met their own out-of-pocket expenses incurred on behalf of the Trust, the expenses do not reflect the real expenditure of the organisation. In addition to this, some generous gifts have been donated to the Trust that have paid directly for the printing of pamphlets and leaflets.

The Trust originally opened a deposit account with Triodos Bank on the basis that any transactions require the authorisation of two trustees out of three registered to sign. The account has been free of charge to use but withdrawals can only be authorised through BACs whereby payments are made direct to the payees bank account. This has been useful for paying in monies but for the purchase of goods, it is not practical. I would advise the setting up of a current account with an approved Bank at the earliest convenience. No interest was received on the sums deposited in the account.

The expense of £100 paid to ENTRUST was in order to register as an Environmental Body that can acquire funding under the Landfill Tax Credit Scheme. Regrettably the Trust has been unsuccessful so far in acquiring funding from this source.

Royal Mail awarded £500 to the Trust in order to purchase plants and garden materials for the grounds of the Richard Jefferies’ Museum. The sum does not appear on the balance sheet as the grant was given retrospectively on the production of receipts whilst individual members paid for the initial purchases and were reimbursed later. Again this reflected the difficulties of using our current banking arrangements with Triodos.

The Gift-Aid scheme, whereby the Trust is able to re-claim the income tax paid at basic rate to the Trust for membership fees and donations, will soon add £559.69 to the funds. It is anticipated that the Inland Revenue will pay this amount into the bank account soon.

The sums currently held in the Triodos Bank account amount to £1,524 but this sum includes some membership fees for 2007 that have been paid through Paypal whilst £12.50 is owing to the Secretary for expenses incurred and not yet claimed. There were no other debts due to the Trust at 30 November 2006.

The expenses and receipts are being audited by John Stretton even though this is neither a constitutional nor Charity Commission requirement . His findings will be reported to the AGM.

Sue Birley
Honorary Treasurer

Monday, July 24, 2006

Council scupper bid for funds to improve Jefferies Museum



Council scupper bid for funds to improve Jefferies Museum

Efforts to raise money from the Heritage Lottery Fund, to restore the grounds and out-buildings of the Richard Jefferies Museum at Coate, have been dealt a mighty blow through lack of support and commitment to the project by Swindon Borough Council.

The Jefferies Land Conservation Trust submitted a bid for funding in May after an officer from the national lottery body had visited the Museum and expressed delight at the proposals. Plans included restoring the little dairy, the pig-sties and barn as well as planting up the grounds with wild-life friendly flowers, trees and shrubs.

As Swindon Borough Council own the house, where nature writer Richard Jefferies [1848-1887] was born and raised, part of the requirement for funding depended on the Trust securing a 15 year lease and an access agreement. The council has been aware of this since March but no progress has been made to secure any written support for the proposals.

Jean Saunders, Secretary of the Trust said:

"We are bitterly disappointed to miss out on the funding but we will try again. The Museum has been transformed since volunteers have been working in the grounds. Apart from a grant of £500 from Royal Mail to buy plants, people have been willing to dip into their own pockets and give up their free time to beautify the place."

"I don't get it. The Council is quick to react to accusations that Swindon is a cultural desert. Yet on their doorstep they own a charming little Museum that was the home of one of England's finest nature writers but they won't spend a penny on it and do nothing to assist those who are prepared to help."

The Museum, on the corner of Day House Lane and the Marlborough Road at Coate, is opened by the Richard Jefferies Society on the first and third Sundays of the month between 2-5pm until the end of September and the second Wednesday of the month from 10am-4pm throughout the year.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006


The last six months in a nut-shell – pain, gain and rain…

It seems that since our official inauguration last December, time has been taken up with some tedious jobs that had to be done. The Jefferies Land Conservation Trust [JLCT] has been accepted as a registered charity and as an Environmental Body able to apply for Landfill Tax Credits for approved environmental projects. Also, we have registered for Gift Aid. Many thanks to those of you who have filled in Gift Aid authorisations that will increase your donation’s value by about a quarter. If there is a gift-aid form included with this newsletter, it means that you haven’t filled in a form yet but there is still time to do so! There have been some extremely generous donations made by Members and, all in all, we have not wasted a penny.

We have submitted applications for funding from the Lottery Heritage Fund and from Biffawaste for up to £100,000 with a view to restoring the grounds and out-buildings attached to Richard Jefferies’ birthplace and home at Coate. This project would go someway to meeting our own aims whilst enhancing the environmental, historic and educational potential of the Museum. The application process has included umpteen meetings, books of forms to complete, surveys and a reluctance on the part of Swindon Borough Council [SBC] to help, even though they aren’t interested in doing the work themselves. JLCT lodged a formal complaint about the state of the Museum property that has belonged to SBC since 1926. During this time, the council has pulled down buildings, sold off much of the land to development and attempted to destroy more, albeit that Sir John Betjeman, Spike Milligan et al stepped in with a major national appeal that saved the barn/pig sties and dairy from certain destruction. The pretty little thatched cottage, that has been used to house the caretaker, has been empty for over ten years whilst SBC’s answer to many of the repeated attacks by vandals is just to board up doors and windows. On top of this, for the last 20 years, volunteers from the Richard Jefferies Society have kept the Museum open to the public. They are expected to clean the place in the bargain. If you haven’t ever visited the Museum for a while, you are in for a treat [see enclosed leaflet for more information].

With this history in mind, our application for funding is very much in line with the Richard Jefferies Society’s hopes for the Museum. The aim is to restore the out-buildings to how they might have looked in Jefferies’ time and house appropriate farming equipment to demonstrate their use. The gardens would reflect Jefferies’ passion for nature and restore many of the features flagged up in his writing. Finally a two-year part-time post would be created to ensure that the Museum is opened on a more regular basis and that appropriate workshops can be run related to nature, literature and social history.

It will take until about October before we find out if our bid for funds is successful and assuming that we succeed, we shall need to obtain listed building consent for work on the dairy, barn, walls, paths and fences and an agreement with SBC to provide JLCT with a 15 year lease. The last requirement is likely to be the most difficult but we have already put the wheels in motion to achieve this.

In the meantime, thanks to the assistance of volunteers drawn from both the JLCT and the Richard Jefferies Society, the gardens of the Museum are already taking shape. Whilst brambles and nettles can be good for wildlife, too much of the wrong thing in the wrong place can be regarded as pollution! This was the case at the Jefferies Museum where everything was smothered. Carmela Masi secured a grant from Royal Mail to buy plants and trees worth £500. Now there is colour in the flower beds where there was none before whilst old English varieties of fruit trees have been planted in the orchard.

If anyone can help spend some time gardening or donate plants that the slugs won’t chew up, we would like to hear from you. Alternatively, if you would like to make a specific donation for plants, please contact us at the registered address at the end of the newsletter. The Richard Jefferies Society would also value your assistance with regard to helping out at the Museum. The more volunteers, the more that the Museum can be opened up. Please contact us even if you can only help a little. Remember that wise saying by Edmunde Burke: Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could only do a little.

Simon Bridewell is hoping to engage about 40 volunteers from Nationwide to work in the grounds on a 2-3 day project in the late summer. This will provide a great boost to the project regardless of whether we are successful in our bid for funds.

In the meantime, we can’t thank volunteers enough for all their help so far and for the rain that has assisted in the care of our plants and trees.

The Save Coate campaign.

There has been a bit of a breathing space with regard to the Coate development proposals. Over a year later, the planning application to build nearly 2000 houses, university buildings and business premises next to Coate Water still sits on the planners’ desk. Whilst the principle for development has been accepted by various government planning inspectors, the planning application goes against what the inspectors view as acceptable development of the land. The Swindon Gateway Consortium, made up of Redrow Homes, Persimmon Homes, University of Bath and the Swindon & Marlborough NHS Trust, are expected to withdraw or amend their current outrageous plans that do not provide for adequate protection of Coate Water nature reserve, nor the open countryside views to and from the Downs nor other ecological or historic features, whilst Richard Jefferies is still treated as a nonentity. If English Nature’s buffer is accepted as a minimum for the Coate Water nature reserve, whilst it does not meet our requirements, it might give us some sort of bargaining tool to ensure that this land is managed and protected in order that it enhances the Site of Special Scientific Interest forever and isn’t used as an excuse to expand as soon as the developers run out of space. JLCT has asked that any land provided for buffer use, whether this relates to the three nature reserves in the area, the otter streams, the archaeological features or the views, should be given to JLCT. We have also lodged a formal objection to SBC with regard to their draft planning guidance on seeking developer contributions. The council see development as a means to fund other community facilities in the town. Fair enough, but with regard to their requirements for leisure and cultural facilities, the Jefferies Museum and Coate Water aren’t even mentioned. Keep a close watch on the Save Coate web site www.savecoate.org.uk and the links to keep up to date with campaign news.

Alternative Use of Jefferies Land

The response from councillors with regard to the Trust’s proposal for the alternative use of the Coate development area has been met with stunned silence. There has been no feedback at all and no interest in our proposals. Alan Hayward asked this question to Cabinet on 18th January 2006.

The Jefferies Land Conservation Trust objected to the proposed changes to the Structure Plan related to major development at Coate. The policy conflicted with the Trust's alternative proposals for the area. The Structure Plan Authorities rebutted the objection on the grounds that the document had not been subjected to public consultation. Albeit that the vision has undergone limited consultation and the final copy has been sent to all councillors, we ask whether councillors have read the pamphlet and would they not agree that the proposals contained within the document would offer Swindon a far greater vision for the future of Swindon than that offered by the Swindon Gateway Consortium?
Given that the Structure Plan Authorities did not go through a debate about whether Coate was a suitable location for a university, housing and offices before committing the land to development in the Structure Plan review, are the views of over 26,000 people who have signed a petition in objection to the proposals to be ignored?

Essentially we were told by Councillor Bluh that our vision for the land was commendable, but it was pie-in-the-sky. As the only obstruction is developers’ greed and the University of Bath’s dogmatic stance, we see our proposals as not only practical but vital to the good health of Swindon.


Given that we haven’t had a chance to promote a membership drive, it is good to report that we now have nearly seventy members. Some are local, some national and two members live in Canada. The John Chandler report on Coate and Richard Jefferies that JLCT paid to have printed has been widely circulated and has been well-received. Copies can be picked up from the Jefferies’ Museum and the Coate Water Rangers’ centre along with membership forms.

Thanks to Patrick Esmonde in Canada, the JLCT has forged a relationship with the Biennial John Burroughs Nature Writing Conference held at the Oneonta Campus of the State University of New York. The Nature Writing Section of the English Department at Oneonta sponsors these Seminars. John Burroughs (1837-1921) is a renowned American nature writer whose works, like Jefferies, were topographical and linked closely to the landscape of his particular region, i.e. the Catskill Mountain area in mid NY State. Patrick encouraged John Chandler to submit his report to conference. We were delighted to learn that the paper was accepted by conference but, unfortunately, John is not in a position to be able to present it in person.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Grant to plant

The Royal Mail has awarded the Trust a grant of £500 in order to buy flowers, herbs, shrubs, bulbs and fruit trees for planting out in the grounds of Jefferies Museum at Coate.

A work party started the beautifying process on Sunday 23rd April.

Watch this space to see the transformation.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006




An army of metal figurines was found in the gardens of Richard Jefferies’ old house and Museum at Coate on 21 March 2006. It is a mystery how they got there or whether they were left as a tribute to the Victorian writer whose work is still much admired today.

Thirty small figurines, an inch or so in height, of archers and warriors armed with pikes, some on horseback, were discovered behind a Copper Beech tree under leaf mould; each one separately wrapped in a small plastic bag and, almost certainly, left deliberately.

Jean Saunders, secretary of both the Jefferies Land Conservation Trust and the Richard Jefferies Society made the discovery during a litter pick of the grounds. She said:

“The Copper Beech was one of Jefferies’ favourites along with the Mulberry tree nearby. I was partly admiring the trees and the bulbs in flower when I spotted a bit of plastic partly buried in the ground. On closer inspection, I found a small hoard of little bags each containing Roman-looking figures. They are not that old but the steel pins have gone rusty. My gut feeling is that someone made a special pilgrimage to Jefferies’ home and left these figures as a memorial to a much-loved and greatly admired writer.”

Richard Jefferies (1) wrote at least three novels that featured battles. The best known is Bevis , a boys adventure story based around Coate where the local lads have a mock Roman war. A Summer House, that no longer exists but which was next to the Copper Beech [2], was the place where Bevis used “an old chair- the back gone-which did very well for a table” to kneel down and draw his map of the campaign. In After London the main character, Felix, makes a voyage across a lake, based on Coate Water, in a land where people have relapsed into barbarism after London is destroyed by pollution.

The figures are now inside the Museum where visitors can use their own imagination as to how they got there.

The Museum is open by special arrangement by contacting Mrs Saunders on 01793 783040 but the first official opening day is Sunday 7th May between 2pm to 5pm.

Editor’s notes:

(1) Richard Jefferies [1848-1887] lived at the old house at Coate until his late twenties. His works are still much read today. Q.D. Leavis, the leading literary authority, described Jefferies as a ‘many sided genius’. He is cited by historians as an authority upon agriculture and rural life in Victorian England; he is anthologised and discussed in major studies of mysticism; he is known as the author of one of the great novels for boys, as well as the author of several highly original novels for adult readers; and he is recognised as one of the greatest nature writers in the language. The area around is home at Coate has been known for years as ‘Jefferies Land'.

(2) There is a painting available in electronic format of the trees and Summer House as they were in Jefferies' time.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Help save Jefferies Land from Swindon Borough Council


Apologies if you find this briefing difficult to follow. There is no simple way to explain the situation that currently affects Jefferies Land.

You have until 4.30pm on Wednesday April 5th 2006 to send in any representations to Swindon Borough Council’s Forward Planning, FREEPOST SCE5251, Premier House, Station Road, Swindon SN1 1TZ.

  • here
  • to go to the Council's main Local Plan web page if you want to read the documents.

    The form to submit your comments should be available at Wat Tyler House and Premier House. You can download the
  • form
  • as a small pdf file or you can use the Council's
  • online service
  • .

    Each representation made in support or in objection requires the use of a separate form. If you cover all the matters raised in this briefing, you need to obtain about 10 forms.

    For more information read more or e-mail jefferiesland@tiscali.co.uk

    If nothing else, please send in an objection to Modification 45

    Object to Modification No 40

    I am one of nearly 30,000 people who signed the Save Coate petition that states: “We, the undersigned, believe that development of the Coate area will have a devastating impact on wildlife at Coate Water nature reserve. It would desecrate an area that has strong historic, literary and recreational attractions and destroy the last remaining pocket of unspoilt countryside close to Swindon. Coate Water Site of Special Scientific Interest contributes to the very best of the rich variety and abundance of wildlife that makes England's nature special and distinct from any other country in the world. We demand that a one kilometre buffer of land is left undeveloped next to Coate Water. We call upon Swindon Borough Council to say NO to development at Coate.”

    The number of people who have signed our petition has escalated more than twofold and fourfold respectively since the Local Plan Inquiry and the Wiltshire Structure Plan Examination in Public. The Structure Plan Panel expressed dismay that the public had not been listened to as part of the Structure Plan review whilst the Local Plan Inspector believed that his hands were tied to the Structure Plan decision and the support of Swindon Borough Council over choice of site. This makes a mockery of the development plan process.

    I was absolutely clear that the development proposals was not to build on Coate Water Country Park but next to it. However, many people assume that the fields surrounding Coate Water belong to the council and are part of the Country Park; .particularly the Day House Farm field that abuts the northern end of the park. If there was any confusion caused by calling the development area "Coate", this was the reason. To now call the Development Area “Commonhead” causes greater confusion. It is geographically inaccurate. I object to the change of name from Coate to Commonhead – a matter that was NEVER raised as an objection either as part of the Structure or Local Plan process.
    Community Participation is now the buzz word in government. There has been precious little of that in Swindon with regard to the Coate proposals that have been forced upon us. However as the Brighton and Hove City Council versus University of Brighton planning appeal decision indicates, it is never too late for the Council to make amends. If Swindon Borough Council can reject the emerging land-use policy for housing on Martin’s Farm at this late stage in the development plan process when, as far as we are aware, this was not a contentious issue at the emerging Local Plan stage, it has the power to do likewise with regard to the policies that affect Coate. It would be far better to withdraw now than to allow desecration of land that will affect the most popular part of Swindon and its main recreational attraction. Please delete DS3
    I object to changes to criterion [b] that fails to take account of the Inspector’s recommended wording. The Inspector notes in paragraph 5.2 of his report that “Its [the University of Bath] intentions are also to retain its facility at Oakfield”. This statement was echoed at the Wiltshire Structure Plan EIP when the Panel reported in paragraph 5.119 of their report: “We heard from the University of Bath that they are committed to maintaining a presence at the Oakfield site”. As such there is no justification for the LPA to delete the Inspector’s recommendation for policy DS3 at point [b] that states that Oakfield Campus will be retained. This echoes what the University of Bath has said that they want. The Oakfield Campus is now important to the Parks area – local people lost their secondary school with a promise of better-things-to-come by way of the University. Its retention is vital. We ask that the Inspector’s recommended wording for DS3 [b] is retained in full.
    I object to changes to criterion [d]. The planning inspector recommended that 5ha of land should be set aside for hospital expansion. He was informed by the agents for the Swindon & Marlborough NHS Trust that this was all that would be required in the long-term. At the time of the planning application for the hospital at Commonhead, the Trust insisted that the site was large enough to meet their needs – how quickly they were proved wrong despite the public uproar that the hospital would be too small. So why should we now believe the Trust when they say that they will need 5.5ha by 2026? Some hospital expansion would be acceptable given better architecture and height restrictions than currently employed on site. We ask that the Local Planning Authority increases the allocation by 5ha beyond the Inspector’s recommendation to meet the needs of a growing elderly population and a possible town expansion that would add tens of thousands of new houses compared to now.
    I object to proposed modification related to DS3 [i] and request the addition of one word to clarify the Inspector’s use of the word “respect” It is not clear that the policy refers to respecting the rural landscape and open countryside. The Great Western Hospital is now a very visible building from the listed viewpoints identified by the Inspector both within the Country Park and the Downs. Adding the word RURAL after the word RESPECT would clarify that it is the natural rather than the built environment that needs to be respected.
    I object to criterion [j] that does not accord with the Inspector’s recommendation. The policy should include the protection and enhancement of “identified foraging areas” of protected species. The point of Local Plan policy is to identify key areas that should be explored as part of any planning permission consideration. As such foraging areas SHOULD be identified as part of planning policy.

    Object to Modification No 45

    Paragraphs 10.2 to 10.10 of the Inspector’s report goes into great detail about the need to protect the rural landscape and he stresses the importance of keeping Coate Water as a “Country Park and not an urban park” [paragraph 10.6].

    In addition, the Inspector made it very clear [paragraph 10.7] that tree-planting next to the Country Park’s eastern edge, particularly at the northern end, would not be acceptable in mitigation against development. He stressed the importance of the rural open views from Coate Water that would be blotted out with tree planting.

    These recommendations should be reflected in the supporting text of the Plan whilst Appendix 3 requires more description to indicate how rural views will be respected where buildings are allowed.

    The lame description proposed by SBC in modified paragraph 1.16.9 - “A number of walks have views and routes across and around the site, the most important of which should be retained.”- falls far short of what is required.

    Suggest adding, at the very minimum, the Inspector’s wording [paragraph 10.8] that “ any development should be subservient to the views, retaining the visual link between the Park and its rural surroundings and maintaining its rural character… strategic planting does not provide a solution”.

    With reference to the width of buffer proposed by English Nature, to protect and enhance Coate Water Site of Special Scientific Interest, the figures quoted by English Nature, to which the Inspector refers, were their MINIMUM required. Originally English Nature requested a PRECAUTIONARY buffer of 500m at which point they were told to look again by the developers! As such the word “precautionary” should be replaced with MINIMUM in the sentence that reads: English Nature favour a precautionary buffer zone of between 100 and 200 metres in width” etc. whilst the text might refer to English Nature’s 500m precautionary buffer. Ask that the words “250m wide” is added before the “D-shaped field” to clarify English Nature’s minimum requirement for this field.

    It needs repeating that we believe that the buffer around Coate Water should be up to 1km wide in order to protect the literary, landscape, historic, cultural and ecological qualities of the area and we shall continue to say this until we are blue in the face.

    Finally for this section, point out that SBC has failed to take on board the Inspector’s recommendation related to the buffer set out in paragraph 10.18 of his report.

    The Inspector says that “Appendix 3 should be expanded to indicate that the buffer to be established before development commences and how it will be protected and managed”. The Borough Council has only talked about the size of buffer that might be required and not the management of it.

    Say that the Inspector’s requirement MUST be laid out in Appendix 3. Say that a statement should make clear that development may have to be delayed for several years in order to allow buffer planting and enhancement of the habitat to be established before any building work commences in order to benefit protected species. Say that a condition of development should require any buffer land to be given over to the Jefferies Land Conservation Trust as part of the management process.

    Object to Modification 42

    This section is related to the phasing in of any proposed town centre University of Bath [UoB] faculty. Unfortunately the Inspector has agreed with SBC that the UoB should not have to phase in the Arts faculty [or any other town centre stand-alone faculty] to tie in with the development of the Coate campus. This is staggering given the importance attached to the presence of a town centre faculty as part of the Urban Regeneration scheme that has been recognised by the Inspector and the Borough Council as vital. Originally it was proposed that the central faculty should be built before Coate but the developers lobbied to get this criterion deleted. The Borough Council has now couched the policy in terms that the town centre faculty should be “phased for completion by the time the campus at Commonhead is fully developed”. This leaves the question of the Central faculty in the air and in doubt as the Coate campus may never be “fully developed”. The plan to accommodate 10,000 students at the Campus is a long term goal for the UoB. The Planning Inspector suggested that a time delivery for the central faculty should be set as a condition to any planning permission granted for the campus. 5 years is often the period set in planning conditions for things to happen. Suggest that this criterion, [ie a condition to build a central faculty or faculties within a given time frame, say 5 years, of granting planning permission for the Coate campus], should be added to Appendix 3. Say that the words “fully developed” give too much lea-way given SBC’s commitment to the urban regeneration scheme and the importance of the central faculty.

    Object to Modification 54 on grounds of omission of Inspector’s comment in paragraph 10.18

    The Inspector said “that further consideration be given to whether any additional facility beyond the performing arts centre should be located within the town centre without undermining the benefits of focussing activity on the main campus”. SBC has opted to pursue this recommendation with the UoB outside of the Local Plan process. This isn’t good enough. There should be a statement in the Local Plan that refers to an active commitment to look for other University stand-alone facilities in the town centre in the light of the importance of higher education as part of the town centre regeneration scheme and as set down in Regional Planning Guidance for the south west.

    Objection on grounds of omission to Coate development. Inspector’s ref: paragraph 10.11

    There is no mention whatsoever of Richard Jefferies and the importance of the area to him in the emerging local plan apart from using the word “cultural interests” in proposed modification 45 that can be supported. Even the Inspector mentioned Richard Jefferies albeit that he said that Jefferies was no Wordsworth or Hardy. However this is a matter of opinion and open to challenge. His view is not based on any evidence. The importance of Jefferies' literary landscape at Coate has been flagged up yet again recently [Spring 2006] in another national magazine,
  • This England
  • . A recent article by Simon Barnes, that appeared in the Times on 7 January 2006 also echoed the same sentiments that Jefferies literary landscape must be protected because of his importance as a topographical writer. It would appear that everyone appreciates Jefferies apart from planners and Swindon Borough Council.

    Say that you want the Local Plan Inquiry to be re-opened to look at the impact of development on what is left of Jefferies Land that has already suffered as a result of creeping development of Coate farm. Say that the Jefferies' importance has not been investigated by Swindon Borough Council or the developers interested in the site and that the land has not been subject to the same degree of scrutiny as other potential constraints.

    Ask that Appendix 3 should list a criteria that any Environmental Impact Assessment should study the impact of development on the literary quality of the landscape with reference to Richard Jefferies and how any adverse affects might be mitigated. State that no study to this effect has been conducted by the Borough Council or the developers and that, in view of the international importance of this writer, this is a serious failing of the entire Local Plan policy related to the Coate development.


    Objection to modification 51; Urban Inset map that identifies 3 new areas for development along Day House Lane.

    The changes proposed to add three hatched areas for inclusion under policy DS3 are said to be the result of the Inspector’s recommendation to support PANs 467, 468 and 469. As these Borough Council changes were never subject to public consultation or made known to the general public, I have no idea what was proposed but object to the changes now. The areas that would be included under the Coate development policy cover listed buildings [the out-buildings] at Day House Farm and at Badbury Wick. It includes Medieval settlement land at Badbury Wick that should be covered by ENV5 but isn’t. Finally it includes the Scheduled Ancient Monument of the Neolithic Stone Circle that IS protected by ENV5! . These areas are not subject to negotiation and cannot be developed regardless of whether the house-builders now own the land. These areas need to be excluded from policy DS3 to protect their archaeological, architectural and historic importance.
    And as a postscript, given again that we are totally opposed to all this, it is difficult to support any of the proposed modifications related to Coate even though, if the development goes ahead, the modifications may need supporting in their own right.

    So if you can grit your teeth, you might support the following. You don’t have to give a reason for supporting the modification.

    Modification 44 ties in any employment use of land to be linked to the university. The developers don’t like this modification so they will object.

    Modification 45 supports protecting environmental interests of the land and buffers and “historic and cultural interests at various locations within the site.” This can be looked at as an opportunity to flag up Jefferies’ interests.

    Modification 46 supports the need for a thorough Environmental Impact Assessment of the proposals and the provision of green corridors etc.

    Modification 50 supports buffer zones of at least 30m for County Wildlife Sites and at least 10m to water courses. The County Wildlife Sites are Day House Copse and Burderop Wood North. There is also the Nature reserve at Coate Water but this will be subject to its own wider buffer requirement.

    Modification 52 supports the removal of a field of archaeological importance from development land at Badbury Wick.

    Tuesday, January 31, 2006

    A picture paints a thousand words

    On a bitterly cold day, a dedicated team of nearly 20 volunteers gave up their Sunday to start clearing the brambles and nettles at Coate Farm.

    This old door was found hidden behind the overgrowth.

    Doesn't it say it all?

    Anyone prepared to help return Jefferies' home to its former glory should contact us. More work days are planned.

    Wednesday, January 04, 2006

    30 years - History repeats itself

    Coate Farmhouse and its out-buildings are in a very poor state at the moment. The Trust has lodged a formal complaint with Swindon Borough Council, the owners of the Grade II listed building, asking that restoration is undertaken now.

    There was a similar appeal launched in 1975 by Sir John Betjeman. Mark Daniel's sketch of the farmhouse and outbuildings is illustrated above.


    An appeal by Sir John Betjeman with
    Richard Adams
    Ronald Blythe
    Robert Dougall
    Spike Milligan
    Johnny Morris
    Henry Williamson – Vice-president Richard Jefferies Society

    Coate Farm, near Swindon, where writer Richard Jefferies was born and spent most of his short life, is in great danger through decay. Several thousand Pounds are needed urgently if the outbuildings are to be saved. This place is important for two reasons:

    First, most of the remaining buildings have survived from before the middle of the last century, gaining importance from Jefferies’ descriptions of the farm, the countryside and its people during a period critical to English rural life;

    Secondly, Jefferies’ work has been a source of inspiration to imaginative people for a hundred years and has profoundly affected modern country writing.

    Parts of the farmhouse date from about 1700 but the outbuildings were constructed by Jefferies’ father, James, about 1840, largely with his own hands. At a time when agricultural depression was forcing many small dairy-farmers off the land, James hung on grimly – and built to last. Eventually he was ruined but his patience with young Richard, who preferred scribbling in notebooks to physical work, gave the world a great writer. The old buildings stand as a monument to a brave farmer and his son, whose vision helped inspire some of the best literature in the world.

    It sometimes happens that Scheduled buildings are restored by some official body particularly if, like Coate Farm, they are actually owned by the local authority. However, the Council cannot now spend money on work to which it is not already committed – and the buildings cannot wait. Private support is the only hope.

    I would be most grateful if you would help to save Coate Farm by sending a donation to: The Coate Farm Restoration Fund
    c/o Mark Daniel etc

    Tuesday, January 03, 2006

    Western Daily Press


    3 January 2006

    A Row over the merits of 19th century West Country literary giants Thomas Hardy and Richard Jefferies has gone all the way to Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott. It was sparked after Planning Inspector David Fenton's views on eminent Victorian nature writer Richard Jefferies enraged an appreciation group formed in his home town of Swindon.

    The Richard Jefferies Society is fighting to prevent wildlife-rich countryside, known as Jefferies Land, from being destroyed by a £500million development on the edge of Swindon.

    A university, offices and 1,800 homes are proposed for 500 acres of fields around the hamlet of Coate, an area objectors say was immortalized by the writings of Jefferies, who lived there. The society insists the area is part of Swindon's cultural heritage and as such should be preserved.

    But after examining its objections, Mr Fenton felt the land could be developed. His report said: "To some people Jefferies and his works are an integral part of the literary landscape of Britain.

    "However, it seems to me that he is not known or thought of in the same way as more major figures such as Hardy or Wordsworth." The society has now written to Mr Fenton's boss Mr Prescott, challenging his decision that Jefferies writings should have no bearing on the proposals.

    The letter points out that Jefferies (18481887) was recently voted "by far the most frequently nominated author" when he came third in a national poll to find Britain's most popular nature writer.

    This, the society notes, was higher than both Wordsworth and Hardy, whose works were also inspired by the West Country.

    Jefferies society member Jean Saunders wrote: "We are dismayed to read the inspector's views related to the lack of weight he has afforded to the special quality of the literary landscape of land at Coate." She said Jefferies Land is a "most valued landscape" in terms of planning policy guidelines regarding the quality of life and the environment in rural areas.

    THE letter goes on: "Given that Swindon has such a poor cultural image in Britain, when it has such an important and influential figurehead born and bred at Coate, we are at a loss to understand the inspector's point of view.

    "We request that you might explore our concerns as we believe a major constraint to development has been summarily dismissed." To help guide Mr Prescott's deliberations, the society has sent him a copy of a new publication, Coate and Richard Jefferies by John Chandler. The Save Coate campaign has collected 26,000 signatures in its battle to protect Jefferies Land, which lies next to Coate Water Country Park.

    In September, campaigners launched the Jefferies Land Conservation Trust which is seeking an alterative use for the rural site, situated near Junction 15 of the M4 and the Great Western Hospital.

    The trust says the land should be preserved "for visitors to enjoy a special rural climate, and as a centre for study of the environment and historic landscapes". But the University of Bath in Swindon says it is the only viable site for its campus and denies campaigners' claims that it could be built in the town centre.

    It has linked up with developers whose proposed 1,800 homes and commercial park will finance the infrastructure for the university, including sewers and roads. This Gateway scheme will also help fast-growing Swindon fill its Government housing quota for the next few years, says the council.

    Richard Jefferies (1848-1887)
    BEST known for his prolific and sensitive writing on natural history, village life and agriculture in late Victorian England, Jefferies' career also revealed a many-sided author who was something of an enigma.

    Some associate him with the children's classic Bevis or the strange futuristic fantasy After London. But his finest work, including his autobiography The Story of my Heart, was inspired by the countryside around Coate, near Swindon, where he grew up and spent much of his life.

    He is cited as an inspiration to a number of better known writers including John Fowles, who lived in Dorset, and A A 'Christopher Robin' Milne.

    Thomas Hardy (1840-1928)
    Poet and novelist born in Dorchester, Hardy created the literary region of Wessex, based in an around Dorset, where many of his stories are set.

    His career as writer spanned more than 50 years, during which he wrote classic novels including Far From the Madding Crowd, Tess of the D'Urbervilles, The Mayor of Casterbridge and Jude The Obscure.

    His novels bravely challenged many of the sexual and religious conventions of the Victorian age, and dared to present a bleak view of human nature.

    In his poems, Hardy depicted rural life without sentimentality - his mood was often stoic and gloomy.