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