Welcome to the Rudloe and environs website.

 

Here you will find news, articles and photos of an area that straddles the Cotswold Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in north-west Wiltshire.

 

Contributions in the form of articles or photos are welcome. Even those with completely contrary views to mine!

 

Thanks to the website builder 1&1 and Rob Brown for the original idea.

 

Rudloescene now, in January 2014, has a sister, academic rather than anarchic, website about Box history here: http://www.boxpeopleandplaces.co.uk/

It contains thoroughly professional, well-researched articles about Box and its people.

 

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A walk taking in Lower Rudloe, No Notion, Collett's Bottom, Weavern Lane, Biddestone (outskirts) and a return via Field Barn Farm Lane and Weavern found, on this first weekend of release (of sorts, on Sunday 17th May 2020) from Covid-19 lockdown, a normally quiet By Brook Valley awash with people from far and wide. This is, of course, a bit of an assumption but of two groups that I spoke with (at the required distance), one was from Chippenham and the other from Bath. Both had driven to Weavern Lane and parked at its southerly end where there were four other vehicles parked (I encountered other vehicles heading down Weavern Lane on my outward leg). On a stroll where I would perhaps encounter one or two other people (or groups), on this day I ran into (and more on this in a moment): two runners in the Weavern byway; a family of five shortly afterwards; a couple heading down towards Collett's Bottom; an individual heading up from Collett's Bottom; a family of four at Collett's Bottom; a couple (of blokes) coming from Middlewick Lane; the two runners (from Bath) again at the 'car park' in Weavern Lane; an old gentleman (older than me) in Weavern Lane heading towards the car park; two lots of couples heading down Weavern Lane; a couple heading north on right-of-way BIDD21; a family of three (from Chippenham, with map) at Weavern; a cyclist on the Weavern byway; a family of four (with map) on the Weavern byway heading for Collett's Bottom; a family of five on the Weavern byway heading for Weavern; a couple at No Notion; a couple in a vehicle clearly looking for a parking spot - they went to No Notion and then returned and a couple near Folly Cottage at Lower Rudloe.

 

Now if this is the new normal - people taking exercise or even holidays locally as recommended by the Government, then we need far wider access to the countryside as practised in other European countries such as Germany (who seem to get so much much 'righter' than we do). If the idea of accessing local countryside is for both exercise and to 'exercise' social distancing, then we need far greater swathes of countryside open in order to achieve this. At Collett's Bottom, I was 'stuck' - there was a family of four strolling in front of me and a couple of blokes walking at a fair pace behind me - a 'coming together' on what should be a remote country byway. So I took the naughty option, I took one of the (very) many lanes which are marked 'Private' and/or 'Wildlife Area' and there was, of course, nobody on this route. There are a great number of these private lanes here in the woods owned by the Hartham Estate. They are rarely used (by the owners and friends); the so-called 'Wildlife Area' is a euphemism for woodland where pheasant chicks are imported and reared for the 'sport' of shooting.

And now a short interlude. As I write this on Monday afternoon, in the supposed peace and quiet of lockdown, I am again disturbed by a neighbour (not in our street, in the one behind) who is constantly making noise with electronic machinery. Of the dozens of people in this neighbourhood, there is one, continually, making 'industrial' (not residential) noises with any number of different machines. This morning it was some kind of hedge-trimmer (perhaps). This afternoon it is what sounds like a chainsaw. Often, in fine weather, we seem to have two different kinds of rotavators (perhaps these will be heard later - see below). Occasionally, we have the high-pitched whine of a surface planer or a circular saw.

I never, normally, write any personal comments on these pages (apart from about landowners or politicians) but this guy is beyond the pale. 'Freedom' does not mean freedom to be inconsiderate and to disturb everyone else's peace. And so it goes on with that bloody chainsaw. I'm working on a movie script at the moment (honest!) but I could start on another one - 'The Rudloe Chainsaw Massacre'.

'Later' has arrived and the daily (can you believe this) rotavation has started (but actually stopped fairly quickly today - however I'm not holding my breath).
Today I am perhaps a tad sensitized to others lack of consideration as I heard this morning of the death of an old friend, Sheila James of Larkhall, who was
 "a lovely person to be with and to chat with, always smiling and full of historical and literary references" (this from a mutual friend).

Okay, back to the 'E' walk and talking of landowners (in the rant above), let's repeat here part of a Winston Churchill speech which may be found in the article on the Rudloe Firs slope shaft here: Rudloe Fire slope shaft

'Land is by far the greatest of monopolies. Consider the enrichment which comes to the landlord who happens to own a plot of land on the outskirts or at the centre of one of our great cities. The landowner need only wait while other people work and pay taxes to make the city grow more prosperous: building businesses, installing roads and railways, paying for schools and hospitals and public amenities. All the while the land monopolist has only to sit still and watch complacently his property multiplying in value, sometimes manifold, without either effort or contribution on his part; and that is justice!'

In the current context, swathes of land are kept private while the local population, which is growing massively, is funneled through relatively narrow corridors in its quest for exercise and recreation. In the third of these walks here Walks in the Time of Covid 3, I make a case for the reopening of the Brickers Barn turnpike between Rudloe and the Cross Keys which would open up the countryside to locals and be a great boon for the Cross Keys pub if and when it ever reopens. Here, I would make a case for opening up the tracks which criss-cross The Larches, Hungerford Wood and Collett's Bottom Woods and which are shown in the map below. All these woods are owned by some element of the Hartham Estates empire (Mason, Thomas etc) and kept for shooting. The title photograph was taken on one of these tracks in Collett's Bottom Woods.

The By Brook Valley in the Time of Covid. Bathampton Down predominates with 'blue remembered hills' beyond
Folly Farm in the Time of Covid. Silage making is underway in the field in front of the farm buildings.
The view across the valley to Colerne and a reminder, if any was needed, that we are in the 'Time of Covid'
The By Brook Valley from Lower Rudloe Lane. By the time of our return, the hay will be being 'processed' for silage.
Spring growth in Lower Rudloe Lane
The fields below Colerne. In this view, the water tower looks as if it's adjacent to the church but it is, in fact, half a mile away.
Cow parsley along the Weavern byway; Euridge lies beyond
Ivy, herb robert and speedwell on a dry stone wall adjacent to the Weavern byway
The witch stone at the junction of the Weavern and Collett's Bottom byways
We took the track to Collett's Bottom where hart's tongue ferns were emerging on the bank ...
... and 'normal' (leptosporangiate) ferns. A fern is a fern right? There are 11,000 species of ferns just in the 'subclass' that this one belongs to!
One of the many private tracks in the three woods here owned by Hartham Estates; the track descends to Collett's Bottom Lake
The Larches (wood) adjacent to the byway where, if we could climb into the treetops, we might be able to see a larch rose
Still on the byway leading to Collett's Bottom; wild garlic predominates here
There's a spring in the woods here which, no doubt, feeds this swampy pond at Collett's Bottom the outflow from which heads to the By Brook
Having encountered a traffic jam at Collett's Bottom, we took the road less travelled through 'private' woodland
Yellow flag irises at Collett's Bottom Lake; a culvert feeds a tributary of the By Brook
Collett's Bottom Lake; yellow flag irises more difficult to spot (centre); a swan used to reside (or visit); kingfishers have been seen
In Collett's Bottom Woods, on the climb from the lake towards Weavern Lane; still on 'private' land
A limestone outcrop on the climb from Collett's Bottom Lake to Weavern Lane
We have just emerged from that 'private' wonderland of woods, wild garlic, a lake, yellow flag irises and limestone outcrops
A patch of woodruff just coming into flower by the gate on the climb to Weavern Lane
The southern end of Weavern Lane, normally devoid of cars but there are six today (and more on the way) on this first 'lockdown release' weekend
Now in Weavern Lane on our way to Biddestone (outskirts). I have never seen a yellowhammer on the Rudloe side of the valley but there were always loads of them in this lane. I haven't seen (or heard) any here for years.
Frequently seen in the wild roses in the Weavern Lane verge. Some kind of spider I guess - more research required.
In Weavern Lane looking back from whence we came; Bannerdown escarpment in the distance
Ploughing on up Weavern Lane; the car in the distance went down then returned (maybe no parking left!)
That's a better idea - walking. In Weavern Lane heading south.
And now another couple heading along Weavern Lane; he - responsive, she - circumspect
Still in Weavern Lane (it's a long lane) ...
... see what I mean
Now we reach civilization (Biddestone) and piles of bagged dog shit. If men from Mars ever visit, what would they think of this ... (in Martian) "Look, they save shit in indestructible plastic bags - weird".
The return leg now in Field Barn Farm Lane; this is the view north ...
... and the view south-east towards Chippenham and Bowden Hill
Clearly (!) the underlying geology here is Middle Jurassic, Cornbrash, Rubbly Limestone - I recall when we moved to Chippenham from 'up north' I couldn't believe how stony the garden was
Another view south-east from Field Barn Farm Lane - this sounds like a list of farm attributes (Field, Barn, Red Tradder, Combine ...)
And now from Field, Barn, Farm, Red Tradder, Combine Lane, we join byway BIDD21 and head towards Weavern
And we encounter a couple coming t'other way. Beyond we see the escarpment of Farleigh Down and, interestingly (!), large cranes on Claverton Down (the southern end of Bathampton Down) - must be big works going on at the university
And now the view south to Salisbury Plain (so very extensive views here)
A 'textbook' (although distant) view up a combe valley with, from the left: Kingsdown, Farleigh Down, Bathampton Down, Lansdown and Bannerdown providing the archetypal landscape ...
... here's a closer view. In the field here, an excavation was undertaken some years ago to try to locate the remains of a Roman villa (photos are hidden away in the archive somewhere)
Mainly Bathampton Down in this view with cranes at the Claverton end and phone masts at the northern end. Dave Pearce, formerly of Rudloe, owned (and lived on) a considerable tract of Bathampton Down. Unfortunately, Dave died in 2018.
The farmer must have had a penchant (that's French for penchant) for holly. Here we see holly, holly, holly, ash and there's another holly behind me.
And now we're in Weavern Lane (the non-metalled part) with Monks Wood across the valley. The Euridge lime avenue can just be seen at top-left.
A field with buttercups above Weavern Lane. 'We' once ventured along this non-metalled part of the lane in an Austin 7.
The view, across a field of what looks like fescue, from the narrow (very narrow - no social distancing here) part of right of way BIDD21
Woodruff in flower adjacent to right of way BIDD21 close to Weavern
Horsetail and alkanet close to Weavern on the Weavern byway
Heading up the Weavern byway towards No Notion, The Larches to the left, Hungerford Wood to the right
And now we encounter the witch stone (or hag stone) again
As promised, we find the Maidments hard at work with a forage harvester along with two tractors and trailers collecting hay for silage. Folly Farm is at left and the Village on the Hill, Colerne, on the horizon.
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© Paul Turner