OOTS: Where the Wilder Things Are

Two of my favourite places in Chippenham are within yards of my house and I'm not even sure how much of them is public planting at all. They're very different to anything I've shown you previously in Out on the Streets. Both represent the wilder face of Chippenham's open spaces and are neither park nor wasteland. They're definitely not wilderness, as both are managed by the local council, and they provide vital green lungs for the town.

The first is at the lower road entrance to our estate and is a small area of land bisected by the Hardenhuish Brook. In the middle is a reedbed - celebrated previously here at Veg Plotting for World Wetlands Day last year. Now this really is public planting, but of a different sort as the reedbed has been installed as a way of filtering and cleansing the runoff from the main road nearby. If it wasn't there, I wouldn't be able to use the brook further downstream for freshwater invertebrate identification workshops as there wouldn't be enough diversity to make it worthwhile.

Surrounding the reedbed is a meadow area as pictured above. I'm not sure if it's been seeded with a mixture or if it's a true remnant of the fields that were here before the estate was built. However, at least the curve of trees and the Rosa rugosa bushes at the edge must have been planted and they provide a link between this wilder area and the more parkland feel to the rest of the estate's open spaces. Each year the wild flowers get better and better - when I took the photo there were at least 5 different grasses, ox-eye daisies, field buttercups, red and white clover, marsh pea, bird's-foot-trefoil, knapweed and cow mumble without having to look that closely. I really need to go there with my Wild Flower Key and do a proper survey. In the spring there's a wonderful carpet of cowslips. The edge closest to the road does get mown so that traffic visibility isn't impaired, but apart from that the area is left pretty much to fend for itself.

This is the kind of place I believe towns should have more of where appropriate. It's perfect for its situation as it acts as a natural link between the estate and the more open countryside on the other side of the main road. It's also marvellous for a quick walk or a relatively safe area for children to explore unsupervised. As is my next example.

This is part of what's known locally as the Donkey Field. It's really two fields and the picture shows part of the smaller one closest to my house on the opposite side of the estate to the reedbed/meadow area. I can get there in a couple of minutes and it forms a very pleasant half of my 20 minute walk into town. The larger field is more open plan and mown frequently, but does have a belt of trees and wild flowers next to the footpath and a further belt of trees lining Hardenhuish Brook. But to me it's the smaller field that's the most glorious, particularly at this time of the year as it's a sea of meadow cranesbill, Geranium pratense. The picture shows you a mere fraction of it. The council does manage this field slightly differently to the other one as it isn't mown until the cranesbill has stopped flowering. This year I think they're some of the best I've seen in the 10 years I've lived on this side of town.

The Donkey Field was bequeathed to the town in 1938 by the Clutterbuck family and has a covenant forbidding any development upon it. However, the council has ignored this already when Chippenham sports and social club was built some years ago. Last year plans were mooted to take another chunk away in order to develop facilities for the football club. The cranesbill area wouldn't be affected by it, but I still think the area allocated to the planned development should be left for all residents to enjoy. We have so little of this kind of land here, so it's all the more precious.

This is my final Out on the Streets post for this quarter, apart from my wrap-up post due later this week exploring what you've posted plus other blogging goodies I've found this month. That means there's still time for you to take part: simply write your post and add a comment on here when you've done so :)


  1. That field with cranesbills is GLORIOUS -- thank you for posting these beautiful and idyllic images. How lovely that you have such amazing open spaces so near to you.

  2. What a wonderful resource for the locals - it looks beautiful.

    I'm posting tomorrow on the topic - talk about lastminute.com!

  3. Delightful. Who would want to get out a car when you can walk through this to town?

  4. Lovely. I think all towns should be made to do this. I may have too much of the dictator in me.

  5. Hello VP - just found your blog via Anna at Green Tapestry. What a great idea OOTS is! I'd like to take part - bit of a hectic week this week, but I'll see what I can do!

    Love your post. It's great to read that there are 'managed' wild areas like this.

  6. What a lovely meadow! You're very fortunate to have a town with undeveloped spaces like this. I hope the city council doesn't give away any more of the space.

    I still haven't had time to take some photos for OOTS and write a post for this quarter. I'll probably get it done sometime in the next couple weeks--I'm always behind on deadlines:) Monica at GardenFaerie.blogspot.com does have a good post about her town; you might want to check it out if she doesn't leave a comment here.

  7. I love to see Geranium pratense in its natural habitat - so colourful and you can appreciate why it is such a tall, spreading plant.

  8. I'm going to keep an eye out for other public plantings as I tool around town!

  9. Those are lovely areas, VP - I wish they'd do something more like that on our estate. We have dedicated green bits too, but they are mostly grass; some with a few trees, but nothing imaginative. I did think of throwing some wildflower seeds over the wall onto the one behind our house, but they'd just get mowed :(

  10. I agree, more like this please, in any town, country, continent. Places for kids to explore, not to mention wildlife to thrive - could anything be better?

  11. Nikki - I see them every day and they make me smile so much. So yes, I'm very lucky

    HM - it was worth the wait :)

    Joanne - exactly. It was especially good on the way back, I could feel myself de-stress as soon as I got there.

    Elizabethm - it's not dictatorship, it's common sense. Congratulations on finishing your Offa's Dyke walk - I've been enjoying your posts about it very much indeed. It's made me contemplate doing the Thames one.

    Phoenix C - welcome and I saw you over at Monica's too. It would be lovely to have you join us - it's a few days yet until I do the wrap up post, so you've still got time :)

    Rose - it doesn't matter - like Garden Bloggers Design Workshop, I'll accept late posts :) And I've seen Monica's great contribution too :)

    EG - it's just fabulous and one of the best native plants for around here

    Monica - you've made a great contribution, but more are very welcome!

    Juliet - your best bet would be to ask the council if they could use one of Dr Nigel Dunnett's seed mixtures and then manage the grassland area in a different way. It should be cheaper for them as they wouldn't be mowing so often as well as being much more attractive.

    Karen - you've hit the nail on the head. There's far fewer options for kids to explore outside these days. And these places are a vital wildlife corridor as well as an area in their own right.


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