ABC of Chippenham: Donkey Field

Just five minutes walk away from our house is the Donkey Field: an area of open land bordering the Bristol Road, Sheldon School and the sports club. It's a much needed set of 'green lungs' at the western edge of the town: used by walkers, dog owners, school cross country runners and me when I used to commute to Bristol. It formed about half of my 20 minute walk to the railway station and was a welcome escape from the roar of the traffic on the main road.

It's neither park nor countryside, but something in between. There's two main areas: pictured is part of the smaller one where the grass is left longer to allow masses of wild cranesbill to bloom in summer. The other part is much bigger and mown a little more often - I don't really know why. There's also a couple of old hedgerows: one by the school and the other bordering Hardenhuish Brook where it flows near the main road. Both have many dens and swings made by children in the summer.

I haven't got to the bottom of why it's called the Donkey Field round these parts: research at the town's museum and the county History centre have born little fruit so far and I haven't had time to make enquiries at the Town Hall yet. I have established it formed part of the Hardenhuish estate and was either gifted or sold to the town by the Clutterbuck family on March 7th 1938. The Borough records of the time label it as 'Open Space' with a value of three hundred and ninety three pounds, six shillings and six pence (£393 and 32.5p in today's decimal parlance).

The land has a covenant to prevent building on it, but this has already been breached when the town sports and social club was built. In late 2007 the football club applied for planning permission to take another slice of land to use for covered pitches, but so far this hasn't materialised. I for one hope it doesn't as I would like the land to remain available to all local residents.

This is for ABC Wednesday and is the fourth post in my themed series about Chippenham.


  1. It's a cute name. I like it that they leave one section to grow, it allows so much many more plants to appear. A short lawn is one of the most overrated things ever, in my opinion.

  2. I hope that they keep this area as it is so well used. We have a similar area behind us, which the developers keep 'eyeing' without any luck so far! The name reminds me of a cottage I used to live in, Donkey Cottage, Donkey Lane - it was said that the field next to the cottage had donkeys in at one time but no one knew if it was true.


  3. I think it's important to keep areas like this unspoiled by buildings. Maybe you could get it registered as Common Land, or as a Village Green which would protect it.

  4. Areas like this are so important, for people and wildlife alike. I hope the planners don't let it get encroached upon, for all that I am in favour of there being lots of outdoor space for sports activities.


    Cape Town's Green Point Common has recently acquired this new Park, with a capital P. Our space has many buildings from sports clubs, and of course the HUGE Green Point Stadium from the Soccer World Cup.

  6. Do hope your Donkey field remains inviolate. Such a pretty walk through and especially needed in these days of devouring town planners.
    Happy ABC Wednesday

  7. lovely piece of land. hope it is allowed to stay that way!

  8. You must see if you can get the history of its name! Isn't it wonderful to have areas like that in the midst of concrete jungles where your mind can be at peace.

    ABCW Team

  9. pretty scenery. like the wild look myself.
    ROG, ABC Wednesday team

  10. These areas of open land are so important, I see wild flowers grow there. Lets hope it stays open land.

  11. Jedediah - welcome! I forgot to mention there's lots of wildflowers beneath the hedgerows too :)

    Sylvia - I suspect it's called the Donkey Field because that's where the Clutterbucks had their donkeys. We'll see what the Town Hall has to say on the subject next time I'm in town...

    Margaret - welcome! The man at the History Centre told me that covenants can be easily broken, hence why the sports club were able to do what they did. I wonder if Common Land/Village Green registration would be more effective? That's a good idea.

    Plantaliscious - there's lots of space for outdoor activities surrounding this land, so for once I think it's use as a general 'freeform' recreation area/ open space is much more valuable. We have so little of this kind of thing in Chippenham.

    EE - that's most worthy of celebration :) Our Olympic Park in London will be the largest park built in Europe since Victorian times.

    PatioPatch - welcome! It was my highlight of the day to walk through here on my way to/from work

    Petoskystone - fingers crossed

    Lesley - it certainly was a good stress reliever. The days I used the car to get to/from the station were never as good

    ROG - the masses of cranesbill are fab in the summer :)

    Starnitesky - good to see you again. I hope so too.

  12. Yay for open spaces! In my town, open spaces mean owners are waiting to sell their no-longer working orchards and fields. I hope your town can keep the Donkey Field free from development always.


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