We’re a little excited at TWH because we’ve just learned to do 360 surround shots and we’re going to get up on the hills and capture it in all it’s glory (shame the sun isn’t shining really, but at least it’s not the horrendous mud of the spring so we have to count our blessings).
Anyway, expect to see a lot more of these over the coming weeks. The first one is Rowley Fields.
I’m covering this only because Rowley Fields (acknowledged by most to be part of The Welcombe Hills) continues to be a hot topic when it comes to The Town Trust. As many readers know the development at the back of Benson Road has been denied planning permission and so the project won’t go ahead (or is paused). Benson Road is the last element of the Rowley Fields fiasco and for it to have failed hasn’t reflected well on The Trust – if it had gone through at least they could have said they had made some money out of it. To date it looks as if this deal has cost something in the region of £850,000. However, there is an asset which can be sold which should should reduce the cost to £300k. Not an insignificant sum when you consider the total given to charity each year is about £1.3 million. A quarter of a years charitable giving spent on a property deal that went south. Many questions whether this was acceptable for a charity to be making such high risk gambles with the towns money. The Chairman, Mr Haigh, was adamant that this wasn’t speculation. One of the audience pointed out that if a business had done this sort of duff deal then a head would roll somewhere – since it’s not officially anyone’s personal cash (or there are no actual shareholders or investors) it seems fine to take the gamble, lose, shrug and move on saying ‘these things happen’.
What will happen to the house and land behind now is not clear and the reply from Mr Haigh was a rather vague ‘there are a number of options’ which could mean anything. There is a suspicion that they’ll sell it all to a developer, deliver a fait accompli to the members knowing that they’ll have to take the fight up with a property developer who won’t have such pesky things as members to get in the way. One ray of hope is his verbal confirmation that the members will be consulted before anything is done.
At the same time I’m also sensing that the Rowley Fields issue may be antagonising quite a number of the members who see it as an unfortunate episode which was dealt with back in 2015 and we should move on. I agree with this in part. The Trust is a glorious organisation, it’s Trustees work for free and doing an amazing job, we should be showing gratitude for their work and celebrating it as an organisation. I personally know a recipient of a grant that has benefitted massively from it and sing it’s praises to the rafters. That Rowley Fields continues to cast such a cloud over it seems puzzling to many. Having been involved in the campaign to save Rowley Fields and knowing many people involved I think what remains is a bit of nasty taste in the mouth that hasn’t entirely been rinsed out. There were some tactics used to block new members (quickly backtracked on when complaints were made) and for many it showed a lack of concern for the democratic process, a feeling that the members were an annoyance and that we were dealing with people that weren’t entirely playing with a straight bat. Despite some protests and resignations from high profile members the project continued and only really stopped when it became apparent that it was almost universally condemned. Rather then our local charity it felt very much like we were dealing with an unstoppable machine that had it’s objective in sight and wasn’t going to be swayed from reaching it. This is, I suspect, the nub of the problem. Trust isn’t going to be rebuilt by showing us all photographs of building sites and announcements about spending the towns money on town projects. Trust is going to be rebuilt by saying they got it wrong on this count. This happened, sort of, last night but it had to be dragged out of the Chairman. I think a written statement to the members may serve to draw a line under this. I know I’m bored of hearing about it now. Say you were wrong, say you won’t build on our precious fields and let’s all crack on and applaud photo’s of Trust staff in hi viz jackets giving the towns money away to worthy causes. Everyone will feel good about it again.
Quentin Willson did an excellent job of moderating questions and keeping the meeting on track. After the chaos of last year he’s a welcome addition to the team and bought structure and calm to the event. Let’s hope next year this will all be behind us and we can move on.
So last week I was told by someone local that during the Second World War a German bomber, on route home from a sortie on Coventry, had dropped a bomb and narrowly missed the Obelisk leaving a large crater. It was thought that the Obelisk was a communication tower. Or perhaps the pilot had a spare bomb and was trying some target practice. Whatever the reason I’ve looked up there and it’s hard to determine if there is an actual crater or the undulating land around the landmark is natural. Also at this time of year there is so much glass that’s it’s nearly impossible to make out if there’s any kind of crater. We would love to know a little more on this – has anyone heard of this story or can they provide any further info.
For those who haven’t seen these it’s well worth a trip up to the hills to check them out. Curiously there doesn’t appear to be any sort of signage at the entrance to the hills via Rowley Fields – if you’re coming by car you can park up at the end of Maidenhead Road free for two hours which is enough time to get round.
The first Audio trail point we came across was this one which is just inside the gate as you enter the lower part of the hills through Rowley Fields. If you’re not familiar with this then go through the first gate on the right at the top of Maidenhead Road. Follow the path until you get to the hedge that separates the second field of Rowley Fields – the path will fork but don’t go up left to the tower instead bear right as if you were going to walk to the Welcombe Hotel. If in doubt there’s usually someone friendly around with a dog who you can ask.
TOP TIPS :
1. Remember your earphones as this is an audio tour and if you want to fully immerse yourself in it then you need to be properly prepared.
2. Load up a QR code reader on your smart phone.
3. If it’s hot remember to bring some water as there aren’t any shops up there!
Here’s a close up of the signage
The QR code is located on a post next to the signs
To give you an idea of what to expect here’s one of the clips you’ll download once your QR reader connects.
If you don’t have a QR code reader or you just can’t be fussed with all this technology marlarkey then you actually download the individual sound files (MP3 format) for each section from the website and take them with you – check out the main website here:http://www.warkswildtrails.org.uk/welcombe-hills.html
Altogether a great endeavour from the Warwickshire Wildlife Trust. We learned some stuff about the hills we didn’t know and this was a perfect way to spend a bank holiday Monday.
There’s cows in the field but they are friendly. Sometimes they’ll walk towards you but it’s to say hello. Don’t run or panic them and they’ll usually ignore you.
If you want to see live action spoon carving then make sure you come down to the Rowley Fields picnic on 12th June. It’s calming just to watch someone whittling wood. The act reaches into our ancient past, a fusion of practicality and art. Michelangelo said that the statue is already in the stone, the job of the sculptor is to discover it. Mike will show you how. More info over at WhatISawuponTheHills.co.uk
Did someone mention cake? I’ll pretty much go anywhere for cake so I’m definitely in!
The folks over at Rowley Fields are throwing a little bash and everyone is invited – Looks like it’s going to be a fun afternoon.
Opening of Children’s Grass Maze
Miniature Fairground Organ
Annie Antics Vintage Ice Cream Van
Wood carving demonstration
Family Treasure Hunt
Stratford Cancer and Eye Unit Hospital Fund Raising Merchandise
Shakespearean Strolling Players from Stratford Secondary Schools
Vintage Car Display hosted by Quentin Willson
The Facebook group continues to throw up some great info on the hills. This was posted by Joy Arnold a few days ago. I’m sure anyone who is familiar with the hills will recognise this spot on Rowley Fields, the lower part of the Welcombe Hills near the access point on Maidenhead Road. You can see the FB post HERE
We noticed that Tripadvisor has a listing for TWH, which is great. The bad news is that it’s ranked #72 out of 89 of interesting things to do in Stratford. To give this some perspective the Jester at the top of Henley Street is ranked #48! How is that even a thing to do?
If you get a minute, write a review and let’s see if we can get this increased – people should now about the glory of The Welcombe Hills !!