The Bombing of The Obelisk in WW2

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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.

 

 

The Welcombe Hills Audio Tour

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!

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Here’s a close up of the signage

 

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The QR code is located on a post next to the signs

 

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To give you an idea of what to expect here’s one of the clips you’ll download once your QR reader connects.

http://www.warkswildtrails.org.uk/welcombe-hills-10.html

 

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

 

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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.

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Spoon Carving on The Welcombe Hills **Don’t Miss**

 

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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

 

 

 

The Queens Birthday Celebration on Rowley Fields – Sunday 12th June @ 1pm

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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.

 

Picnic Marquee

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

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Royal Engineers Brass Band practising in the Welcombe Hills during WW1

 

 

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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 

 

 

 

The Mystery of “The Swimming Pool”

This topic comes up from time to time and is still a perplexing mystery as to what it actually is.  Part of the problem with getting to the bottom of what The Swimming Pool is, is that we aren’t necessarily talking about the same thing.  So some people reminisce about swimming in a pool on The Welcombe Hills as children but are we discussing this pool or other pools?  For example we know there was once an open air pool over at the Welcombe Hotel and also one that was in the grounds of Clopton House itself.

Mike Anderson (who runs the nature website http://whatisawupthehills.blogspot.co.uk/) has created this photo below with notes to outline exactly where it is so we’re all talking about the same thing:

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Below are some pictures of the site we took a few days ago :

 

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It’s deep enough to be of concern to the Health & Safety people

 

 

 

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Not something you would want to swim in particularly

 

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The shallow end with steps

 

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Is it a tank or a swimming pool?

 

The conversation has bubbled away on Facebook for some weeks.

General theories

A swimming pool

The main argument against it being a swimming pool is simply that it’s such an odd place to site a swimming pool! It also has a higher bank on one side. Although not an expert on installing pools, I would have thought that if you went to the trouble to dig out a big swimming pool the designers would have spent an equal amount of time landscaping the area around it.  It certainly isn’t conducive to lounging around.

The argument for it being a swimming pool are that it clearly has steps and it appears to have a shallow end.  Why would someone creating a water storage tank go to the trouble of putting in steps and constructing with an incline?

An ancient water storage tank

Some people have said that it could be ancient, of Roman origin. There were numerous settlements in this area over the past millennia (read this great post on the abandoned villages of Welcombe Hills).  We would love a historian to give a viewpoint on this.  Could a concrete pond survive for this long?

A feeder tank to supply Clopton House

My money is on this.  Mike’s photo seems to indicate an irrigation arrangement that feeds water from the hills into a series of storage tanks that would have fed the main house.  There has been a grand house on the site of Clopton House since 1450 (read the wikipedia here).  The house was rebuilt in the 1700’s and then had a substantial extension added in 1840 – large houses like this were big operations, like businesses rather than simply a place to live.  They required significant man power to keep then running and there would have been a need for a lot of water for cooking, cleaning and livestock.  Furthermore some cursory research has shown that swimming pools as a concept only really took off in the 1850’s when the masses moved to the cities. Even then, they were primarily used for hygiene rather than leisure.

 

Thoughts very much welcome on this topic – and to properly solve the mystery does anyone have any photographs of it being used as a swimming pool?

Visit the Facebook page to add your comments – or if you’re not into social media you can send in any info you have, thoughts or ideas via the contact page and we’ll post it underneath this article.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Lost Village of Welcombe

DSCN5903 Welcombe Hills Hotel

I was sent this today by Richard Morris:

About 40 years ago I joined a group of field archaeologists lead by a well known local archaeologist Della Hooke. I spent a long time walking over the Welcombe hills mapping the ridge and furrow, the medieval field system, in an effort to see if we could find the exact location of the long lost village of Welcombe. Sadly we couldn’t find it but think it was probably buried under what is now the Hotel.

Archaeologists usually refer to these lost medieval villages as DMV’s (deserted medieval villages). The normal cause of the loss was  plague and Stratford had some terrible plague years including 1564 the year of William Shakespeare’s birth, which was one of the worst.

But the demise of village of Welcombe (the name means Spring Valley) was different. One of the biggest land owners of the area were the notorious Combe family. In 1602 Shakespeare paid £320 for four yardlands (about 120 acres) of arable on Welcombe fields from William Combe who was a wealthy lawyer and Mayor of Warwick. However a later relative, another William Combe   was involved in the enclosure of the land around the village. This greatly concerned the town council and particularly the town clerk Mr. Greene,who in his memorandum went to find his “cousin” Shakespeare in London.

“at my cousin Shakespeare coming yesterday to town I went to see him how he did. He told me that they assured him they meant to enclose no further than to Gospel Bush,and so up straight (leaving out part of the Dingles to the field) to the gate in Clopton hedge, and take in Salisbury’s piece, and they mean in April to survey the land, and give satisfaction and not before.”  However by December Combes men had started digging the ditch and creating a hedge mound, but a few days later women and children from Stratford and Bishopton came and helped to fill it in again. On March 28th at Warwick assizes, issued a restraining order on Combe and any other from making an enclosure- which was against the laws of the realm. Combe however persisted, he threatened and beat the poor tenants, imprisoned them and impounded their pigs and sheep. By buying up the land and houses, he depopulated the entire village!

Later that year Greene noted in his diary that Shakespeare told him”he was not able to bear the enclosing of Welcombe”.

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More info on this at The Shakespeare Blog

The Reservoir Near The Top Gate

the welcombe hills reservoir Like many people I access the Hills via the top corner of Rowley Fields up by the tower and I always walk past this. Curious, I popped a post on Facebook to try to find out what it was. For those with access to Facebook the full exchange can be found if you click here. Turns out that this relatively unobtrusive mound supplies the water to the town.  Up on Maidenhead Road the water pressure is awful.  I always thought that it was because of the water coming up from the town but it’s the opposite. From one of the replies “The reservoir is gravity fed. Water is pumped here from two sources. River Severn at Strensham and August Hill just outside of Stratford (local groundwater). Water from the two sources blends in the tank, this goes on to then feed through gravity ( no pump at the site! ) a fair part of Stratford town on both sides of the river, though not much more than that. If you’re walking up that way you can also spot the old abandoned reservoir just in front of that folly tower. I’m a water engineer at Severn Trent and know the site well.”

ROWLEY FIELDS SAVED – for now …

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By now you’ve heard that the proposed development on Rowley Fields (the lower fields of what we in the town know as The Welcombe Hills) won’t be going ahead.

The full post is >here< on the Town Trust website.

Like many who have come up against the Trust I don’t believe it for a minute.  In a charitable trust it is the Trustees that are in charge and the Chief Exec carries out the orders on their behalf, as an employee. With The Stratford Town Trust this arrangement appears to have been turned on it’s head and the organisation is in need of a ‘clean sweep’ with a new roster of trustees with a more robust constitution and perhaps more of a connection to the sensitivities of the townsfolk.  This project should never have even got this far and the money that has been wasted should be accounted for.

 

Remember the Trustees voted to develop the land.  Have they woken up this morning and changed their mind?

The answer to this is NO.  They woke up this morning and realised that they were about to be humiliated in a landslide vote which would make them look ludicrous.  They backtracked to avoid embarrassment and in some cases to save their skins.

There remains many questions that need answering.  Not least the money that has been paid on propaganda (those full page adverts in the Herald week after week), the lawyers who have been dealing with my colleagues on the Rowley Fields Action committee, the PR Agents, The 3 bouncers at the engagement event (!) and let’s not forget the speculative punt of £620,000 on the Benson Road property.

Only this morning I (and 2000 other Trust members at what cost?) received a mail pack which declared Opposition has “mainly included people who live at adjoining properties” – essentially rubbishing the town wide objection and making out it’s only about a few NIMBYs objecting.

Let’s also not forget the dubious tactics that were in play when the membership was suspended and let’s also not forget the promises that they would never build on this land.  More importantly let’s not for a second forget that we are dealing with a sophisticated operator who is being courted by architects and property developers on a slice of land that is worth best part of £7m.  This land is never going to be safe until it is made *legally untouchable*, and only then should we consider this matter concluded.

For now though you can do one thing, >JOIN THE TRUST<. This whole sorry episode is partly down to our own negligence. I recently spoke to an ex Chairman of the Trust who told me that at a recent AGM only 50 people turned up – out of a total membership of 2000!  If we want to protect our town from developers and those in their thrall then we need to play our part in the community so that we can spot it happening.  We’ve been lucky this time, we won this battle, but the war will continue.

Special hat tip to Tim Bailey who lives up this way.  He won’t take any kind of credit but he’s approached this with diligence and a quiet dignity that I would say represents everything that is good about middle England.

Two positive things have come out of this painful episode. Firstly I have made many new friends in the town, friendships I am sure will blossom and grow and secondly I have got to use the word ‘townsfolk’ which I hope to be able to shoe horn back into common parlance after an absence of a few hundred years.

 

 

 

 

EGM CALLED – What can you do

save the welcombe hills

These are the facts as of now

1. An Emergency General Meeting has been called on 2nd March at 7pm at The Stratford Art House

only members can attend

only members can vote

Members will be asked to vote on an incredibly loaded question, namely :

Should the Trustees pursue opportunities to generate a large capital sum from part of Rowley Fields in order to enable them to permanently increase the income available for grants?.

There was a clause :  Those who submitted their applications before 30th Jan at this moment in time won’t be allowed to vote.

Some members are pursuing this clause with the Trust as it seems entirely unfair to disenfranchise a lot of people who want to vote to stop this development going ahead. There doesn’t seem to be any legal reason for this – other than The Trust want this to be the case.

 

2. What can you do

Join – if you’re  not a member you can’t do anything.  You need to be over 18 and live in Stratford – membership is free.

http://www.stratfordtowntrust.co.uk/about-us/become-a-member/

 

3. What I learned this week.

Interesting fact #1

Trustees are personally liable for the actions of the Trust.  Paid employees of the Trust can leave whenever they want – so despite dragging the reputation of the Town Trust through the mud, speculating £620,000 on a Benson Road property, spending thousands on advertising the development scheme, spending thousands on PR firms and spending thousands on law firms, the paid ‘Management’ could leave tomorrow and it’s the Trustees that are left holding the baby.

 

more to follow this afternoon – i have to go out !!