The Town Trust Meeting Tues night

Like many I had mixed feelings about the meeting at The Art House last night.

I spoke to Helen Munro who in person was poised and warmer than I expected.  She’s a pro, empathetic elbow touching, making eye contact and keeping her cool in room full of people that were wholly opposed to everything she was proposing.   I’m not saying meeting Mrs Munro in person has had any effect on my view of the Trust and their wholly misguided actions, but at the same time I’m aware that when this is all over I hope that interactions between the Trust and the townfolk could be conducted on a more friendly level. Her assistant, solidly at her side, maintained icily that only 30 people had come out for the coffee morning at the weekend without flinching which made me laugh when I thought about it afterwards.  It made me realise what we’re up against here.  We are very much the enemy who need to be rubbished and ultimately crushed, there is no room for sentiment here.

For the record The Stratford Herald put the attendance figure at 100 when they visited at 10am – the event ran from 8 until 11, so estimates of 200 are not far off.  A lot more than 30.

The other Trustees seemed to hold the line on the face of it but clearly some were nervous to be facing such obvious hostility from their fellow Stratfordians.  Not all were there. I didn’t get to talk to the Chairman who I’m told is a London executive with a weekend place in Old Town, but feedback from those that did was that he didn’t understand what all the fuss was about.  Given that the last two Chairmen have resigned over this very matter it did occur to me that it’s a sorry state of affairs that the only Chairman they can find is one who lives in London who doesn’t really see why the people he represents are upset.  In a nutshell is everything that is wrong with this situation.

Towards the end of the evening there was a palpable sense of relief amongst the Trustee and hangers on as the pesky residents of Stratford filed out into the chilly night.  I didn’t meet a single person there apart from Trust personnel and developers & architects who stand to get rich from the scheme, who was pro the development.  Some people were visibly shocked as they looked at the plans and the reality of what was going to happen dawned on them.  The plans have all been drawn up.  I got the very real sense that as far as The Trust is concerned this is a done deal.

On the positive side opposition to the scheme seemed to solidify further last night.  Stratford has some very talented professional people who will be gathering in the next week or so to formulate a plan on how to deal with The Trust. I’ll post updates on this as I learn more.

Finally the big question of the evening is “What Can I do?”  Up and down the country middle England is getting crapped on by developers and land owners.  This is very much a story of our time.  The feeling of helplessness is one we all share and it leads to frustration and then anger, all of this was on display last night.

Right now there are 3 things you can do

1. Join the Town Trust (we’re raising questions on the validity of the membership issue at the moment but don’t let it stop you joining). Click here to get to the membership page – it’s free. Do it now.  Don’t wait until you’ve had lunch, or picked up the kids, or whatever other little job crops up, download the form, get a pen whilst it’s printing, fill it out and drop it off in the post box at the Civic Hall / Arts House reception.

2. Wed 2nd MARCH is the Emergency General Meeting – 8.00 PM. There will be a vote on whether to proceed with the development. We think this is going to be a straight YES/NO vote but will advise how this is going to work as we find out- More info here 

3. Write to Mrs Munro – details here .  Write to the Trustees.  Make them know how you feel.  It’s your town, it’s your land, its that simple.


That’s all for today – will post an update on this when things move forward later in the week.












A Poem Has Appeared At The Gate

I was on my usual walk up on the hills today and noticed that someone has posted up a poem about what this area means to them (apologies for the fuzzy pics, but I’m sure if you squint then you can read it – or you can of course head over to the gate on Maidenhead Road to read it in person).


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The Town Trust Calls an Emergency General Meeting


This just come across my desk.

“The trustees have called an EGM of the Trust on 2 March.  All members on the register of members as at [9am] on [30 January] will be receiving 21 clear days formal notice of the meeting as required under the Articles of the Trust.  Any new membership applications received after 30 January will be held over and processed after 2 March.  The reason for this is order that the trustees can fully comply with the required notification period for the EGM for all members of the Trust.”

The press release came out at 10.00 am – one hour after the deadline for memberships to be registered.

Link to Town Trust site :

Curious that this announcement came out today and not earlier in the week so it could go in The Stratford Herald.




Warwickshire Wildlife Trust – Audio Trail


On Saturday I was invited by Ben Devine, a wildlife engagement officer at the Warwickshire Wildlife Trust to meet to discuss a very exciting proposed plan to develop a number of audio trails of the Welcombe Hills.

Many people don’t know that the Welcombe Hills are a highly protected nature reserve which although owned by Stratford Council is managed by the WWT. You can check them out >here<.

warwickshire wildlife trust the welcombe hills

For me personally it’s an exciting project as it combines two of my passions, The Welcombe Hills (where I walk my dogs most days) and the use of technology to share information (I work in internet marketing).

The way it will work is that you will download an audio file (an MP3) onto your smart phone, plug in your head phones and you set off on your walk with your personal guide in your ear telling you what’s going on around you.  There will be 8 trails in total.  I’m lucky to have been invited on the steering committee so will be able to provide you with updates as we go.  The audio trails will be free of charge and in time we’ll be able to provide links to them from here.


Below is a press release from The Warks Wildlife Trust outlining the funding of the project and further info.

A Wild Welcombe to Lottery grant for source of Shakespeare’s inspiration

A nature reserve said to have inspired Shakespeare has received £40,900 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to reveal its heritage secrets.

Warwickshire Wildlife Trust (WKWT) will use the grant, along with £2,000 from Stratford District Council, to transform the way Welcombe Hills and Clopton Park Nature Reserve’s history and natural surroundings can be explored.

The 12-month project, called A Wild Welcombe, will see the Trust team up with young people from Playbox Theatre to create a brand new audio trail and interpretation boards. Starring the young theatre members, the audio trail will be available for download and through an app to lead visitors around the reserve’s natural and archaeological features, breathing life into the historical narrative and folklores behind them.

While the area has strong Shakespearian connections, they are not the only stories the reserve has to tell. The trail and boards will also cover topics including the Clopton family, a number of listed historical structures, ancient trees and a variety of plants and wildlife – information which is currently not available for visitors.

Young participants will take on the role of researchers, writers and performers. As well as gaining transferable skills in radio scripting and sound engineering, they will also work closely with local history enthusiasts from the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Stratford-upon-Avon Library and the Stratford Society who will share their knowledge and passion for the area’s rich history. In keeping with the Trust’s commitment to encouraging a love of nature, the majority of the project will take place outside and be closely linked to the natural surroundings.

WKWT are currently successfully carrying out two other HLF funded projects, one to improve and conserve the landscape of Tame Valley and the A Wilder Career Choice project which provides trainees with a range of practical skills essential for the effective management of wildlife habitats.

Reyahn King, Head of Heritage Lottery Fund West Midlands, said: “We’re delighted to support this project through our Young Roots programme and it’s a welcome addition to the work they’re already doing in their other HLF funded projects. Young people are the future custodians of our heritage and it’s fantastic to see Playbox Theatre members taking such a central role in creating an engaging gateway into the relatively unknown history of the nature reserve and surrounding area.”

Project co-ordinators Youth Engagement Officer Matt Cox and Wildlife Engagement Officer Ben Devine will also support those involved to develop their own set of activities to unlock the stories behind ten different historical features.

Matt said: “I am very pleased that we have received the funding from HLF. This project represents something quite different from what the Trust has done before, but I think the superb partnerships we have created with Playbox Theatre and the local history groups will set us up for a great success and a really exciting opportunity for young people in the area to create a high-quality audio trail that will really add value and interest to the area.”




Town Trust “Community Engagement” meeting Tues February 3rd – 6pm

stratford civic hall

If you’re opposed to the deeply unpopular decision to build 80 houses on The Welcombe Hills you can voice your opinion at a meeting being held on Tuesday 3rd February. It is our understanding that the managers and Trustees of The Trust will be there as well as the architects and developers. Be polite; although they’re trying to horribly desecrate one of the most beautiful parts of our town for money they are only doing their job to put food on the table for their families. 

The Press and media are coming in force so be on your best behavior.

To find out how to get to the Stratford Art House (aka The Civic Hall to most Stratfordians) click here

It’s going to be *very* busy so if you’re coming by car leave early to find parking.

If like me you need satnav to get you anywhere these days here’s the postcode : CV37 6LU

If you’re unsure of exactly where it is and can only navigate Stratford with pubs as a point of reference (like the chap I met yesterday) head for The Thatch Pub and it’s sort of opposite that as you look towards The American Fountain.

Actual Address : 14 Rother Street, Stratford-upon-Avon CV37 6LU

Full details are on The Trust website (click to link through)



leaflet delivery

We need to get everyone involved in this campaign so we’ve had a few thousand leaflets printed – now we need to post them!

Are you able to help with delivering some of these leaflets?

We have identified 15 routes, each of which will take about an hour.  We want to get these out towards the end of this week and over the weekend so people are advised of the forthcoming meeting at the Stratford Arts House (former Civic Hall) next TUESDAY February 3rd at 6PM

Even if you can hand out a few to friends and neighbours it will help.

I you can assist please email Sylvie LaForest who is coordinating leaflet drops >>








Rowley Fields ” Coffee Morning ” – SAT 31st Jan

coffee morning

Everyone seems to be talking about the proposed construction site on our beautiful fields.  But we can’t work in isolation people! Things only happen when we pool our efforts.  So we’re proposing to meet on Maidenhead Road at the gate to The Welcombe Hills this coming Saturday.

You don’t need to bring anything, we’ll be serving coffee, tea and hot chocolate.

WHEN : Sat 31st Jan

TIME : 8.30 – 11.00 AM

WHERE : At the gate to the fields on Maidenhead Road







Good to see the press concentrating on the story – Strong words from our Councillor, Mr Keith Lloyd

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I’ll post a link to the online article when it appears



Dear Editor,
Through your columns I would like to inform the residents of Avenue and Newtown of my support in respect in their concerns relating 
to the proposed planning application to develop Rowley Fields and will formally object at the appropriate time.
To build houses on this treasured land of which is used by many is criminal and in my view confirmation of the non caring attitude by the Town Trust to residents who live in this area and those who enjoy this open space
This is a very sensitive local concern for residents but not an issue for that of national politics
Cllr Keith Lloyd
27 Percy Street
Stratford upon Avon



Rowley Fields Welcombe Hills Update


Who in their right mind would want to put a housing estate here?  It baffles the mind.

The Town Trust seem intent on selling the most beautiful parts of our town to developers.  Land you will remember which was entrusted to the Trust for future generations. The word trust being horribly misused.  I’m sure the owner of the land would be turning in their grave if they knew it was being sold to property developers.

The Trust aren’t short of cash so there is no pressing reason to sell the land.  I don’t understand the mindset, but I suspect that it’s being run by people who get a kick out of doing deals, people who want to make a good name for themselves, people who like to be see to be doing things, people I suspect who have lost sight of the reason they were given the land in the first place, which is to protect it for future generations.  Whatever the reason, they need to be stopped.

Here’s an interesting comment from the CEO of The Trust which sounds very much like a bribe to the people of the town.

“We are also committed to engaging with the town on how best to utilise the significant sums we expect this sale to generate for the Stratford community.” ie – let us flog the land without causing a fuss and we’ll divvy up the cash.  

The thing is that my kids won’t be able to enjoy this land if it’s sold off and the money given to good causes. The good cause cash will have been spent long ago.  Stratford has been screwed over for too long by people thinking short term.  If the original owners of the land want it sold off and given to charitable causes then they would have done it.  The Trust have no right to sell land that belongs collectively to us.

More info on the scheme at the Town Trust by clicking here 

rowley fields stratford upon avon



People power pure and simple.  Make your voice heard, make a noise.  Remember it’s our land and it’s worth fighting to protect it!


The Town Trust is democratic and run for the people of Stratford and the members are made up of PEOPLE FROM STRATFORD so it’s crucial you join today so that you can make your thoughts known to the trustees and if necessary vote them out.  Join today – it’s FREE



The Trust will host two Community Engagement events – in February and March.

The first will be held at Stratford ArtsHouse on Tuesday February 3rd, when the public will be invited to learn more about Stratford Town Trust and Rowley Fields and view outline options for the 7.8 acre site. They will be able to talk to the Trust’s advisors and members of the Board – and give feedback prior to proposals being drawn up.


Welcombe Hills, Rowley Fields and The Stratford Town Trust

News comes to me of a threat to The Welcombe Hills from an unlikely source, namely The Town Trust. An organisation entrusted with owning certain town assets (include a large swathe of the Hills) and using them to generate income for various local charities and good causes.  It’s hard to criticise an organisation that is set up to do good things but if you’ve ever come up against them or their henchmen it can be a bruising episode. For years we rented a plot of land from them and when the price went up tenfold their agents (not a friendly local firm, but a hard-nosed brummie outfit) said that it was likely, quote, ‘to be rented by a rich bloke who would tarmac it over to park his car collection on.’  They intimated they knew someone who would rent the land and do this.  We didn’t want a rich blokes car collection on the side of our garden and settled in the end on a higher rental but far less than their initial demand. They were dealing with a householder about a few feet of garden space, not Donald Trump and the modest increase we eventually agreed could have been concluded with good grace and without the heavy duty arm twisting at all. People in the town are divided, I guess if you’re on the receiving end of a grant it’s a pleasant experience, many who have dealt with them in the commercial arena feel like I do, namely heavy handed and focussed on generating cash for good causes above all else. I haven’t read their core mission statement but I doubt there’s a directive that insists they deal with their fellow town folk in a kind hearted manner.  But, hey, life’s cruel, I’m a grown up and nobody owes you anything. You can check them out here.

And so to the Rowley Fields episode that is causing all the fuss.  It would appear that The Trust has gone full tilt into speculative property development. They bought 7 Benson Road for a price over the asking amount to ensure they got it. The plan it seems (if they get the necessary planning permissions) is to knock down the house to create access to a Trust owned field behind the house (see pic below) which is in a corner of the access to The Welcombe Hills. This small patch of land (along with the fields that form the lower part of the hills)  is called Rowley Fields – which rather than just sit there looking pretty would be perfect to shove lots of red brick boxy houses on and for everyone concerned to make a quick killing.

Rowley Fields Plot behind Benson Avenue

At this point it’s hard to not sound like a Nimby.  I mean why shouldn’t we crow bar a house into every part of the Town? The prices here are nuts and people have the right to live here.  But there’s something about this part of town.  It’s special to the people who live here.  It’s not just a field on the outskirts of town that’s full of barley or cows that looks pretty.  Almost without exception the people who live here actually use the fields.  It’s a place of happiness, positive vibes come from here, which sounds corny until you walk round it and you’ll see what I mean.  It’s not farmland, it’s people land.  We walk our dogs almost every day up there and there’s a cheery hello from everyone you meet.  Aside from the dog people there are runners, walkers and often tourists who are walking to the monument behind the hotel. Last week I bumped into two old ladies who were looking for Shakespeares Birthplace!

But none of this is an issue for the developers and The Trust with their charitable revenue generation.  And this is the worst bit.  Because you can’t put into words what the hills means to us without sounding like a Nimby. You can say it’s about walking and talking to strangers and breathing clean air and knowing there’s this place that’s safe from development but that doesn’t mean much to you unless you are from this part of town. The heartbreaking element of this is that you expect the Trust, an ancient Stratford society, to instinctively understand what this place means to us and clearly it doesn’t if it’s speculating on houses and little plots on the edge of The Welcombe Hills. It’s as if generating charitable income for the town actually trumps the people of the town.

People say it’s only a little corner of the fields.  But it never ends like that.  We know the story, developers develop. They coax their tiny thin wedge in and take a sledge hammer to it.  They build.  As I mentioned The Trust own the fields as you enter the main part of the Hills and once they’ve got a taste for it you can bet your bottom dollar that their henchmen, hangers-on and developers will be in their ear dripping honey and trying to get more and more. The Trustees change and rotate but the relentless chip chip chip from people trying to make money from this land is never going to stop unless it’s stopped dead now.  That little corner is never going to be enough – we know it and they know it.  So it’s a fight for the hills, a little corner of England that we want to remain green and pleasant.

By even admitting that they’ve thought of building on the land has somehow sullied it.  It makes us all nervous. On the Hills themselves it’s always the talk du jour.  It makes that little haven we all deeply cherish no longer quite perfect because we know the people who are called a “Trust”, actually can’t be trusted.

Sign up to the campaign here :

Here’s an interesting article in The Stratford Herald about the issue.