12th Recce x 1, 2, 3

A series of recces to investigate the confluence of the Pudding Brook and the River Avon

12th Recce x 1 June 10th Afternoon

The River Avon near Chippenham

To follow the River Avon from Chippenham to the point where it is joined by the Pudding Brook

The day was hot; the sky deep blue almost without clouds. We parked in a housing estate at the highest point of Chippenham and followed a narrow alley between the houses which opened up into a track, overhung with nettles, with a wooded area on one side and bungalows with striped awnings pulled out against the sun on the other. The track led down to a managed grassy plain; beyond, hidden by trees: the River Avon. We descended between a mixture of wild and cultivated shrubs; a large rose bush with rich pink flowers growing on a circular patch of cut grass, enclosed by a bed of nettles. We crossed the plain to reach the river; this was common land and maintained by the council; the grass kept short, and a well defined path next to the water. A cyclist covered in black, including helmet and glasses, decorated with yellow flashing sped by, baring his teeth in a smile. The water was a warm brown in the sunlight; there were small fish, water weed lay in long thin strands, damsel flies, Prussian blue wings, moving in and out of the light above. Pristine graffiti on the walls under the bridge. We took another path cut through the tall grasses and plants growing next to the river, defined by the route the mower had taken. 

Across the river was Rowden Manor and beyond were the fields which sloped down to the Pudding Brook as it made its way through the shallow valley towards the river. Mostly the edges of the river’s banks were overgrown with trees or wide bands of grasses, nettles and cow parsley; at various points access paths had been cut through so people could get down to the water’s edge. On our left the flat plain had a new plantation of trees; each sapling, hazel or oak, with a protective pale green plastic tube. The mown path diverged, going up towards a tarmac road and down towards Mortimores Wood; a strip of ancient woodland, dating back to the twelfth century and originally part of the Royal Forest of Pewsham, which had been preserved and managed. (1) We entered the wood; mature oak trees spread out over the footpath and further on younger coppiced hazel sent up new straight branches. Bracken grew on the higher ground and below us lay the river. The tree canopy was dense enough to provide cool shade, and the light when we emerged seemed all the brighter and the colours more bleached out.

Despite being very close to the river it was impossible to see anything but foliage on the opposite bank and the higher land behind because of the tall grasses and nettles. The area beyond was interesting however because over there was a stretch of the Pudding Brook we had walked earlier and also the point where it turns to head towards its confluence with the River Avon. We had not seen this yet but we knew that the Pudding Brook entered the Avon opposite the Chippenham Sewage Treatment Works, situated next to the river bank. We were back on the mown path, with tree planting on both sides and opportunist plants such as cleavers and nettles growing up between the young trees. The path turned and crossed a lane ending in a metal gate finished off with three strands of barbed wire at the top: the sewage works. Behind the gate there was a yard with single-storey red-brick office buildings and workshops; behind them the low circular treatment beds. There was a sign saying that the gate should be kept shut at all times and that cctv was in operation. On the satellite map the lane appeared to run through the trees between the sewage works and the river but in reality it was there to serve the sewage works and it ended at the gate. Just before the entrance a small stream went under the lane to empty itself into the Avon. To the right of the gate was an overgrown fenced off area leading to the river and on our left the mown path continued. I knew that the Pudding Brook met the River Avon opposite the sewage works but from this end it was impossible to get close enough to the river to see.

The map indicated that it might be possible to walk through the fields along the edge of the sewage works and gain access to the river from the other side of the buildings so we continued along the mown path. There was a slight incline with young trees planted on one side, wild blue geraniums and cow parsley growing amongst them, and fields on the other side. It was still hot; the cut grass had dried and sent up a sweet smell as we walked over it. A dense line of trees edged the field, but we slipped through a gap into a piece of open and undulating land divided by low hedges. From where we stood the land sloped down, the fields we saw were more carefully managed than most of the land around the Pudding Brook; hedges were thick, trimmed, possibly recently replanted and the gates were new silver metal. We walked down the edge of the field – dusty pink soil with young green shoots. At the bottom of the field was the stream which flowed past the entrance of the sewage works. We climbed a gate into the next field; the grass was cut like a lawn, the lower leaves of an oak tree worn away at grazing height, its shape dark against the blue sky. The top hedge, growing on a bank, shaped and trim, below it the pink soil, compacted like stone, with rabbit holes like small caves. Here the land was open to the sky, smooth curves of rounded slopes barely interrupted by trees or shrubs, the yellow of the stubble against the flat blue of the sky.

We headed down the side of the field and climbed another gate into the meadow running alongside the sewage works, separated from it by a high mesh fence. We kept to the hedge line which was on higher ground, walking through knee high grass striped red with seed heads. Buttercups were abundant. Looking down we could see four circular structures – the treatment beds – and some green cylindrical towers with domed tops. A flight of mallards took off as we approached. We were hoping to walk down the short side of the sewage plant to reach the river but we got near enough to see that there was a dense network of thorny shrubs growing there. Our other option, to cross into the next field and then walk to the river was not possible because there were black cattle there. Some of them were already aware of us, their heads over the fence; as we neared those in the background, resting, sensed that something was happening and joined the others until the fence was lined with bristling black heads, ears out, and an excited, and possibly belligerent, lowing had begun.

On arriving back at the sewage works we saw that the gate was open and the yard accessible, a blue van parked there, a man sitting at the wheel. The part of the yard adjacent to the river had some small brick structures, like loading bays, and then a thin covering of trees before the river. The structures, by my calculations, were probably directly opposite where the Pudding Brook joined the river. I asked if we could go over there and take a look but it was not allowed and we were advised to return in the morning when the boss might give us permission.

We returned to the lane which followed the dense strip of foliage next to the river bank and trampled through the nettles to look over to the opposite bank. There we could see a divide, a darker furrow, in the strip of greenery sloping down to the river, which might be where the Pudding Brook ran down. On our left the plantation led up to the fenced off area of trees; carefully we stepped through the nettles and cleavers between the rows of saplings, and over a broken fence topped with barbed wire into the shade beneath the trees where cow parsley leaned down or lay dried out on the ground. Hazel trees and a mass of brambles grew at the edge of the bank; through the bright green foliage we could just see the gleam of the water a long way down below. The opposite bank was also hidden from view; the foliage hung too far out over the water to pull aside and we were not able to see the Pudding Brook's meeting with the River Avon though we were standing yards away from it. We made our way back and took the mown path, stopping to rest and look across at the flat plain which was divided by the Pudding Brook on its way to the river. We took a lower footpath through the wood bordered with the large dusty green leaves of burdock, no sticky burrs yet, and followed the river path back to the common ground, where people were now sitting, small shapes on the expanse of green, then up the hill and back to the houses where the car was parked.


1 - http://www.mortimores.org.uk/about_years.htm,

Bungalows next to the track leading down towards the River Avon.

Bungalows next to the track leading down towards the River Avon.

Common ground on the outskirts of Chippenham. The River Avon behind the trees.

Common ground on the outskirts of Chippenham. The River Avon behind the trees.

Cultivated shrub growing next to the track.

Cultivated shrub growing next to the track.

Bridge over the River Avon next to the footpath.

Bridge over the River Avon next to the footpath.

The River Avon flowing by Mortimores Wood.

The River Avon flowing by Mortimores Wood.

The gates of Chippenham Sewage Treatment Works.

The gates of Chippenham Sewage Treatment Works.

Meadow next to the sewage works.

Meadow next to the sewage works.

The River Avon, obscured by foliage. The flat plain on the opposite side is crossed by the Pudding Brook.

The River Avon, obscured by foliage. The flat plain on the opposite side is crossed by the Pudding Brook.

12th Recce x 2 July 1st Evening

Rowden near Chippenham

To find the confluence of the Pudding Brook and the River Avon.

The day had been hot and the air was heavy and warm. We parked at Rowden in the hospital car park, next to the chemist – closed for the day. From the hilltop the land sloped down and spread out into a wide plain crossed by the River Avon. The chain-link fence had been bent over at the top and a footpath led down the hill. Though it was early evening it was hot on the lower ground. The recently mown grass was dry, pale cream and golden brown coloured. We crossed a tarmac path with a neat strip of grass, also cut, about a foot wide, growing up the middle, climbed over a stile and crossed a piece of common ground, guessing the route of the footpath. Tramplings in the long grass in front of a hedge indicated where the path continued and once inside the hedge, there at our feet, was the boardwalk – a narrow raised platform leading over the boggy ground in the field. Tacked on to the wooden planks and running the whole length were two thin strips made of a gritted fabric, coated in tar, which had set to form a surface which would be less slippy than the wood when the planks were wet.

We entered the field which was small and enclosed on all sides by high hedges and trees; just visible above the long grass was the pointed brown face and horizontal ears of a deer: it jumped up, bounded across the field – paused so we could see its whole shape in profile – then trotted into the next field. The sedges around the boardwalk grew tall and abundant, meadowsweet and hogweed even taller in between, the hogweed dropping its white disc-shaped seeds. All of it imbued with the perfume of the overheated tar strips.

Ahead in the shade beneath the hedge was a white metal gate leading to the bridge over the Pudding Brook. We crossed and turned left to where the brook headed towards the River Avon. Here the nearest banks were about four feet high but the opposite ones were higher – about six feet – and, for all the length of the brook as far as we could see, covered in a thick expanse of nettles. This cover extended like a field beyond the bank and from past experience we knew that the river was similarly surrounded; this being what had impeded our progress last time. The brook was only about a foot wide. We wondered if it had been deepened, to channel the water; its banks, at their lowest point, being very regular as if dug out by a spade. We followed the barbed wire and post fence along the bank. We were in a field which ran the length of this section of the brook. The grass was short – having been grazed by cattle – only thistles flourished, bushy, not yet at their full height. Cows appeared through a gap in the hedge at the top of the field, possibly returned from milking. We continued. Now we could see the course of the River Avon, marked by a dip in the expanse of nettles spread out below the trees, dense and full of leaf, and beyond: the red-brick buildings and towers of the sewage works. 

We walked a bit further and there curving into view – a bright glimmer of blue water between the nettle-choked banks – was the River Avon. The opposite bank leaned high above, overhung by trees; the river bed was more of a bog, a water garden; large clumps of black-stemmed reeds with dark cream flower heads growing tall, bending slightly, flourishing prolifically. Below the spiked metal fence of the sewage works there were four terraces: yellow leaved shrubs, darker nettles, grasses – creamy seedheads waving – then the black-stemmed reeds. The side we stood on was not so high as the other; thistles grew in the dry grass, the tops of their flowers purple tufts. In parts the crumbling, grass covered clay led down to the water. Then small trees and shrubs took over the bank, and the river, now green with water weed, deepened, turned, and disappeared round the bend. On our left the narrow ditch of the brook widened, the banks lowered and the Pudding Brook, now flanked by river reeds, merged with the River Avon, its water picking up the same blue reflections.

We made our way back. The cattle had moved on; there was just one cow, alone, pulling hay from a pile shaped like a termite mound in the corner of the field. It was almost dark as we headed back up the hill to the car park. Ahead of us the chemist's sign was lit up: Lloyds Pharmacy.

The sloping field leading down to the plain.

The sloping field leading down to the plain.

Footpath across the field.

Footpath across the field.

The boardwalk.

The boardwalk.

The Pudding Brook flowing through a wooded area amongst the fields.

The Pudding Brook flowing through a wooded area amongst the fields.

The Pudding Brook. On the right – the field and on the left below the trees – the River Avon.

The Pudding Brook. On the right – the field and on the left below the trees – the River Avon.

The Pudding Brook approaching the River Avon.The sewage works at the top of the bank.

The Pudding Brook approaching the River Avon.The sewage works at the top of the bank.

12th Recce x 3 July 7th Evening

Showell near Patterdown

To follow the River Avon upstream to where it is joined by the Pudding Brook.

All day the sky had been cloudless, the temperature high; even later the air was warm and there was no breeze. We drove along Patterdown and parked in a small lay-by just before the junction with the A350. From here – on the map – it was a short walk across the fields to join a footpath which followed the the River Avon, the same path along which we had approached from the north the previous week.

We walked along the roadside verge through tall dry grasses and cow parsley – gone to seed – climbed a fence and entered a field. Sheep wandered off as we approached. The grass was short having been mown. We made our way across to the next field, recently ploughed, with docks flourishing all over the fresh furrows like a crop. Further along a pheasant, so close we could see the markings on its tail feathers, flew up from the grass, its panic cry disturbing the heavy air. The land ahead flattened out and we could see a winding belt of trees marking the course of the river. We crossed a wide grassy ditch and passed through a field entrance without a gate; in the short grass stood a pylon, and beyond a small willow, then an irregular line of nettles and shrubs on top of the river bank. We were standing in a loop of the river, almost surrounded by its curve. It bent around the plateau where we stood, then doubled back on itself and continued to flow south. The water was low, the banks exposed, pale pink and dry from the heat of summer; nettles and other plants, foliage sparse and raggy, growing up from the waters's edge – all shot through for a second by the flight of a kingfisher. Here the banks were less overgrown and we could get near enough to see the river – hardly moving – the water bright where it reflected the sky, deep black in the shadows of the trees. Water plants flourished; reeds with brown seed heads, plants with large oval leaves just below the surface of the water, golden yellow flowers balled up, not fully open.

We followed the river upstream. On the opposite side, firstly, there was a flat plain; cattle grazing, more pylons, then the trees closed in and the opposite bank became higher. A large heron flapped away making its hoarse cry. The tops of the buildings of the sewage works could be seen above the tiers of foliage – bushes, nettles, reeds, sloping down to the river. There was a dark green cylindrical building with a conical roof and steps leading to a platform at the side, further along, and lower, a Portakabin with two square white-framed windows, all fronted by a high metal mesh fence. Along with the smell of human waste there was a synthetic perfume in the air. We climbed a stile into the field we had been in the previous week; stretching across was the broad swathe of nettles with the dark furrow down the middle where the Pudding Brook flowed. As it neared the river the brook widened and reeds from the river grew up amongst the nettles. There was a patch of low water, bright blue, then the brook deepened and became part of the passing movement of the river. We watched for a while. Another heron crossed the sky. The sun was low and the air was cooler now. We walked back across the fields, mostly short grass, in some parts surprisingly lush. Two partridges flew up from below the hedge and settled on the ground further away.

By now the sun had set; the light faded. There was a rasping sound – repeated – possibly an owl. In the next field, the sheep – blurred pale shapes against the dark yellow of the grass – again the rasping noise, a chirring sound, repeated, could it be a sheep breathing ? The sheep moved off and still the noise came from the tufts of cut grass lying on the ground. Then, very near by, a small light brown bird flew up and into the trees, barely visible. It seemed possible that owls were feeding their young and the parent had flown away to detract attention from the chick on the ground. We skirted around it and continued across the field, climbed the fence and walked back to the lay-by which was now occupied by another car, red brake lights glowing. 

Field next to the A350.

Field next to the A350.

Field of dock. In the distance the River Avon.

Field of dock. In the distance the River Avon.

Field next to the River Avon.

Field next to the River Avon.

The meander of the River Avon.

The meander of the River Avon.

Looking upstream. The River Avon at its fullest in the dry summer of 2018.

Looking upstream. The River Avon at its fullest in the dry summer of 2018.

The River Avon flowing past the Chippenham Sewage Treatment Works.

The River Avon flowing past the Chippenham Sewage Treatment Works.

The Pudding Brook, flowing in from the left, meets the River Avon.

The Pudding Brook, flowing in from the left, meets the River Avon.

11th Recce June 9th Evening

The A4 between Mcdonalds roundabout and the Pheasant roundabout


The aim was to walk a section of the Pudding Brook between Mcdonalds roundabout and the Pheasant roundabout. The day had been mild and the evening was slightly dull with the occasional glow of sunlight. We turned off the A4 at Sainsburys and parked in a side road used by people working in the offices and stores built between the two roundabouts. The plan was to approach the Pudding Brook from the opposite side so we did not have to dodge the traffic on the narrow verge of the A4.

We walked up past the prefabricated constructions housing Next, TK Maxx, Marks and Spencer and Costa before turning right down a narrow track: the route of the old London Road, sections of which run parallel in parts to the A4 between Chippenham and Bath. Tall bushes on each side of the track screened it from offices – rectangular lighted windows visible through the branches – on one side and the shops and parking area on the other. This section of the old road was barely a track; trampled by the passing of few people. The shrubs had been partially cleared and the long thorny branches and twigs had been left blocking the way. Further along blackthorn and hazel grew inwards on both sides of the track, forming a tunnel, brambles hung straight down or curved across and hogweed sprouted up from the grass. Wild geranium, St John's wort and hedge woundwort were already in flower. Eventually the track met a road: the A350, in the process of being widened. Next to a small area of scrubby grass behind the shops, the ground had been cleared; there were logs, with raw new ends, scattered around, shrubs with torn branches, shredded and showing their yellow inside section. A low fence of plastic, viridian green, had been stretched between wooden pegs in the ground. In the distance, pale grey against the lighter sky, the back flank of one of the stores, scarlet red containers piled up beside.

At the point where the track met the road the stile had been removed, possibly to aid clearance. On the map the track continued on the other side of the road but it was difficult to see where it began. There was a short narrow verge leading to the bridge over the Pudding Brook; we made our way along, past dog daisies facing the setting sun in a haze of grass pollen, breaking off to run along the road before the next spate of cars; some – loud with modified exhaust systems – leaving a blare of music and a waft of perfume in the air behind them. The mesh barrier of the bridge was almost hidden by the foliage of a willow tree, the narrow leaves bunched up against the metal and poking through, a five years old planning application; black type on pale green paper, surprisingly still there, tied to the railings. We levered ourselves under the lowest bar of the bridge onto a bank, fairly clear of undergrowth, which led to the Pudding Brook, shady beneath the trees, flowing speedily. It emerged from under the road bridge which had been reinforced at the other end where the A350 had been widened. Way back the bright light shone through the mesh covering the long thin horizontal slit at the other end, projecting a line of bright green, punctuated by faint broken lines, onto the water. Beneath the bridge the ceiling hung low, smooth concrete like the walls, the water spreading out and merging with flat plateaus of mud on either side. Next to us the brook narrowed and flowed faster. We now had the scrubby area behind the shops on our right and on our left beyond the opposite bank of the brook was a higher flattened area of trees with an undergrowth of ivy, dogs mercury and nettles, a higher hedge screening it from the A4. The brook was joined at this point by what appeared to be run-off water from the A4 and the higher ground beyond, accumulating in a flat basin of silt, contained on one side by a low wall, before entering the brook.

We made our way downstream, walking in the first section to be labelled Pudding Brook on most maps; the banks were about three feet high, topped by substantial ivy roots gripping the small trees. Broken branches and suspended foliage impeded our progress so that we had to climb out into the field and re-enter the brook further along. Looking towards the road we saw the shadows of vehicles passing the screen of trees, the sound baffled. The water here was not too deep and mostly it was easy to walk along – the stream bed covered with small flat stones and in some places larger pieces which looked manufactured but were actually some kind of bedrock. A green woodpecker flew between the trees above. The bank sides had several animal paths running down and the yellow clay sides had holes of varying sizes scooped out. There were small prints of a pad with claws in the mud.

It seemed that no human came here; there was hardly any debris in the brook and nothing had been deposited on the ground on the side, possibly because there was no place on the busy road to stop. As we rounded a curve, the bole of a huge ash tree bulged out over the bank, then another. We were on the parish boundary and these trees looked old enough to have been notched in the 18th century perambulations. The main foliage was ivy, with nettles further back. The clay here produced a cream coloured mud, stirred up as we walked along. We pulled out a rectangular box lying below the surface of the water, partially buried in the mud. It was a hazard warning lamp, a lantern, completely calcified and almost undifferentiated from the pale mud except for the dark crimson disc rising slightly from its side which would have projected the light. Its lid was half open and there was a handle, all of it covered in a hard stony crust. We laid it back and it settled into the mud, almost camouflaged again except for the disc, on the top side now, like a port wine jelly, a dusky circle in the cloudy water.

The brook meandered, the water slapping at the banks as we walked through and growing deeper, until there was no ledge next to the bank even and we were forced to climb out and follow a narrow animal path under dead branches until the water became more shallow. There was a length of old barbed wire, once part of a fence but now lying low across the bank top and at one point hanging out across a void, dangling its posts. On our left the silhouette of the bus shelter on the screen of trees told us that we were near to Sainsburys. There was more litter now and after another twist there was the bridge ahead of us; similar in materials and construction to the one by which we had descended. This bridge was not as wide as the first one, nor as low, but beneath it the brook had the same aspect of lying low and shallow between flat shelves of mud, here piled up with a log jam of twigs and branches. When we came out the other side of the bridge into a narrower section of the brook its pace was slowed to a standstill by hogweed and hemlock water dropwort.

We climbed out near our starting point by the stores, crossed our previous path and proceeded down the road which ran between the office buildings and the brook. Beside this minor road was a long belt of trees which appeared to be newly planted as they were all very ordered, then there was a strip of ground, trees and undergrowth, foliage flattened as if used frequently, then the brook, with a line of trees screening the road. We made our way over the trampled grasses, pale and dry, towards the brook; the tree canopy was less dense here and light came in on all sides. The banks of the brook were about four feet high and we slid down into the water; here the sides were mainly clay, heavily eroded, no thick ivy growth to hang on to here, and the water was dark and deep, moving silently along over the soft mud. As the depth of the mud became unpredictable we climbed back onto the track – animal or human? which led us through the trees until it came to a dead end blocked by a network of shrubs and fallen branches fronted by a swaying clump of nettles. The best option here seemed to be to return to the brook: in fact the end of the path pointed in that direction. We slid back in and made much easier progress over the small flat stones which were becoming a welcome and familiar feature of the Pudding Brook.

I knew that the brook flowed behind a garden and farm machinery shop, a garage and a car wash before it turned off towards Saltersford Bridge; after a few twists and turns the buildings appeared, looming above the banks in the half light; a shed with large blue and white plastic containers stacked against its side and shortly after that the back of a store, anonymous without signage. We walked in silence. This was new territory and there might be security guards on duty. On one of the old maps the piece of land between the brook and the road is called Camp Wood.(1) There were not many trees left and they looked too new to have been there when the map was made but there must have been a camp nearby at some time. The flat blocks of stone underfoot became larger until for a while the whole stream bed was covered with stone, like a pavement below a thin veil of water. There was no rubbish here apart from an outdoor clothes drier lying in the water with its wires folded up around it. Brambles hung down, almost in flower, and we continued past the buildings and under the next bridge, the same design and structure as the other two, and into a clearing where the brook curved. Here a fallen willow tree lay across the brook – new growth on its trunk. Brambles, willowherb and thistles flourished in the light open space. Near the bridge hazel and hawthorn hung over the water; on the opposite bank willow trees grew untidily and robustly, filling the space with their mass.

We carried on towards Saltersford bridge where we climbed out and headed back to the car, on the pavement this time, stopping to look down from the bridge under which we had recently passed. Pale grey and cream coloured moths were moving constantly in and out of the light and shade, changing places with each other, rising and dropping on their own private motivations. Three young men rode past on bicycles, calling out “Afternoon!”, red lights flashing as they disappeared into the dusk. 


1 – https://maps.nls.uk/view/106027690

The entrance to the track which is part of the old London Road.

The entrance to the track which is part of the old London Road.

The track.

The track.

The A350, in the process of being widened.

The A350, in the process of being widened.

The newly reinforced bridge which carries the A350 across the Pudding Brook

The newly reinforced bridge which carries the A350 across the Pudding Brook

Concrete structure which takes run-off water from beyond the A4 into the Pudding Brook.

Concrete structure which takes run-off water from beyond the A4 into the Pudding Brook.

The Pudding Brook near Sainsburys.

The Pudding Brook near Sainsburys.

10th Recce x 4, 5

10th Recce x 4 June 3rd Late Afternoon

Biddestone

To investigate the watercourse which appears to rise from the small copse near near Middlehill Farm and to view the stream which flows from the pond at Biddestone Manor, both of these being tributaries of the Pudding Brook.

The day was cool and the sky was a dull white. We parked in Biddestone; there were ducks on the pond – possibly the one made William Mountjoy when he diverted the water which ran through the streets of Biddestone. (1) We walked out towards the Manor and down the lane, intending to approach the stream from the north. The lane was narrow and walking was difficult with motorists driving fast and close so we found a stile into a field and carried on in the same direction through grassy but managed fields. We were in horse territory and there were wooden fences and newly-built stables. We entered a small field and walked through knee high grass, the long leaves parting to disperse a pale green fume of pollen: hay fever! There was a pumping station, like a large garage, in the back of someones garden, then back on the road: beech hedges, bright green verges and thin dark blue slate roofs. We came to a junction; one fork leading to the Cross Keys pub on the A4 and the other the one we had walked up earlier that week. We took the latter heading back to the field where the watercourse ran down to the road to join the brook. There – just below the highest point – was the builder’s sack positioned in front of the bent log which lay slewed across the gap, grey and cracked, its two forks truncated and pointing in different directions. Now the sack had an empty compost bag – stylised yellow flowers on a blue background – screwed up on top of it.

We crossed the field of light red soil scattered with small stones. A hare leapt up ahead of us and disappeared into the darkness at the base of some distant trees. We made for the copse where the ditch emerged and walked round the edge before stepping inside the circle of trees. We were on a track, trodden around the perimeter of a six feet high chicken-wire fence, beyond which, amongst young green trees and patches of grass, were the small boxes and food hoppers associated with pheasant rearing. The fence was held in place by guy ropes, leaning out at angles and secured to the ground – possibly so it could be lowered easily to release the pheasants. After we had walked halfway round we came across the watercourse trickling under the fence before leaving the copse and travelling, via the ditch, down the field. We continued along the edge of the pheasant pen until we came to a narrow channel where the water flowed in from a damp area at the bottom of a small bank, next to the field. Maybe there was a spring rising up from below the yellow grit. We looked under the ivy growing down from the tree roots and dug around in the gravel but there was no evidence of water bubbling up. It seemed that this watercourse resulted from seepage from the surrounding land. We headed back across the field. Someone was sitting on the log, a cyclist taking a break, listening to music on earphones. We said hello and agreed it was a good time of day to be there. More rubbish had been left on the pile in the hedgerow; now there was a black strimmer on top of the clothes drier.

On the lane there were fewer motorists than before. We leaned into the hedge as they drove by and received a wave of thanks. The sky was duller still and the air grew cooler. We left the lane for a field with the parish boundary running along the edge of it leading to the Biddestone Manor stream. Another hare dashed away at our approach and we dropped down to a roughly harrowed flat-bottomed valley. Docks, comfrey and clumps of grass sprouted up here and there and a wide bed of plants occupied a straight path down the middle. This was the Biddestone Manor stream but there was no sound of running water just a solid swathe of bog plants; white flowered and a lush vivid green from their watery nourishment. There was no way across, the plants were too tall and tightly packed so we walked upstream along the edge. The foliage thinned out a bit and the stream became more evident; there was a gurgling sound and in parts a shiny reflection of the sky in the muddy brown water. Nettles were abundant as was another tall plant with soft feathery leaves and yellowish green flower heads; almost umbellifer-like but more of a spray. The marsh land near the stream extended until it became a wide impassable bog and we changed direction and went back over the field; the grass in this part torn up by the harrow. There was a faint track through the hedge so we pushed aside the nettles, crawled through and went back to the lane and up to Biddestone Manor.

We took the same lane down the side of the Manor that we had taken earlier in the year when it was cold and too dark to see. (Recce 2) The lane dipped and there on our right was the narrow pond coming under the road from the walled garden. The pond appeared to thin out to a stream which was fenced on both sides as it moved across the field – to keep the horses out of the water perhaps? This was the higher stretch of the stream we had just left behind. The fences were new and tidy with trees spaced along the edge, the fields were not grazed and the grass grew high. The outer field fences had an extra foot of woodwork on top of them. Strangely there were no horses in sight. We walked back to the car noticing the stream by the side of the road, hearing the suck and gurgle of water under pressure below its almost stagnant surface as it entered the culvert which took it to the Manor.


1 - https://history.wiltshire.gov.uk/community/getcom.php?id=19

 In 1661 Mr Mountjoy made a gutter from the springs and put the water from the streets into a pond. A spring opened near the Manor House which was called the 'Holy well'. 

The small copse.

The small copse.

The course of the stream which emerges from beneath the fence in the copse before flowing downhill.

The course of the stream which emerges from beneath the fence in the copse before flowing downhill.

The small stony puddle where the stream accumulates before flowing through the pheasant pen.

The small stony puddle where the stream accumulates before flowing through the pheasant pen.

The straight line of the Biddestone Manor stream, looking downstream.

The straight line of the Biddestone Manor stream, looking downstream.

The Biddestone Manor stream bed; overgrown with plants.

The Biddestone Manor stream bed; overgrown with plants.

The Biddestone Manor stream; further upstream where it was possible to see water.

The Biddestone Manor stream; further upstream where it was possible to see water.

The higher stretch of the Biddestone Manor stream marked by the fence next to the trees.

The higher stretch of the Biddestone Manor stream marked by the fence next to the trees.

10th Recce x 5 July 12th Evening

Chequers Crossroads

To further investigate the Biddestone Manor stream, approaching from the A4.

The day had been warm, now the sky was grey and there was a cool breeze. We parked at Chequers crossroads, crossed the A4 and walked past the Mynte Farm stream to the low red-brick and concrete bridge under which the stream from Biddestone flowed before joining the Pudding Brook. Despite the long period of dry weather there was a dark trickle of water below the brambles covering most of the stream. Kestrels circled overhead, moving between the telegraph poles, calling to each other with subdued whistles. We went through a metal gate, leaning open, into a field, ripening barley rising on our right and the stream behind a hazel hedge on our left. Occasionally there was a break in the trees leading to the stream; the bed, made up of small stones, was dry and exposed, the stones calcified, along with other natural debris – a stick with a cast of calcium showing all its surface detail. Threshed barley husks littered the ground directly below a branch which still had some whiskery fragments clinging on to it: some creature, a squirrel perhaps, had a habit of feeding there.

We continued along the course of the stream, which for this section ran alongside a line of pylons, one of which had the undergrowth cleared from beneath so it stood in a square of brown turned earth, the thistles and grasses around it growing up to the edges of the square. We took an animal track through a hedge into a field of oats. There was another hedge, hiding the stream from view – a gap – then we were in a long narrow strip of land with mature hedges on both sides, pylons strung out along it, and down the middle – the overgrown stream bed – similar on account of its linnear course and mass of plants to its upstream appearance. A deer watched us from about a hundred yards away; as we moved it took off – two fauns just visible in the long grass following behind. We continued upstream along the low-lying valley, the stream still running directly down the middle – small shrubs breaking out amongst the grasses, nettles and flowering plants which defined its course. This line of foliage was interrupted at one point by a small stone bridge, level with the ground and grassed over. We stopped here shading our eyes from the bright light of the low sun. A decision was made to return to the bridge. We walked downstream – passing a pylon, gleams of sunlight on the metal structures high above. The wires ticking. Further along, the map indicated that there was another bridge but the path leading to it was impenetrable. Instead, we found a way through nettles and burdock into a neglected area sloping down towards the stream. The grass, thin dry bent stalks, was yellow and as far as we could see ahead a dense patch of umbellifers, with feathery leaves and small seed heads, grew between us and the water. There were different species of thistle in the dry grass; some with large globe heads, laced with thin filaments around the spikes, a large circular tuft of purple emerging, others were smaller with finer leaves and more discreet seed heads. Some of the grass was flattened as if deer had lain up there. Long tailed tits flew between the bushes. There was a faint track between the umbellifers; we made our way through and soon we were back in the first field. We walked up the slope of the field via a dried up furrow to view the course of the stream below, marked by a line of small trees leading to the bridge; on the other side of the road a twisting column of tall grasses, growing strongly yet beginning to lean over, showed the meander of the stream before it joined the Pudding Brook.

By now the light had gone. We walked back down, leaving the field, then along the grass verge, where a footpath had been worn, edging round the signs warning of roadworks ahead – the plastic triangle outlined in red with a stylised form in black on a white ground of a man digging his shovel into a pile of earth; a solar sign with a grey coloured base and a yellow painted stand supporting the sign; capital LED letters lit up on a black background: “A350 roadworks expect delays”. By the side of the road in a large lay-by a heavy goods lorry was tucked in close to the hedge; the engine running, the driver visible, reading in his lit-up cabin, and at the other end of the vehicle the tarpaulin cover hung open revealing the cavernous interior with a few sacks lying at the far end.

Field next to the A4 with the stream running along the lower edge.

Field next to the A4 with the stream running along the lower edge.

Field of oats leading to the narrow strip of land with hedging on both sides

Field of oats leading to the narrow strip of land with hedging on both sides

The Biddestone Manor stream following the line of shrubs. Near the centre is the small grassed-over bridge

The Biddestone Manor stream following the line of shrubs. Near the centre is the small grassed-over bridge

The bed of the Biddestone Manor stream– full of grass.

The bed of the Biddestone Manor stream– full of grass.

The course of the stream marked by the trees on the right. In the distance; the A4.

The course of the stream marked by the trees on the right. In the distance; the A4.

The bridge which takes the A4 over the Biddestone Manor stream.

The bridge which takes the A4 over the Biddestone Manor stream.

The A4.

The A4.

10th Recce x 1, 2, 3.

Chequers Crossroads and Biddestone

A series of recces to investigate the tributaries and origin of the Pudding Brook.

There are three possible sources for the Pudding Brook. A pond in the parkland seeps under the road and joins the stream named Pudding Brook south of the A4. North of the A4 two streams converge and flow through Mynte Farm, under the A4 and into the Pudding Brook; one of them appears to start at Jubilee Wood, the other near the pond by Stowell Farm crossroads. The third possibility is the stream which rises near Biddestone Manor, flows past the Holy Well, under the A4 and into the Pudding Brook.

On most maps, recent and earlier, the title Pudding Brook only occurs south of the A4 between Chequers Roundabout and The Pheasant and between the railway and the River Avon. However, the 1885 map labels the Mynte Farm stream as the Pudding Brook firstly next to Middlehill Farm (1) and secondly just before it flows through the farmyard. (2)

More information comes from John Chandler in his draft for an account of Chippenham Parish for the Victoria County History Society: The western portion of the parish is drained by three streams flowing eastward to the Avon. From north to south these are the Hardenhuish brook, which rises near Lanhill; the Ladyfield brook, which rises west of Vincients Wood and flows past Rowden; and the Pudding brook, which flows from Biddestone and defines the southern parish boundary. (3)

Wessex Water state that the point furtherest away from the stream's estuary is usually held to be the source – making Biddestone Manor the point of origin.

When the question was posed locally opinion was divided between the Biddestone Manor stream and the one which runs through Mynte Farm. Our aim was to investigate these three watercourses to assess the significance of their contribution, to observe other features and to determine the sources. Possibly the Pudding Brook only exists when it is made up all all these contributions and there is no single specific source.

 

1 - 1885 Map of Wiltshire showing the Pudding Brook opposite Middlehill Farm From The National Library of Scotland  https://maps.nls.uk/view/106027573

1 - 1885 Map of Wiltshire showing the Pudding Brook opposite Middlehill Farm From The National Library of Scotland https://maps.nls.uk/view/106027573

2 -1885 Map of Wiltshire showing the name Pudding Brook applied to the stream north of the road near Mynte Farm. From the National Library of Scotland  https://maps.nls.uk/view/102347986

2 -1885 Map of Wiltshire showing the name Pudding Brook applied to the stream north of the road near Mynte Farm. From the National Library of Scotland https://maps.nls.uk/view/102347986

3 - https://www.victoriacountyhistory.ac.uk/sites/default/files/work-in-progress/chippenham_introduction_part_complete_070218.pdf

10th Recce x 1 May 21st Late Afternoon

Chequers crossroads

To investigate the parkland stream and the two which converge before flowing through Mynte Farm.

The weather was hot and the sky bright blue. We parked in the lay-by near Chequers crossroads and examined the pond which was just over the wall in the parkland. It was fed by at least two springs and lay in a slight dip between the road and the woods. The farmer was working nearby mending a stone trough, his dogs in the back of the land-rover. Sheep and lambs clustered in the shade. The pond was more of a saturation of the ground; the water slipping through a gap low in the wall, going under the road and out into a choked up ditch on the other side which took it towards the confluences of the other two streams with the Pudding Brook; the next one being the Mynte Farm one and after that the Biddestone Manor stream. The light was very bright – nearby the shapes of individual leaves and grasses were all sharply defined and the May blossom was a harsh white. In the distance a haze of mist had settled on the hills.

We crossed the road and walked up the lane. Mynte Farm was on our right with the stream flowing through the farmyard. The lane was dry and gritty. The big simple shapes of the sheds filled the space below the blue sky; around them a mass of unknown plants punctuated by yellow flowered cruciferae, a single tree white with blossom. A ditch emerged from the overgrown roots of the hedge then disappeared under the lane; on the other side it followed a course through fields, fenced and grassy on one side, unfenced and arable on the other. After the pond in the parkland this was the first stream to flow downhill into the Pudding Brook and our aim was to follow it, to see if the stream which joined it from Jubilee Wood was significant and to investigate the sources of both of these tributaries.

There was a narrow strip of light red soil between the crops and the hedge above the stream. The bank was at least six feet high and the stream was no longer a ditch but a fairly fast flowing watercourse, which, given the height of the banks, may have been there for many years. The hedge was hazel, ash, and possibly lime, overgrown with ivy. We decided to walk along the stream bed which was made up mainly of flat pieces of stone – there was very little debris: two pieces of broken china, part of a fire grate. Occasionally the stones gave way to mud, which was firm at the edges and marked with the two pronged footprints of deer and at one point, a large clawed print belonging to a bird. When the mud was under water it was very thick, with an unknowable depth and difficult to move through. Fallen branches lay across the banks and we shuffled under them. The light changed. The banks were now about ten feet high, looming above us, then the sky darkened and there was a distant roll of thunder. The water grew deep so we climbed up the bank and into the field.

The thunder rolled again, getting nearer. The sky was grey; a white curtain of rain dropped silently into the dark crops which were shifting slightly in the breeze. The air above us moved; tree tops were caught up in the gusts and branches were tossed down. We sheltered as the storm approached; it travelled around for some time and then it was overhead: pale yellow light stretched across the dull sky, hailstones on the red clay. The thunder lessened, gradually the rain stopped and the sky regained some colour. We walked on accompanied by faint thunder. Ahead there was a hedge which appeared on the map to mark the route of the stream which started at Jubilee Wood and joined the one we were following. A small ditch ran through the hedge. We crossed the ditch, entered a field enclosed by trees and followed the stream a bit further. As we peered through the hazel leaves, at the water down in the shadows, a brown bird flew silently along the tunnel of branches – a tawny owl?

A decision was made to return in better weather and to make further investigations of the ditch which could be the Jubilee Wood stream.

The dried up pond in the parkland with the gap low in the wall where the water flows out and under the lane towards the Pudding Brook.

The dried up pond in the parkland with the gap low in the wall where the water flows out and under the lane towards the Pudding Brook.

The lane leading past Mynte Farm

The lane leading past Mynte Farm

Land next to Mynte Farm. The Pudding Brook runs along the line of trees.

Land next to Mynte Farm. The Pudding Brook runs along the line of trees.

Field with the Pudding Brook on the left below the trees.

Field with the Pudding Brook on the left below the trees.

Arable field; the boundary on the left, made up of trees and shrubs, follows the course of the Pudding Brook.

Arable field; the boundary on the left, made up of trees and shrubs, follows the course of the Pudding Brook.

Pudding Brook Recce 10 x 2 May 27th Evening

Chequers crossroads to Stowell Farm crossroads

To continue following the Mynte Farm stream and investigate the Jubilee Wood stream

We had left the Mynte stream, the previous week, just after its confluence with the one from Jubilee Wood, and our plan was to explore both streams to see if there was a specific source for either of them. It was a warm evening; there had been thunder for the past three days but it had not cleared the air. We parked in the lay-by, crossed the A4 at Chequers crossroads and walked up the lane, noting as before the stream on our right which followed the hedge then appeared as a ditch before going under the lane. We entered the field and continued to follow the stream, not getting in this time but observing it from the increasingly high banks. In the few days since our last visit the plants were taller, more verdant, and the narrow track at the edge of the field was no longer visible under the overhanging field crop. This time there were dusty grey badger droppings and white owl pellets amongst the grass and dock leaves.

We continued to follow the stream, making for the point where we had turned back last time; it was quite shallow and in some parts almost dry between its tall red clay sides. There was a gap in the hedge and some trampling in the grass leading to a curved basin of earth above a particularly dry part of the stream: badgers again. We reached a field gate where the stream flowed under the path and continued towards a small wood. Here we realised that what we had been following for a short time was the Jubilee Wood stream and what we had taken for the Jubilee Wood stream was just a ditch running downhill to join the Mynte stream of which we had lost sight because it must have veered off. We continued along the course of the Jubilee Wood stream which was now almost dry. The wood consisted of hazel trees with an undergrowth mainly of dog’s mercury. Where the wood met the road what was left of the stream flowed beneath; there was a cast iron drain cover for easy access to clean the culvert. On the other side of the road a damp leafy hollow, hidden by hawthorn trees marked the possible origin of the stream; there was no sign of a spring so perhaps the water accumulated there from higher ground. 

We had come out onto a lane which led to the crossroads below Stowell Farm. Here, just below the farm, was a small pond and on the map on the opposite side of the road from the pond there is the thin blue line of a stream which follows the lane and eventually flows through Mynte Farm. This was the other stream which we had set out to investigate. The pond was behind a hawthorn hedge, reeds and hemlock water dropwort blocking our view. It was impossible to see if the pond fed the stream which lay low in the field on the other side of the road. 

One side of the field sloped up towards the hedge but it was mostly flat with another hedge on its opposite side, and it was across this wide grassy flatness that the stream filtered – so shallow that its edges spread out into the marginal plants – more of a trickle than a stream but there was constant movement across the stony and grassy stream bed. It was early evening and we followed the stream through the gently sloping little valley; in parts it was overhung with old trees including an ash – dark bunches of ash keys hanging down. This field ran alongside the road and in addition to the hedge there was a fence made out of wire joined together in a grid of large squares. Up to a particular height all the wires were coated with pale brown sheep’s wool and there was a curve running along most of the fence as if the sheep in their constant rubbing had not only deposited wool but some part of their bodies had left an indent.

By now the stream ran through steep overgrown banks and eventually we reached the point of confluence, where looking over the barbed wire fence we were able to see that the Mynte stream which we were following did actually turn off at an angle after being joined by what we now knew to be the Jubilee Wood stream. The foliage was so dense that from the other side it had not been possible to see this on the previous recce. We continued alongside the stream until it left the field and went under the lane which led to the A4.

The hedge marking the field boundary: down behind it the Jubilee Wood stream.

The hedge marking the field boundary: down behind it the Jubilee Wood stream.

Jubilee Wood.

Jubilee Wood.

Field gate with the shallow pond which marks the origin of the Jubilee Wood stream situated behind.

Field gate with the shallow pond which marks the origin of the Jubilee Wood stream situated behind.

The overgrown pond at Stowell Farm crossroads.

The overgrown pond at Stowell Farm crossroads.

Looking upstream towards Stowell Farm crossroads and the point where the shallow watercourse emerges into the field.

Looking upstream towards Stowell Farm crossroads and the point where the shallow watercourse emerges into the field.

Pudding Brook 10th Recce x 3 June 2nd Evening

Chequers crossroads to Middlehill Farm

To investigate the watercourse flowing into the pond at Stowell Farm crossroads.

We parked in the lay-by near Chequers crossroads, crossed the A4 and walked up the lane; the air still warm from the heat of the day. This time instead of following the stream through the field we took the lane to Biddestone with the stream on our left. Soon we arrived at the crossroads near Stowell Farm, our shadows long in the late sun where the four roads met. The pond situated in the field below the farm seemed to provide the first significant flow of water to the stream which may be the Pudding Brook. Our plan was to investigate the watercourse which flows into this pond; on the map it follows the route of the lane and like a large portion of the Pudding Brook defines the parish boundary of Corsham. The hedges were dense with coppiced hazel and overgrown with ivy, nettles and cow parsley; through the foliage we could just see a dry ditch, a substantial bank and a hedge on the opposite side. However, there was a small section taken out of the hedge to allow access, via a metal gate to the long field with the pond in the corner. This gap allowed us to see the hedge in section; the ditch here was narrow and choked with grass, small saplings, cleavers, buttercups and docks; there was little evidence of running water, more a sense of plants nourished by damp conditions. We decided to investigate the pond later and concentrate on the watercourse flowing into it, labelled Pudding Brook on the early map, which seemed to come down the lane between the hedges. Middlehill Farm stood opposite the break in the hedge, by the roadside, outbuildings to the right. The garden was plain, no planting here, just cut grass, trees, a low wall.

We continued up the lane past tall hedges with double banks and verges higher than the road, clumps of purple and cream comfrey amongst cow parsley and nettles. The road followed a rise in the land and the hedge became less substantial and lower and the fields bare earth, recently harrowed, or scrubby grass with yellow-flowered cabbage plants.

The first field entrance we came to was partially blocked by a large broken twisted tree branch and a white builder’s sack filled out to its full cubic shape with bottles, – old, new, broken, dusty– and other kitchen rubbish. A clothes drier was the top item of a pile of household refuse piled up amongst the grasses in the hedgerow. After this point the ditch continued to run by the hedge but it narrowed, full of grass with no water. To our left, across the field, was a line of trees leading from a small copse to the lane we had just walked up. We walked across the dry stony field to see if there was a watercourse there and low down in a ditch about three feet deep, edged with white flowers, was the black gleam of water. We followed this ditch upstream as it shifted its direction twice then there was a gap in the hedge where the earth was packed down on top of it. Through the gap was a bare scrubby field: two hares leapt off in different directions.

We headed back and followed the lane a bit further until it became evident that the ditch by the hedge was not a significant carrier of water, so we retraced our footsteps down the lane. We noticed that point where the watercourse we had explored earlier in the field met the ditch running parallel to the lane was the first place where there was more than just a residue of water. We parted the hazel branches and peered upstream; in the dark between the two hedges a slight curve in the water showed the confluence where the stream from the field joined the roadside ditch. Interestingly on the 1885 map the Pudding Brook is first named after this point. A decision was made to investigate the small copse on the next recce to see if there was a source for this significant flow of water. 

Stowell Farm crossroads.

Stowell Farm crossroads.

Gate leading into the field.

Gate leading into the field.

The narrow ditch flowing through the hedge.

The narrow ditch flowing through the hedge.

The small copse with the watercourse on the left running down towards the lane.

The small copse with the watercourse on the left running down towards the lane.



9th Recce – 1st Recce Revisited May 14th Late Afternoon

Saltersford Lane and Patterdown

To investigate further the point where the Pudding Brook flows under the railway line 

As before we parked at B&Q. It was over two months since the first recce and now the sky was a solid blue. Behind a spiked metal fence the railway embankment rose up clothed in hawthorn and brambles; somewhere in that dense nest of branches and thorns the Pudding Brook disappeared into a tunnel. Perhaps it was accessible from this side. We looked round the back near some hangar-like storage units – hard-edged, scarlet, blue, white metal, colours intense in the strong light – then we came to a dead end: a high mesh security fence protecting shelf units stacked with white plastic sacks full of some unknown substance. Coils of barbed wire had been positioned about a third of the way up the wire walls. There was a door labelled fire exit. Pale pink clematis grew along the top edge of the fence and hung down the sides. There was no way through. We had to continue via the road, so we moved on, passing the old Herman Miller building; no longer bright blue but dusty grey.

We stopped to watch the Pudding Brook flowing under Saltersford Bridge – its banks heavily overgrown with hemlock water dropwort – then carried on up Saltersford Lane and into the field next to the railway line. This time the grass was high; there was wild geranium, vetch, violets, bugle, and amongst the field grasses – brome, sedge, and some fading bluebells. On the bare patch of earth the bramble shoots had not made much progress and there was still room for low growing plants with tiny white flowers to flourish.

To our left was the area next to the embankment which had been formed when the railway line had been built, and dug out again more recently. The late low sun was bright where it shone through the trees; a woodpecker flew across and nearer by a blue tit slipped into a narrow gap in a tree trunk. The primroses were almost gone; there were bluebells now, nettles, wood sedge and in the damper parts – ferns. The large white sheet still hung down from the tree, spreading slightly like a tent and lifting in the breeze. The other plastic sheets and chairs were still there. Nothing had changed amongst the man-made objects. We walked past the rusty van and looked at the pond, now almost dried up, down below.

Then we made our way alongside the hedge, past the huge willows and through soft mud marked with animal foot prints, into which we sank, until we came to the Pudding Brook. We stepped in; it was mainly shallow and soon the banks were reinforced and then there was a small weir. On our left – office buildings, empty now. The brook widened a bit then disappeared under the massive hump of the railway embankment. The opening of the tunnel had straight sides and was rounded at the top with a semi-circle of grey-blue bricks describing the arch. Inside, the brick walls and curved ceiling of the tunnel were a warm pink from the low sun; the water was golden brown. Further in the colours faded but the bright ripples on the water continued to reflect on the darkening walls. We could see the white light at the other end of the tunnel where we had been on the fifth recce. We turned and followed the brook back to Saltersford bridge; the debris in the water was mainly mechanical and included the badge from a Mercedes Benz. 

Storage units at the back of B&Q. The railway line is at the top of the bank of foliage.

Storage units at the back of B&Q. The railway line is at the top of the bank of foliage.

The Herman Miller building. The Pudding Brook flows through the clump of trees on the right.

The Herman Miller building. The Pudding Brook flows through the clump of trees on the right.

The Pudding Brook at Saltersford Bridge.

The Pudding Brook at Saltersford Bridge.

A high patch of ground above the area which was cleared for the railway line.

A high patch of ground above the area which was cleared for the railway line.

Higher part of the small valley created when earth was moved to build up the railway embankment.

Higher part of the small valley created when earth was moved to build up the railway embankment.

A channel dug through the clay soil to assist drainage in the cleared area.

A channel dug through the clay soil to assist drainage in the cleared area.

The railway embankment on the left. The other side of the valley has been dug over and used more recently.

The railway embankment on the left. The other side of the valley has been dug over and used more recently.

8th Recce May 8th Evening

Patterdown near Chippenham

To investigate the area where the Pudding Brook joins the River Avon by approaching from the southern bank of the brook below Patterdown. 

It was a cool sunny evening and we parked in the lay-by on Patterdown and walked up the the grass verge on the side of the road. At the second stile we stopped and climbed over onto a stony track leading between flat grassy fields to Milbourne Farm. We were high up, almost level with the horizon – hazy in the evening light – long shadows on the ground before us. In the distance cows were making their way through the last of the sunlight towards the farm. There was a large wooden structure with a shallow pitched roof and another metal clad building reflecting the low light. The track became muddy and outside the red-brick farmhouse the mud thinned into slurry. We continued past agricultural machinery; a tractor, its metal parts blue, with a hopper attached, a small wagon and some white plastic bales. The track emerged but this time as rich brown earth run through with wheel tracks. The fields beyond were empty; the bare pink earth flattened. A rust-coloured wagon stood amongst the docks and nettles.

We turned left and followed the hedge line to where the dry stream bed we had investigated earlier met the Pudding Brook; here the creamy plumes of foxtail grasses swayed slightly in the darkness below the hawthorn hedge. We followed the brook as it flowed through rich green meadows; dandelion puffs – white against the green; cow parsley and pink campion growing up amongst the broken pale stems of last years plants all along the sloping sides of the banks. There was a barbed wire fence on both banks; at one point it was suspended over a gap eroded by the water: the posts, dangling from the barbed wire, leaning in and out over a basin of clay. In the fading light the brook ran low and dark carrying a paler reflection of the last light in the sky. There were oak trees in the meadow, possibly the only ones remaining from a forest.

At some point nearby two footpaths converged and crossed the Pudding Brook: we wandered up and down looking for the bridge. There was none to be found. Maybe it was very old and had fallen apart. In the next field we could see the footpath coming up from the plain where the Pudding Brook flowed into the River Avon. We went back the way we had come. It was getting dark; if we could not find the bridge we had to retrace our steps or wade through the brook. In a bushy corner where two field boundaries met the footpath disappeared from sight and there, overhung with trees, was the bridge. We crossed over into a small meadow where thick stemmed bog grasses grew, and strangely, leading down from higher ground on the other side of the meadow, there was a boardwalk; a slim wooden platform supported above the level of the grasses. It had two metal threads running the length of it alongside the planking so it looked a bit like the track for a narrow gauge railway. This particular meadow was obviously prone to flooding, even quite high on the bank the roots of the sedges were waterlogged. 

After the boardwalk we crossed an open field, like a common, near Rowden Manor, then walked up a gravelled path towards a cattle-gridded gateway to the backs of some bungalows and the side walls of some new red-brick houses. An old footpath ran between the houses and down the grassy slope towards the footbridge over the Pudding Brook, next to the Rifle Range, where we had been the previous week. We took the footpath then followed the track towards the car in the lay-by.

Milbourne Farm.

Milbourne Farm.

Near the farm. Between the field and the trees the Pudding Brook flows from Patterdown towards the River Avon.

Near the farm. Between the field and the trees the Pudding Brook flows from Patterdown towards the River Avon.

The track leading away from the farm.

The track leading away from the farm.

Foxtail grass below a hawthorn hedge.

Foxtail grass below a hawthorn hedge.

The course of the dried up stream which joins the Pudding Brook.

The course of the dried up stream which joins the Pudding Brook.

The meadow. The Pudding Brook following the line of bushes.

The meadow. The Pudding Brook following the line of bushes.

The Pudding Brook, its bank eroded.

The Pudding Brook, its bank eroded.

7th Recce May 5th Evening

Patterdown near Chippenham

To investigate further the two streams which join the Pudding Brook west of Patterdown Bridge. Where does the small meandering stream, which we observed joining the Pudding Brook on the last recce, actually start? Though it appears to be dried up now there is still the question concerning whether it might be what remains of the original Pudding Brook after a diversion. When it comes out from under the railway embankment the Pudding Brook’s banks are man made and its course is well defined and curved as opposed to meandering like most of the brook and, in fact, that of the smaller stream: this suggests that before the railway there may have been just the one meandering stream. The other stream comes down from the north: on the map it is labelled the Ladyfield Brook and it appears to join the Pudding Brook shortly after it flows under the road bridge at Patterdown. Is this stream also dry? 

It was the first really warm day. We parked in the lay-by on Patterdown and followed the track down the side of the houses; on our right was the ditch, rows of small shrubs on both sides, which on the map shows as a twisting and turning blue line. It began on the side of the track, next to the hedge, with no evidence on the other side or closer to the road that it might have existed there too as the Pudding Brook, pre-diversion. It was definitely the dry water course which runs parallel to the Pudding Brook and last week we had seen the point of confluence about a mile further down.

There were allotments at the end of the track, a red car was parked and someone was gardening. We took the left fork leading to the footbridge and climbed down, holding on to the underside of the bridge as we lowered ourselves down the steep bank. Our intention was to follow the brook upstream to ascertain if it was actually joined by the stream from Chippenham. The water felt cool, it was quite deep here and sheltered from the light by the overhanging trees. Rich green foliage grew at eye-level and above – cranesbill, dead nettle, umbellifers of some kind. Large thin pieces of concrete lay along the banks, sloping in to the water; had part of the brook been covered at one time or was the concrete from a building? The water was golden brown and the stream bed covered with a mixture of small stones and man made rubble, interspersed with larger stones, chunks of concrete and modern debris: machine parts, window frames, a bicycle, a wheelbarrow and items of clothing. The water flowed on, around, or over these obstacles rendering them all the same shade of brown.

We walked under branches hanging down from above, bending to pass under trees growing across the stream, clinging on to the bank side plants to gain height when the water entered our boots. We followed the course of the stream until it became too deep then climbed up the bank and picked out a narrow animal track through the undergrowth until we were able to slither down into shallower water. The brook was following the edge of the field next to the track and above us on the bank we saw a greenhouse, a small tractor. We knew we were nearing the place where we had joined the track from the houses by the road and were aware of our proximity to private gardens. A mallard flew from the bank down into the water, ruffling his feathers as he settled. Here the debris was more specific, tool parts, more clothing humped in the stream bed, bellying from the water inside. We were looking for the Chippenham stream coming in from the right. The Pudding Brook curved, still deep in parts, long trails of ivy hung down. We crawled under another fallen tree and ahead of us saw the brook widen as it was joined by another stream flowing down from the right: this was it – exactly as on the map! We could see where the Pudding Brook was flowing from, back near the bridge we had observed last week so we decided to follow the other stream. It was crossed by an old broken bridge, possibly leading to someone’s garden. It was a shallower and more peaceful stream than the Pudding Brook, not so overgrown on the banks and with fronds of water weed pulled out to their full length by the current. The banks were lower – buildings on the left, fields on the right. There was another small bridge; not usable – just a few planks and a rope swing. Now we could see Patterdown on our left and the railway embankment behind a thin screen of young trees. Then near some modern houses – a new stone faced bridge under which the stream bed had been concreted, leaving a slightly ridged surface; graffiti drawn in mud on the smooth walls. On our left there was a wall instead of a bank with a couple of drainage holes spilling water into the brook. The manufactured items in the brook were of a domestic nature now: a broken mug, a paint roller, a light fitting and a lamp holder. There was a house, a graveled area with several cars and vans then the stream disappeared under a bridge adjacent to the A4 and The Rowden Arms, part of the The Hungry Horse group. Now there were bottles and a Carling lager glass in the water, along with an Oreo wrapper and a Nectar card. The bank was too high to climb out onto the road and the bridge had a sluice gate under it so we returned to the lower banks near the grass verges on Patterdown, scrambling out through the young trees. We walked back, past Victorian cottages – bay windows and balconies: Warwick Lodge, Harvest Villa, Fern Villa – stopping on the stone bridge we had walked under earlier. We could see the route of the Pudding Brook marked by a wavering line of trees. New houses, not marked on the map abutted the field, which was separated from the cul-de-sac by a barbed wire fence. The top line of wire had been removed and a footpath, not on the map either, showed faintly in the grass.

The trees on the right hand side of the track growing along the edge of the dried-up stream which may represent the original course of the Pudding Brook.

The trees on the right hand side of the track growing along the edge of the dried-up stream which may represent the original course of the Pudding Brook.

Allotments next to the track. Behind the trees – the Pudding Brook

Allotments next to the track. Behind the trees – the Pudding Brook

Footbridge over the Pudding Brook

Footbridge over the Pudding Brook

When the brook became too deep we climbed onto the bank and followed animal tracks beneath the branches.

When the brook became too deep we climbed onto the bank and followed animal tracks beneath the branches.

The Pudding Brook, looking downstream.

The Pudding Brook, looking downstream.

The Ladyfield Brook flowing in from the right to join the Pudding Brook

The Ladyfield Brook flowing in from the right to join the Pudding Brook

Old bridge over the Ladyfield Brook

Old bridge over the Ladyfield Brook

The line of trees showing the course of the Pudding Brook flowing from Patterdown towards the River Avon.

The line of trees showing the course of the Pudding Brook flowing from Patterdown towards the River Avon.

6th Recce April 28th Evening

Patterdown near Chippenham

To investigate the area around the Pudding Brook after it flows under the road bridge at Patterdown

On the map there is a stream which joins the Pudding Brook at Patterdown, from the north, just after the bridge, and another stream which appears to start in a field and follow the course of the parish boundary before joining the brook. There is also a third stream on top of the slope above the Pudding Brook which runs parallel for a while before flowing downhill to join the pond at Rowden Manor. The aim was to see if any of these streams were still in existence and if the first two actually join the Pudding Brook.

We parked in the lay-by near Patterdown and took a track past some allotments, expecting to have the Pudding Brook on our left and the stream which ran below it on our right. We followed the track until it was crossed by a path mown through the foliage; there was a fenced off grassy area beyond – with seating and a large wooden hut – with a sign on the gate telling us the land was used as a rifle range. The right side of the footpath led to the lower stream which was dried up and must only have been a shallow ditch; to get to it we had to climb some mossy steps up to a small platform and then down again the other side. This structure had no purpose and looked as if it had once been attached to a building. In the field beyond the ditch a herd of cows, standing close together, chewing the fresh new grass. The edge of the field had been marked out with a long strip of black plastic, loosely held in place with pegs.

The left side of the footpath cut a course through nettles and wild geraniums leading to a footbridge over the stream which we thought of as the Pudding Brook. Here, the banks were about ten feet high and topped with blossoming hawthorn trees; down in the brook a large fern grew out of the dark clay bank. We crossed the wooden bridge with its green painted metal rail – it had an institutional look to it – plain but functional; the land beyond had been the site of a workhouse, which eventually became Chippenham Hospital. Emerging from the scrub on the other side of the bridge we entered a field sloping up to some new houses. The other stream was marked on the map just below these houses and on investigation this too proved to be dry, but we could see the course it took along a hedge which had been left after the developments. We walked parallel to this dried up stream, crossing another dry ditch with hedges either side, then through two small fields – here the grass was tall, dark green and wet from the rain – wild sorrel, sweet vernal grass and lady’s smock growing amongst the field grasses.

After crossing another field we came to a hedge which also formed part of the parish boundary, this led us back down to the Pudding Brook. On the map about a third of the way down this hedge is the word Elm, could this allude to the elms which were notched in the perambulations of the parish boundaries? We could only see young elm trees there, on account of Dutch Elm disease, so this question went unanswered. We walked down to the Pudding Brook which flowed darkly between high banks, flanked by a barbed wire fence. There were young oak trees amongst the hawthorn, and down below, amongst a dense cover of young nettles – sedges with creamy flower heads. Bats flittered, visible against the dusky sky between the darker shapes of the trees. We identified the place on the opposite bank where the Pudding Brook is joined by the stream which runs parallel to it – the first one we had found near the rifle range: there was a channel in the bank hemmed in by last years grasses which possibly only delivered water after heavy rain.

There is the possibility that the dried up stream might be the original Pudding Brook because on the map it defines the parish boundary after the railway line, but before this point it is the Pudding Brook which marks the boundary. Possibly the Pudding Brook was diverted after the railway line but the parish boundary remained on the original brook which is now the dried up stream.

We followed the brook back to the footbridge; here at the lowest point of the field the ground was very damp. Between the gateposts where tractors had dug in to the earth there were puddles of brown silt, too large to walk round, with thick mud at the bottom which sucked our boots and held on to them as we walked through. It was nearly dark when we reached the point where we had emerged earlier. The house lights at the top of the hill were shining, down by the brook it was shadowy and we had trouble finding the gap between the bushes which led to the bridge. By now it was too late to investigate the stream from the north. 




The track near Patterdown. The bridge over the Pudding Brook behind the the trees on the left.

The track near Patterdown. The bridge over the Pudding Brook behind the the trees on the left.

The detached steps leading to the dried up stream.

The detached steps leading to the dried up stream.

Cows in the field beyond the dried up stream. The low plastic fence usually indicates a piece of land set aside for development.

Cows in the field beyond the dried up stream. The low plastic fence usually indicates a piece of land set aside for development.

Looking back through the hedge at the rifle range.

Looking back through the hedge at the rifle range.

The course of the Pudding Brook marked by the trees growing next to the field.

The course of the Pudding Brook marked by the trees growing next to the field.

The Pudding Brook flowing away from Patterdown

The Pudding Brook flowing away from Patterdown

The Pudding Brook looking upstream.

The Pudding Brook looking upstream.

5th Recce April 22nd Evening

Patterdown near Chippenham

To investigate where the Pudding Brook emerges from under the railway line near Patterdown

We parked in a lay-by on Patterdown and walked back down to where the road crosses the brook. The land to the left of the brook had been cleared; nettles and other plants were cut back to ground level. The bridge looked modern; it was built mainly of Bath stone with a wooden fence on top. The banks of the brook had been reinforced with stone, creating a smooth curve. We watched a mallard swimming against the current then crossed the road. Here there were a few houses surrounded by tarmac drives and borders. After the road bridge there was a second bridge, faced with stone, connecting one of the properties to the wood on the other side. This area was unmanaged, overgrown with trees and bright green spring plants. As we made our way through low branches and nettles we could see the slightly darker line in the undergrowth which marked the course of the brook before it disappeared into a thicket of young trees; beyond lay the point where it emerged from under the embankment. The railway line was high above and throughout the evening trains rattled by. 

A man came out to check his car. We were aware that though not trespassing we were close to boundaries, so we returned to the road and continued past the houses keeping the railway line and brook on our right. We came to a sign erected in the grass verge advertising houses for sale – here the land was up for development and we climbed over a low metal fence into a field which undulated down towards the bottom of the embankment (1). We were near the top of the slope and the ground beneath our feet was uneven. It felt neglected. There were flattened trails left by animals and dry mud scrapes punctuated by larger tussocks of thick stemmed grass. Lady’s smock flourished in the damper parts, bushes grew haphazardly and there were small thickets of trees. One of the tracks led up to a group of trees which clustered around a small pond, keeping the light out and creating a dark hollow even with their leafless branches.

We looked across to the railway line with trees running right to the top of the embankment; somewhere down there the Pudding Brook emerged. From our high vantage point we could see the fringes of Chippenham on the plain leading down to the River Avon. We walked down and ducked under some trees growing around a low-lying pool of water, then we followed an animal track up and down a series of folds in the land below the embankment. Mature trees grew all around and in some areas the ground flattened out for a bit. There were primroses in the short grass and sapling trees too. The light shone down from above the railway line. We dropped to the lowest part which was boggy and brown with leaf mould, rusted metal parts poking up from the ground. Ahead of us was a barbed wire fence, beyond which we could see the shiny bars of new barriers either side of a brick built tunnel set into the bank: and there was the Pudding Brook flowing out of the tunnel. It appeared to be following its true course but the banks had been fortified and once it curved out it followed a straight line heading for the bridge where we had been standing earlier. 

Leaning over the barbed wire fence we could see through the tunnel which ran under the railway line far above, and in the distance – a gleam of light at the other end. It was too dark to explore further so we made our way back to the car in the lay-by.

1 - https://www.rightmove.co.uk/property-for-sale/property-64702333.html

 

 

Road bridge over the Pudding Brook. This bridge was used for geocaching but the cache has now lapsed.

Road bridge over the Pudding Brook. This bridge was used for geocaching but the cache has now lapsed.

Bridge over the Pudding Brook connecting private gardens with adjoining woodland.

Bridge over the Pudding Brook connecting private gardens with adjoining woodland.

The lower end of the field between the road and the railway embankment. The line of trees and shrubs marks the course of the Pudding Brook.

The lower end of the field between the road and the railway embankment. The line of trees and shrubs marks the course of the Pudding Brook.

The lowest part of the field.

The lowest part of the field.

The Pudding Brook emerging from the embankment.

The Pudding Brook emerging from the embankment.

The tunnel which takes the Pudding Brook under the railway line.

The tunnel which takes the Pudding Brook under the railway line.

4th Recce April 17th Evening

The A4 near Chequers Roundabout

To investigate a small stream rising in a low-lying field between the Pudding Brook and the A4

Rain was falling, a light wind blew. We walked along the A4 from Chequers crossroads towards Chippenham, noting the two streams flowing down from north of the A4, moving fast on account of the recent rain. The first one, with its neat cut-back banks coming through Mynte Farm, the second, from Biddestone Manor, following the line of pylons.

We were looking for the place where on the map a small stream emerges in the field between the Pudding Brook and the road. There was no sign of it. We carried on towards McDonald's where the roadworks were taking place. By the time we reached the roundabout the sky had cleared and we could observe the site which had been left unattended over the weekend. The A350 had been widened north of the A4 and work was continuing south of the roundabout, referred to in surveys as McDonald's or Chequers roundabout, where the bridge which takes the road over the Pudding Brook forms part of the new dual carriageway.(1)

The area around the works was fenced off with large metal barriers. However, damage to the landscape was limited to the building area and hawthorn, showing the first tips of blossom on its dark branches, and undergrowth of grasses, sedges, nettles and docks flourished all around. We edged along the barriers; once round the corner and off the A4 we could see more of the work that was being carried out. Smaller barriers were positioned on the dark gravelly substrate, leaning up into the bushes on the other side of a pool of brown water. Looking down we saw a large black pipe next to a trickle of water and further along, parallel to this small stream, a larger one – the Pudding Brook. It seemed likely that the small stream was the one running between the A4 and the Pudding Brook but its source in the field had dried up and possibly it began in the group of hawthorn trees near the roundabout. Machinery and other apparatus had been left ready to be used again on Monday morning. There was a yellow digger, a small white machine on two wheels with a long metal pole wrapped in cables – a power source for lighting – and a bright blue cylinder. Square metal tubes lay on the ground. All of this, we discovered, was on a platform underpinned by a mesh of rods which extended up to the lower layer of the road; this part was covered in dark grey gravel, extending at the sides to give the extra space needed for the dual carriageway and lined with red and white traffic cones.

We walked along this stripped back section, then down the clay bank of the unfinished verge, dark with rain, a thin flexible pipe the same bright blue as the cylinder seen earlier lying in the lowest part. Sapling trees had been planted next to a new fence; we climbed over into the field then walked back to the brook which was spanned awkwardly by metal mesh barriers slanting down and then up the bank. The bridge was exposed in section and there were lines of sturdy metal beams, with rusted plates on top, then more metal supports beneath the surface. Below, the Pudding Brook slowed its pace until like a pool it flowed past white plastic sand bags slumped on the gravel and under the reinforcements of the bridge.

The white hawthorn blossom shone in the fading light; we could just see primroses on the ground as we followed the Pudding Brook upstream along the edge of the field. The banks were high, six feet in some places and on the other side the lambs and sheep called for each other. Electricity pylons ticked overhead. We went through a gap in the hedge and crossed two more fields, still following the brook. A buzzard flapped across the sky. We left the fields for the track, originally the old London Road. By the time we got there it was dark and owls were in the woods. The A4 was lit up with car headlights and tail lights and the bright interior strip lights of occasional buses.

1 - http://www.wiltshire.gov.uk/highways-improvements-a350

 

The field where, on the map, the small stream rises. The line of trees marks the course of the Pudding Brook.  

The field where, on the map, the small stream rises. The line of trees marks the course of the Pudding Brook.  

A large ditch near the roadworks.

A large ditch near the roadworks.

Barriers next to the roadworks with the small stream emerging from beneath the hawthorn bushes.

Barriers next to the roadworks with the small stream emerging from beneath the hawthorn bushes.

The new fence, with saplings planted against it, next to the widened road.

The new fence, with saplings planted against it, next to the widened road.

The unfinished road, south of the A4.

The unfinished road, south of the A4.

The reinforced bridge over the A350 with the Pudding Brook flowing beneath.

The reinforced bridge over the A350 with the Pudding Brook flowing beneath.

The Pudding Brook between a field and a small patch of land near the roadworks.

The Pudding Brook between a field and a small patch of land near the roadworks.

3rd Recce April 14th. Evening

Chequers crossroads

To investigate the streams flowing into the Pudding Brook. 

Three streams run into the Pudding Brook near its source and I was curious to investigate them at the points where they join the brook. In the parkland on the right hand side of the road, going from Corsham to Chippenham, there is a shallow pond, formed by springs, which flows under the road and into the stream labelled Pudding Brook on the map. The other streams flow down from the higher ground on the north side of the A4. Two small streams converge to make up the first one which then passes through Mynte Farm and Chequers Farm, and under the A4, before entering the Pudding Brook. The other stream starts at Biddestone Manor and joins the Pudding Brook further along: this one receives the spring water from the Holy Well.

The air was cool but the days were getting longer and we had enough light to see. We parked on the road leading from Chequers crossroads to Easton Lane and looked over the wall at the shallow pond fed by springs which seeped out between clumps of grass. The small amount of water in the pond flowed through a narrow gap at the base of the wall and came out the other side of the road into a small overgrown ditch which carried it to the Pudding Brook.

We crossed the A4 and walked along for about 20 yards towards Chippenham. All the land on this side was higher and sloped steeply down to the grass verge at the side of the road. A stream ran alongside the garden of Chequers Farm; its banks had been cleared and a small wooden bridge led into the field beyond. This stream appeared to be the one which also flowed through Mynte Farm yard. There had been heavy rain and all the watercourses were full. Further along the road was the other stream, coming down from Biddestone and picking up the water from the Holy Well; it was overgrown with brambles but it flowed swiftly below them and we crossed the road to see it emerge from under the red-brick and concrete bridge into the field where it joined the Pudding Brook.

It was almost dusk when we edged into the field through a leaning gate and over a low electric fence. There were sheep with lambs, and the stream meandered along, crossed by a low platform of large wooden planks. The lambs were jumping and bleating. We followed the stream until it joined the Pudding Brook then carried on walking back along the brook until we came to the point where it was joined by the stream which flows through Mynte Farm. By now we were on the Corsham parish boundary and in the field a few feet from the brook there was a very old tree, possibly one of those which were notched on the 18th Century perambulations. Here there were primroses all along the banks of the brook.

We stood for a while in a small scrubby group of trees where the streams converged; a quiet place where it seemed nobody went. Beyond this point the parkland water, in its ditch, coming from the west, split into two and formed a small island, the dark water barely moving around it. The grass, already long, was a rich green. The air grew colder. The Mynte stream was very overgrown with hedging and we followed its slight curve back to the road, climbed over the fence and walked along the grass verge, now grey in the half light, back to the car.

North of the A4. The stream which runs through the two farmyards.

North of the A4. The stream which runs through the two farmyards.

North of the A4. The stream which flows from Biddestone.   

North of the A4. The stream which flows from Biddestone.

 

Looking south of the A4. The Biddestone stream meanders towards the Pudding brook.

Looking south of the A4. The Biddestone stream meanders towards the Pudding brook.

Lambs by the Biddestone stream. The A4 in the background beyond the fence.

Lambs by the Biddestone stream. The A4 in the background beyond the fence.

2nd Recce March 20th. Evening

Biddestone

To investigate the stream emerging near Biddestone Manor.

We drove to Biddestone and parked by the pond. It was almost dark. According to council records: in 1661 Mr. Mountjoy, the owner of Biddestone Manor, made a gutter from the springs and put the water from the streets into a pond. A spring opened near the Manor House which was called the 'Holy well'.(1) This pond possibly represents the origins of the Pudding Brook. On the map there is a stream flowing from Biddestone Manor towards the A4, which is joined by the water from the Holy Well before passing under the road and converging with the stream labelled Pudding Brook.

We passed the front of the Manor with tall hedges flanking a small front gate, then turned left down the side of the house. It was almost dark and we had to guess where the Manor pond might be. We walked along the lane. There was a dip and looking over the boundary of the road, we saw the black gleam of water in the shadows; it was a small pond which seemed to come from under the road and therefore from the Manor. There was a low wall, broken, its stones tumbling down towards the water which lay about six feet below. Maybe this pond, which was wide to begin with, then narrowed, was the beginning of the stream which continued down to the A4.

It was too dark to see further than the trees around the pond. We headed back, noting a stream running along on the same side as the Manor – possibly, this was the water which Mr. Mountjoy took from the springs via a gutter.

 

1 - https://www.biddestonevillage.co.uk/biddestone-village/history/

 

 

 

 

1st Recce February 26th. Afternoon

Saltersford Lane and Patterdown.

To discover where the Pudding Brook goes under the railway line near Chippenham and where it emerges on the other side.

It was cold, the sky was pale. We parked at B&Q just below the railway line. A black-headed gull screamed from a lamp post as we crossed the empty car park – grey tarmac, white paving – then walked along the A4 and turned left down Saltersford Lane. The pond beside the road was visible, the trees around it bare of leaves. The field next to the railway line was uncultivated, the grass pale yellow from the winter. A heron flapped across

We walked along Saltersford Lane looking into the rough grassy fields on our left for signs of the brook. A small group of deer ran into the bushes. All along the lane there were animal tracks leading into the fields. The path next to the road became narrower. We were right next to the railway line now, with the embankment high above, dark with leafless scrub and edged with metal railings.

Low in the embankment there was a culvert carrying water out from underneath. Could this be the Pudding Brook? A look at the map told us that we had gone too far up the lane. By the railings there was a gap in the hedge leading into the field. Bits of plastic and metal lay on the ground. We entered the field and followed the railings. The ground had been disturbed, in the bare patches young bramble shoots grew up. Buzzards flew overhead.

From a high point we looked down into a small valley which may have been dug out to support the railway embankment in the 19th century, however parts of it seemed to have been dug over more recently. There was a shallow depression, a scoop, running down the centre of the little valley. Someone had dug a narrow channel down the length of it and two small holes, the size of sinks. The earth that had been dug out was clay and the clods had been scattered all over the floor. The uneven clods, the sink holes and the fallen branches were all covered in thick green moss which gave the impression of a decorative landscape with mossy boulders strewn on the ground, with stone troughs and a stream, though in fact it was all clay and the channel must surely have been functional – probably to help drainage. Perhaps someone had been planning to use the land.

Opposite the railway embankment which rose up on our right there was another bank which dropped down from the fields behind it. Its height probably represented the original level before the earth was moved for the railway line. This too seemed to have been worked more recently. A camouflage green tarpaulin hung down. Nearby, a white sheet was pegged to a tree trunk. Dark green and bright blue plastic sheets were crumpled on the ground amongst logs and branches and a small red chair. There were three broken wheelbarrows and some broken boxes lying around. A wooden chair with armrests and a blue stacking chair were perched firmly on flat ground as if someone had sat there to drink tea. Primroses were growing already. Further along near an opening to the field was an old van, brown with rust. We lumbered over the cloddy ground to look inside. It was empty. No seats. Nothing. Just the outer part. Passing time was marked by the trains racketing by.

The edge of the valley dropped down to a dark pond wth huge broken willows growing round it. We speculated about the trees: in the 18th century significant trees were notched during the perambulations of the Corsham parish boundary which in this area was defined by the Pudding Brook. While we were walking round the pond, a group of deer trotted by, high on the slope above us. Maybe they had been disturbed by something. We listened for the Pudding Brook. Next to the pond was some black boggy ground. I knew the brook flooded and wondered if this could be part of it. (Pudding Brook is described in surveys as a main river and its potential to flood is often mentioned) There was a sluggish flow of water which we picked our way through using fallen branches as stepping stones. Maybe this was the Pudding Brook. Ahead, however was a well defined line of trees and shrubs, covered in ivy. In fact there were two separate lines of foliage and between them the actual Pudding Brook was moving quickly and purposefully between its well-worn banks made up of tree roots, stones and earth. It was easy to step into it and follow its course – the only obstacles being hanging brambles and low branches. It twisted and curved; in some areas it was about two feet deep and slow moving with large hollows brown with silt. Mostly it flowed fast and shallow over small stones and rubble, around larger rocks and concrete, sometimes there were flat slabs of stone underfoot. The width varied between four and two feet. 

To our right the railway line was above us and the dark pond behind us. On our left at shoulder height was ground level. We walked past prefabricated offices, lights on, people having meetings. Flat light. Broad pale bands of cream, beige and grey green. The tops of people’s heads. Cars parked outside. We ducked. Trespass! At some point we must have passed the back of the old disused Herman Miller building, a former landmark with its bright blue exterior. If we could have carried on next to the railway track we would have been back in the B&Q car park. It was cold. Snow was coming. Ice had formed on fronds of grass hanging over the stream. Each seed head had a fat coat of ice. We looked ahead. The Pudding Brook disappeared into a neat tunnel.

This was the end of the exploration for the day. We turned and followed the brook back to where we joined it, following its twisting meander until it became too deep and we climbed out on to the opposite bank into a goods yard. Then we walked out to where the brook meets Saltersford Lane and went back to B&Q. On the way we passed the Herman Miller building, with its frontage of trees and landscaped hummocks, and sheltered on low ground, each on its own circle of concrete – three round tables with small bright orange seats. There was a bare tree on the hummock next to the road with goldfinches swaying on its short whippy branches; they lifted off and scattered to a hawthorn hedge next to the superstore.

We got into the car and drove 100 yards towards Chippenham before turning right down Patterdown and stopping to look at the other side of the railway embankment to where we had just been. It was not possible to see where the brook emerged. There was a field and a few houses and a bridge which took the road over what had to be the Pudding Brook. The bridge was modern with stone facing and timber posts. I had found out earlier that it was used for geo-caching.

There are plans for development in the Rowden Hill area, north of the Pudding Brook and near Hunters Moon off Saltersford Lane. Currently the A350 which crosses the brook at Chequers roundabout is being widened to form a dual carriageway. In view of these developments it is important to make progress with documentation. 

 

The small valley with the dug-out channel in the foreground

The small valley with the dug-out channel in the foreground

Developments near the Pudding Brook

Housing near Chippenham

Some developments are scheduled to take place near to the Pudding Brook. Research shows that there are plans to build houses east of the Pudding Brook on a piece of land formed by the angle of Saltersford Lane and Easton Lane. A report from Clarke Bond, Engineering Consultants gives details and refers to the area as Phase 1, the first phase of a larger development.

http://www.clarkebond.com/News/planning-approved-for-residential-development-on-hillside-farmland/

On 21stJune 2017 the minutes of the Chippenham Town Council record that the Wiltshire Council Planning Committee had approved the development for 450 houses at Hunter’s Moon. This is in the area that is known as Phase 1.

Plan of Phase 1

http://www.chippenham.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/Hunters-Moon-Plan.pdf

Street names

Chippenham Town Council

From minutes of a meeting of the Planning, Environment & Transport Committee held at the Town Hall, High Street, Chippenham on Thursday 3 August 2017 at 7.00pm 

STREET NAMING – PHASE 1, LAND AT HUNTERS MOON, EASTON LANE Members were asked to consider a request from Bloor Homes regarding seven street names for the above development (six plus one spare).

RESOLVED that the Town Council recommends the names Harvest Place, Hunters Field, Herdsman Close and Wheatfield Avenue and the developer be requested to link any future street names to agriculture bearing in mind the name of the site and its position near to the countryside. 

http://www.chippenham.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/PET-Minutes-030817.pdf

Beyond Phase 1 

Cotswold Archeology carried out a survey in November 2017 for Redcliffe Homes and this is shown on the map in the following report north of Phase 1 and immediately east of the railway line extending up to Rowden Lane and taking in Milbourne Farm to the east

http://reports.cotswoldarchaeology.co.uk/content/uploads/2018/01/6349-Rowden-Park-Chippenham-Wiltshire-Eval.pdf

Progress

The progress of these plans is not known. Fields adjoining Saltersford Lane have been outlined with a low fence of black plastic held down with small posts. This is one of the boundaries of the Phase 1 development. A field on Patterdown which forms the edge of an area proposed for development is marked out in the same way, in addition to this a sign was noted advertising residential development land for sale in the field between the railway embankment and Patterdown. See below.

https://www.rightmove.co.uk/property-for-sale/property-64702333.html

The Pudding Brook is a main river and features in the surveys and reports. In the Phase 1 area on-site drainage will be connected to the brook. In the larger development which features in the report by Cotswold Archeology the Pudding Brook forms a boundary to some of the edges of the developments.

The A350.

The A350 is being widened to form a dual carriageway which crosses the Pudding Brook at Chequers roundabout and the bridge taking the road over the brook has been reinforced. 

http://www.wiltshire.gov.uk/highways-improvements-a350


 

 

Aims and introduction

The purpose of the project is to make a photographic document of the Pudding Brook from its origins north of the A4 between Corsham and Chippenham to where it enters the River Avon south of Chippenham. The project begins with the recces, a series of preliminary expeditions.

The Recces

The recces are explorations along the Pudding Brook to raise questions regarding a possible source, to assess contributing streams and significant points e.g. where the brook flows under the main railway line and where it emerges on the other side, and to connect the information on the O.S map with the actuality of the land, bearing in mind the changes that have taken place since the map was published in 1998.

The order of the recces is dictated by the knowledge that developments are scheduled to take place on land near to the Pudding Brook and roadworks are underway on the A350 which crosses the brook near Chequers roundabout. These stretches will be given priority.

Resources used include OS map Explorer 156 unless otherwise stated, historical maps, word of mouth. For most of the time we are walking along footpaths or with the farmer's permission.

 

 

 

Location and origins of name

The Pudding Brook in Wiltshire starts north of the A4 between Corsham and Chippenham, it flows under the road and the railway line before joining  the River Avon south of Chippenham.

Regarding the name, there is definitely one other Pudding Brook, near Birmingham.  Thomas Anderton wrote in 1900 of his childhood: 

I am not the only person living who remembers "Pudding Brook" and "Vaughton's Hole." The name of "Padding Brook" was, in my boyish days, given to a swampy area of fields now covered by Gooch Street and surrounding thoroughfares. Pudding Brook proper was, however, a little muddy stream that flowed or oozed along the district named and finally emptied itself into the old moat not far from St. Martin's Church.(1)

Here Pudding has become Padding which could link it to the Anglo Saxon paddaneig meaning toad-meadow or frog island. Padde meaning toad or frog. (Paddaníeg [] f (-e/-a) toad-meadow, frog-island also Padde [] f (-an/-an) toad, frog). (2) It has also been suggested that Pudding could be from the Modern English topographical term for sticky muddy soil. 

1 - https://billdargue.jimdo.com/placenames-gazetteer-a-to-y/places-v/vaughtons-hole/

2 - From Old English The Portal to the Language of the Anglo Saxons(http://old-engli.sh/index.php)