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.