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.