News and Views
PUBLISHED: 11:24 17 March 2008 | UPDATED: 15:04 20 February 2013
All sorts of events are worth a feature in their own right. Unfortunately they can't all be given the space they are worthy of, but here's just a selection of newsworthy items cropping up over the last few months.
Coombe Bissett Shop
Another village shop faced with closure in Wiltshire has been saved, only this time residents of Coombe Bissett have taken the rather unusual route of buying the freehold and letting the shop to a tenant. Coombe Bissett shop stands right in the heart of this pretty village three miles south west of Salisbury. It is the hub of this vibrant community, and the place to buy your tickets for the village panto, collect your Garden Club show schedules as well as a place to catch up on news and neighbours.
When the previous owner wanted to retire, villagers became concerned that the future of the shop was threatened so took action and formed a consortium. It took around seven months to sort out the purchase and find the right person to run it. At the end of January, the shop opened under the new management of Charles May who runs Abbey Stores in Salisbury. He plans to run his new business along similar lines to his existing one, stocking where possible locally sourced foods of the highest quality.
Mr May is planning to keep on delivering throughout the Chalke valley, and extend the shop's opening hours. More good news for Coombe Bissett has since emerged when the Post Office within the shop escaped closure (the fate of 21 other branches in the county). Instead Post Office Ltd decided to introduce a partner service at the village site which will offer a range of the most commonly used Post Office products and services operating 41.5 hours a week.
Wetland wildlife in retreat
Sedges and common Valerian replaced by nettles and willow herb; one set of butterflies replaced by another: these are just some of the changes taking place in a wetland site in the heart of Swindon now under threat as it is in danger of drying out. Following a succession of dry winters, rare species of wildlife found in Rushey Platt are fast disappearing. Areas where wetland plants once grew are being invaded with common plants such as nettles and willow herb. As the soil dries up and the plants change, so too do the animals and insects that live on them. "Sadly it is rare to see even one or two snipe on the site at a time. In the past we used to get eight or more. And we certainly don't get the numbers of water voles that we used to," said Wiltshire Wildlife officer, Neil Pullen. But it isn't all doom and gloom. As wetland plants disappear, one set of butterflies is being replaced with another. Fewer orange tips and marbled whites are visiting the site, while more peacocks and admirals feed on the nettles. Dragonflies and damselflies are less visible, but on the plus side grass snakes are moving into the reserve. Water is supposed to flow into the reserve from a sluice in the Wiltshire Berkshire Canal that was restored as part of the project to create the Rushey Platt Canalside Park. Part of the problem is that, despite this year's wetter winter, water levels in the canal have rarely reached the point where the sluice can flow, which is further drying out the reserve. Instead the water is draining away into Wichelstowe, an area being developed for housing. Wiltshire Wildlife Trust are now considering their options, one of which is to manage the site differently in the future as a wildflower meadow rather than a fenland, but that comes at a price because Rushey Platt is a remnant of the marshland that once used to cover most of South Swindon, and is an increasingly rare habitat.
Things Well Written and Things Well Said
Swindon Festival of Literature will start on a high this year - the ridge in Lawn Woods overlooking the town where earlybirds will gather at dawn on bank holiday Monday. There they will enjoy Dawn Chorus - a spring carnival of poetry song and storytelling, as well as a piping hot breakfast. During the subsequent 13 days, authors and speakers appearing at venues in the town will include established names from not only literature, but politics, sport, science and entertainment. Hotly rumoured to be among those guest speakers are, Booker prize winning novelist Ben Okri, poet Laureate Andrew Motion, campaigner and film maker John Pilger, philosopher AC Grayling, novelist Lui Hong, DJ Johnnie Walker and political diarist Tony Benn. Alongside the heavyweights will be the buzzy Swindon Performance poetry Slam competition, an eco ideas and practices day, and a children and families weekend. Festival director Matt Holland says: "The Festival's profile and reputation continue to grow. It has become a veritable festival of ideas. Each year it attracts new writers, terrific speakers and a larger following. At every level it has become a fantastic celebration for Swindon of things well written and things well said. "People of all ages and backgrounds get together, meet authors join in lively talk, explore new ideas and even have a laugh!"
Swindon Festival of Literature 5 - 18 May
(01793) 771080 or www.swindonfestivalofliterature.co.uk