A ROMAN villa, a landing strip for pre-World War One biplanes, a Bronze Age barrow, half-a-dozen Neolithic stone circles, the birthplace of an acclaimed poet and an old Victorian brick yard.

The countryside in and around Coate Water has all of these and more but conservationists who have lost a 30-year battle to keep developers at bay are urging people to enjoy the area before it changes forever.

A two-day celebration of the old hamlet of Coate and its adjoining rural landscape on the eastern edge of Swindon takes place this weekend.

It has been organised by the Swindon Civic Voice which is urging people to get out in the open air and “soak it all up” before work on a 900-home development begins.


Swindon Advertiser: Martha Parry pictured outside the old railway museum, one of the buildings set to benefit if the Lottery bid is successful

Chairperson Martha Parry, above, said: “The aim is to celebrate what we have while it’s still here.

“The landscape in and around Coate is rich in history and archaeology but, tragically, this will change very soon. We might as well enjoy it now while we have the chance.”

Celebrate Coate takes place at two venues tomorrow and Saturday and will include displays of maps and old photographs.

It will look at various aspects of Coate from its prehistoric landscape and the lake that was built two centuries ago to supply the Wilts & Berks Canal to the work of 19th Century poet Richard Jefferies who lived there, and the bucolic area’s role as a popular leisure spot for Swindon people.

Historically minded members of the Swindon Civic Voice have put together an archaeological map highlighting Coate down the ages.

The document says: “Anyone with a couple of hours to spare could hardly do better than explore Coate before it changes.

“Enter the gates at Coate Water Country Park and enjoy the reservoir built for the canal that once passed through Swindon.

“Although the park is not part of the development it will lose its sweeping views of ancient Liddington Castle that will disappear behind new houses, flats and other buildings.

“Next to the park is the Polo Ground. Imagine the exciting period before World War One when aviation was in its infancy and stick-like bi-planes landing there.

“Walk the footpaths in the countryside known as Jefferies Land. Open one of his books and read about trees or features of the landscape that are still there.”

The document speaks of the Bronze Age Barrow off Day House Lane “very worn but extant” and the nearby site of a Roman Villa.

“On the other side of Coate Water, near the boat yard, our prehistoric ancestors lived and knapped their flint tools.”

The remnants of a Neolithic stone circle can also be seen while an Iron Age village once partly existed on the site now occupied by the Great Western Hospital. A medieval village, meanwhile, also stood nearby.

“Next to the Spotted Cow is an old chapel. Originally, there was another near the Holiday Inn along with a complex of farms.

“One of them housed an unexploded bomb until it was recently ploughed up by a farmer.” Remains of the old Victorian brickworks, meanwhile can still be seen off Day House Lane at Badbury Wick.

Experts Maria Wheatley and John Cowie will tomorrow evening speak about Coate’s ancient landscape, its stone circle and the location’s possible connection with Avebury and Stonehenge. At The Holiday Inn throughout Saturday a variety of speakers will celebrate how the landscape evolved and examine its many attractions.

The organisers hope to stage a walk along rural Day House Lane, which cuts through Coate, weather permitting.

  • Tickets for tomorrow’s event, which starts at 7pm, are £1.50 to £2.50 and available at the library. Saturday’s event, which starts at 10am, is free although donations will be accepted.