The Chiseldon Washpool has all the makings of a beauty spot but it needs a merry band of volunteers to turn out on Sunday April 6th from 10.30am to 4pm (or as many hours as you can spare) if it is to become the wildlife sanctuary and tranquil space that local people are dreaming of.
A year ago this spring and stream was in need of some serious TLC because it was overgrown and drab. Since then the Washpool Area Restoration Project (WARP) group, with help from the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust, has set about clearing rubbish, nettles and scrub.
"Now, for the first time, we are in a position to put something back," says Neil Pullen, the Trust's Swindon Wildlife Officer. "We aim to plant a 25-metre long hedge stuffed with native species such as spindle, Guelder rose, field maple, hawthorn and blackthorn that will provide excellent habitat for wildlife and beautiful berries for birds to feed on and for people to enjoy looking at in the autumn."
But that's not all. A team of young archaeologists from English Heritage are due to excavate part of the site and research the ruins of an old cottage that burnt down in the 1960s.
WARP's Hilary Howe explains: "They only have a limited time on site to complete their dig so we want to help them by doing a little more clearance work and hand digging a trench so they can get at the interesting stuff beneath the top soil."
Volunteers will also be needed to clear some hazel, fell a tree and dispose of the branches and put up some bird boxes.
The Washpool is the local name for a stream that rises from a spring in the valley in which Chiseldon originally grew up. It is where sheep used to be washed before going to market. Local people remember it as a place brimming with wild flowers and colour.
The parish council has given WARP £5,000 towards its restoration, and the group is seeking more funds. A series of ponds a boardwalk, an area of water meadow at the bottom of the valley, and refuges for amphibians and reptiles are all part of the plan.
This year WARP has been unlucky with the weather and the last two work parties have had to be cancelled. Lynn Bishop of WARP says: "This has delayed our work programme. We desperately need villagers and others with an interest in helping wildlife to join us on April 6th."
Neil points out there were queues to get into the group's first AGM last year. "This is a great project that is bringing together young and old people from the village to recreate a wildlife-rich, people-friendly area that everyone can benefit from. It combines the history and cultural significance of the site with wildlife and a place for people to enjoy. It would be great to see a big turn out from the village."
Volunteers can reach the Washpool site by following the footpath down the slope from Strouds Hill, off Butts Road, Chiseldon.
Please wear old clothes and stout shoes. Children are very welcome but must be accompanied by a responsible adult. Materials, equipment and tea, coffee and biscuits will all be provided. No experience is required, as training will be given.