A comment in the March edition of Swindon Link magazine by a councillor about the large green field in the middle of Oakhurst caused worry amongst residents that a unique area could be lost.
During the consultation in February on where to locate another primary school to serve families across North Swindon, Coun Emma Faramazi told The Link that she would like to know whether the untouched green area between Southwold Close and Cassini Drive could be considered.
In April she said: “As a relatively new councillor I wasn’t aware of the history or status of the site. I’ve since learnt that it is protected and agree it is a green lung in an area which is very overdeveloped. We’re lucky to have it.”
Pictured, top, Oakhurst residents join Caryl Clifford at the launch of Clifford Meadow, named in honour of her family’s effort to preserve the special field.
Right, the SSSI interpretation board now.
Below, detail on the board,and a map showing its location
The 16 acres now known as Clifford Meadow has never seen the farmer’s plough and had only ever been used for grazing cattle in late summer after a hay crop had been cut. Over hundreds of years it evolved as a traditional hay meadow to become one of the few sites in Britain where the rare green winged orchid can be found.
Meadow betony, yellow rattle and ox-eye daisy are just a few of the flowers found here, along with butterflies like the Common Blue.
Friends of the Earth
The field was saved after Friends of the Earth Swindon successfully demanded the incoming 1997 Labour Government review the plans for the 5,500 houses to be built in Priory Vale. As a result a new masterplan for the area was created which linked separated green areas into corridors.
Natural England designation
In 2001 the meadow farmed by the Clifford family was designated by Natural England as the Haydon Meadow Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.
The orchid was incorporated in marketing material for Priory Vale house builders and was chosen as the logo for Orchid Vale Primary School in nearby Haydon End.
David Hirst, press officer at Natural England, said he wanted to assure people that Clifford Meadow is protected for all time. “Haydon Meadow SSSI is not under any development threat; the designation provides continued legal protection to this site. It is not time limited and does not ‘run out.’
“The SSSI has recently been classified as being in ‘unfavourable recovering’ condition (with the emphasis on ‘recovering’). My colleagues report that the meadow is looking better now than it has for some time.”
A Swindon Council spokesman confirmed the council’s position. “Clifford Meadow was never one of the potential sites for a new school in North Swindon. Its status as an SSSI protects it, and that is the council’s position.”
North Swindon MP Justin Tomlinson supported the continued existence of Haydon Meadow: “The SSSI is absolutely not an option for development now, nor in the future. It is a valuable community asset and will rightly remain so.”
Find out more:
Haydon Meadow SSSI is part of the green corridor that stretches from Shaw Forest Park to Cricklade, which includes a 100 acre wildlife reserve to be developed by Crest Nicholson and managed by Wiltshire Wildlife Trust.
Read more about the reasons for designating sites
Bottom, the cover of the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust leaflet given to new Priory Vale householders in 2006-2007.