GLASTONBURY CONSERVATION SOCIETY

Reprinted from Newsletter 141, dated 2014 June

Band of neighbours buys Bushy Coombe to keep it beautiful John Brunsdon

This 1912 photo shows townsfolk sitting on the bench at the top of the footpath to soak in the view over the woods, the town and the Levels in the distance. (In the 1960s the woods became Dod Lane houses.)
Recently the view from that bench — which is still there — became obscured by overgrowth. The new consortium cut the brambles back.
In the 1980s the coombe had a mass of primroses. What caused them to disappear? (Photo by Peter Curtis)
Chronic mud between Bulwarks Lane and the top of the Bushy Coombe footpath needs attention.

Bushy Coombe is one of Glastonbury’s beauty spots, much used by folk visiting the Tor on foot. Seats have been there for 100 years, maintained by the local authority.

  Our society has cooperated with the planting and obtained a grant from the country council for improving the footpath right-of-way to meet increased usage as the preferred off-road route to the Tor. Because of the gradient and increased heavy rain, the footpath needs ongoing attention.

  The 13 acres, however, are privately owned marginal agricultural land — not common land with the right to roam. The previous owner, Rory Weightman, allowed occasional wider use of the land but recently sold 8½ acres to a consortium of local residents who wish to see the coombe continue as a beautiful area.

  This means it has to be managed, which involves cattle grazing and restricting the growth of brambles. Failure to do this will actually threaten biodiversity — for instance, blue butterflies will reduce in numbers if their food plant, a species of vetch, is overshadowed by brambles.

  Some older trees need surgery. Sadly, another fine beech fell in neighbouring Chalice Hill during the Christmas gale (see page 5).

Jim Nagel adds: The main instigator of the purchase was James Godden, who lives at 20 Bushy Coombe Gardens. He roused a group of 16, mostly residents of his close and some in Bovetown whose properties abut the coombe, to form Bushy Coombe Land Trust Ltd, a not-for-profit company. They raised £85,000, submitted the winning tender in the auction run by Cooper & Tanner, and took ownership in October.

  “We basically want to see the land farmed, cows put back in, brambles managed, and brought back to productive pasture,” he said. In March they paid for brushcutters to do a drastic cutback of brambles, which stirred complaints from sections of the community for the great brown patches that resulted. “It was done within the timescales allowed for conservation without disturbing nesting birds,” he said. “We will do more in the autumn and keep on top of it. We think it will take several years.”

  Desmond Miller, a neighbour, said: “When we moved here [30 years ago], the coombe was a mass of primroses at this time of the year. I don’t know what has happened to them, whether a farmer sprayed them or what.”

  The new company formed a steering committee with James doing the first turn as spokesperson. Anyone wishing to assist the new owners in conserving the coombe should contact him on 83 3420.

  James, an architect, specializes in the design and construction of timber-framed buildings. The environmental visitor centre at Carymoor is one of his projects.

2004 article

  Rory Weightman made Bushy Coombe a nature reserve after buying it in 2003 from Graham Slocombe, a farmer who lived at Edgarley. Rory wrote an article in Newsletter 111. He still owns the top few acres of the coombe and lives in the gothic barn he converted.

Thatched house in new hands

The former home of the late doctors Bill and Susan Openshaw — the thatched house at 101 Bovetown — has new owners: Gary and Suzanne McConnell. He runs a water-installation business at Shepton Mallet.

  One of their first projects was to clear the overgrown Victorian pond garden behind the house. The pond, a haven for wildlife at the top end of Bushy Coombe, is fed by springs coming out of the hillside. Its outflow becomes the Lambrook, which flows under Silver Street on its way to the Brue.

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