Peter died on 6th January in his 100th year. He was a leading figure in the initiative to purchase the Hurst in 1995 and it is largely thanks to him that we can enjoy the meadow today.
The Hurst was owned by a company called Dorchester Lakes Ltd, which tried to restrict access to the land, but when they went into receivership this was seen as an opportunity for the village to step in. The Parish Council, led by Cllr Maurice Day, called a meeting which was addressed by Peter, in a packed St. Birinus Primary School. Peter set up the Hurst Water Meadow Trust and led the initiative to raise funds, delivering a letter to every household in the village and receiving donations or loan promises totalling some £34,000. The sale was to be by sealed bid and the prospect of success was thought to be slim until South Oxfordshire District Council moved to make a Compulsory Purchase Order in the event that the Trust was outbid. Peter said that the receiver’s fury on learning of the CPO was enough to “melt the telephone line”. Driven by Peter’s tenaciousness and energy the Trust acquired the 18 acre meadow for £31,000 and the fishing rights for a further £2,000.
Peter was a founder trustee and hon. secretary, steering the Trust through its early days and starting to develop the Hurst meadow into a haven for wildlife and an important area of recreation for Dorchester residents and visitors. Even when he had retired as a trustee Peter maintained an active interest in the work of the Trust and the management of the meadows, applauding the purchase of further land along the lower Thame in 2009 (Old Bridge Meadow) and 2015 (Overy Mead Piece). He was often in the meadows inspecting our efforts from the seat of his ‘all terrain’ buggy and on at least one occasion this vehicle, with him still on it, had to be extricated from the mud when he was too ambitious in his site inspection! It was always a pleasure to see him when he joined us during our working party coffee breaks.
We feel that we have lost the ‘grandfather’ of the Hurst Water Meadow Trust but it is good to recognise that generations of future Dorchester residents will appreciate and benefit from the Hurst which Peter helped to secure for their enjoyment.
In early December members of Sonning Common Green Gym joined us for the last working party of 2017 when we planted 120 small bare-root hedging plants on Overy Mead Piece. They are planted in two short sections alongside the post and wire fence which separates our meadow from Shillingford Farm land. The species we have used include hawthorn, common dogwood, guelder rose, wayfaring tree, spindle, field maple, hazel and dog rose. These should grow to provide shelter and food for wildlife and to relieve the visual monotony of the long wire fence. A further two short sections towards the Thames will be planted at a future date.
The plants were purchased with money donated to the Trust to mark the wedding, in September, of Matt Kirk and Tanya Morris. We hope that Matt, Tanya and their generous friends will visit the meadows to see the growing hedge.
Posted on January 14, 2018 in Events in and around Dorchester