Tearing into the fabric of Rodborough and Stroud

Rodborough Fields and Frome Banks are woven into the historical, social, physical and emotional fabric, not only of Rodborough, but of Stroud and the Five Valleys. The plans for a new housing development on the fields threaten to tear through that fabric, destroying a site of significance for many people, important to them all for a number of different reasons.

The fields and banks are inseparable, both in their historical context, as a key wildlife site and as part of the green corridor through the town.

Stroudwater Textile Trust give many talks about Stroud’s textile history. One of the most important parts of those talks is Stroud’s most famous painting. The artist is unknown, but the 1870’s painting of Wallbridge is well known in these parts. In addition to showing us this historic part of Stroud, focused around the canal, it also shows the rows of scarlet and white cloth drying on Rodborough Fields in the background of the painting.

This was celebrated a few years ago in the ‘On Tenterhooks’ project. Waves of red fabric were carried by local school children over Rodborough Common and down to the fields recreating the link between the sheep cropped grasslands of the common, the tenterhook racking fields themselves and the Capel Mill dye works below.

The walk formed the basis of a wonderful sound and light show presented at Rodborough Community Hall. As part of the same project, local children and residents were given guided walks along Frome Banks to celebrate its heritage, its unique atmosphere and its biodiversity.

Heritage & Wildlife

Local poets and historians write of the field’s medieval ridge and furrow patterns, visible after a heavy frost, a sprinkling of snow or in the low sun.

Regional and local wildlife and conservation bodies and wildlife enthusiasts identify and record the field’s flora and fauna. Photographers capture the colour of the wild flowers and the insects they attract. The fields are a fine example of a wildflower meadow with ox eye daisies, clover, buttercups, and knapweed.

Frome Banks was until very recently a Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust Nature Reserve. The Trust, recognised its importance as a key wildlife site, so close to the town centre and managed it for over twenty years. It is the haunt of Otters, Kingfishers Dippers and a number of bat species.

Amenity & Leisure

Those who live on the other side of the valley have a wonderful view. They can see from the valley floor to the crown of the commons. The view is one of fields, hedgerows, woodland and high grasslands, broken only by small clusters of Cotswold stone cottages. Rodborough fields are a significant part of this quintessential Stroud Valleys view. They will also see the walkers moving up and down the valley slopes on the footpaths that link the town with Rodborough Common.

Threats posed by development

The housing developers in question may argue that they are concerned (at present) with the area of fields directly below Arundel Drive, around 8 acres of land covered with 100 houses. not those directly to the east contained within the Cotswold AONB. Yet, there can be little doubt that this might be the beginning of the end for the entire area of Rodborough Fields and beyond, as far as Butterow Hill.

In addition, there will be considerable impact on Frome Banks Nature Reserve. The intended access road will cut through this wonderful green corridor over a double lane bridge.

If these fields go, it will set a precedent for developers to build on other key wildlife sites, Conservation Areas and even the AONB elsewhere in Gloucestershire. There are many brown field sites available and approved for development in the district.

Community action

Previous public meetings have shown how much concern and opposition there is to the proposed development. The Rodborough Fields Preservation group has been set up to coordinate an organised response to the threat. It is an independent campaign group to raise awareness of these plans and to co-ordinate the opposition against this development. It is looking at all of the issues, drawing on support from a number of other organisations, groups and individuals to help it do so.

Large numbers of people from all over Stroud have already signed petitions against the development. There is also an online petition on the Rodborough Fields web site – www.rodboroughfields.org.uk.  The public will be able to respond to the official planning application at once it is made public in the Spring at – www.stroud.gov.uk.

If you have any memories, observations, or old photos relating to Rodborough Fields and Frome Banks, please get in touch with the Group via; contact@rodboroughfields.org.uk

Please feel free to download the A5 flyer and A4 poster below. These are being delivered and displayed throughout the Stroud area. If you are able to print a copy, display or distribute locally it would be a great help.

Rodborough Fields A5 Flyer

Rodborough Fields A4 Poster