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"We all learnt a great deal about Farming - it helped the children to understand the idea of Farming more. A real hands on experience!"

By Reading School Year 4 teacher



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15 Sep 2020



When I finished working at Rushall Farm as manager for William Cumber six years ago I continued to have responsibility for the various pieces of farmed land around Theale. Most of it had been put into an environmental scheme in 2011. At that time we planted wild flower meadows, allowed some areas to naturally regenerate, did tree and shrub planting and turned the wartime pillbox into a home for bats. This was all to make it more attractive for wildlife, and it has been a success. There are often roe deer happily grazing and an abundance of pheasants knowing they are miles away from being shot.

But now you will have seen flags flying at the entrance to the field opposite Sainsbury’s, and a showroom porta cabin advertising the name Fairfields. House prices vary from £300k to £500k on land which until recently was deemed too close to the motorway for residential development. It is really great that they are keeping the band of trees alongside the M4, which are growing well, and the pillbox is a special feature on the new estate. A friend specialising in cutting and demolishing concrete structures told me there are tonnes of concrete in one of those pillboxes, and they are very difficult to destroy.  I take comfort that was the purpose of their design.  Interestingly, Bellway Homes, the developers, had first to plan and build a new home for the resident badgers that have thrived over the last nine years. Their accommodation is by far the most expensive on site even without en suite bathroom and fitted kitchen. Right now they are encouraging the badgers with tasty food and a promise not to use violence, but the stakes are high if they don’t move.

Land is still retained in the area below the development as a wild flower meadow. This has paths for walkers and is popular with locals. Wildflowers are maintained with annual cutting. The band of trees planted along the M4 has grown incredibly well, reducing noise and giving a more intimate feel to the area.

So it is the end of an era for another chunk of green land.  When handing the keys to the site foreman at 8am in the morning pre lock down we mused that, although advertised as half a mile from the motorway, another 200 houses was going to mean an even longer tailback to that busy road.

John Bishop