Local History Society

 Memories - 2012: From Hosepipe Ban to Floods

Wokingham District Veteran Tree Association (WDVTA)

WDVTA Tree record for Bound Oak


2012 began with a drought that had continued for a couple of years, and from the start everything seemed topsy-turvy. The dawn chorus could be heard in early January, and some daffodils bloomed by the end of the month. Oak trees were in leaf more than a month early, and a hose-pipe ban had to be introduced on 5th April. The River Kennet had been reduced to a trickle in parts, and navigation was severely restricted on the Kennet and Avon Canal. Then it started to rain....

The following photographs document the delightful countryside around Arborfield from January to May 2012, and give some idea of what it's like to explore the unrivalled network of footpaths radiating from the centre. Photos can't capture the sheer variety of birdsong that dominates some areas like the Coombes, around the centuries-old Kenney's Farmhouse or the cacophony of crows and rooks at Arborfield Grange, so it's worth an early morning walk to experience it for yourself. If you have any photographs of Arborfield's countryside that you'd like to share, please let us know.

Click on each image for a larger version.

On 16th January, the horse Iris was found wandering along Coles Lane. She'd escaped from the meadow alongside the Mole Brook, and was looking for something to eat - the meadow was so dry that little grass was left, and it was frosty that morning.

Martin Smith helped to take Iris into care. The gate from the meadow was padlocked, so she couldn't be taken back there along Coles Lane, or led on foot through the ford.

This grassy bank is in Coles Lane behind the detached houses in School Road.


Iris was later led past the school back to the meadow, followed by Martin's off-road lorry. She was then walked along Wood Lane between Langley Pond Stables and the old Langley Pond Farmhouse .

Langley Pond itself, just over the road from the farmhouse, is on the Arborfield side of the parish boundary. By March, it had dried out almost completely, revealing the neglected state of the trees strewn across its surface.

This pond has been witness to hundreds of years of history - is it worth conserving? 

By contrast, at the other border of Arborfield on Castle Hill leading up to Farley Castle , this un-named pond had been in water all year, and on occasion it played host to some Mallard ducks. This photo was taken in mid-March, a fortnight or so before the hosepipe ban was imposed.

Just over the road, off the picture, is the venerable Bound Oak along Wokingham Lane. 

In the background on the other side of the road is a field that used to be Westland's Copse, long since disappeared. It was often mentioned in newspaper reports of the Garth Hunt

Oak trees aren't usually in leaf until May, but they were at least a month early in 2012. These examples on Newland Farm were photographed on 6th April, in early morning frost.

The sheep on Newland Farm normally lamb in April, which helped the farm to avoid any animals being infected with Schmallenberg virus, which has devastated flocks elsewhere in southern England.

Deer could often be seen either in the meadow beyond Hazelton's Copse or on the sloping field used by SphereMania . There were two deer in this view taken on 16th April, though up to 6 have been seen at one time on the slope.

Several young trees that had been planted around the Bearwood Lakes golf course a few years ago had been transplanted elsewhere on the course and alongside the public footpath in early Spring. They needed to be watered daily by bowser.

However, in the devastation caused by high winds and storms on 29th April, six of these trees had been uprooted and needed to be given stronger support. At least they didn't need watering by this stage.

Note the Canada Geese in the background, with the lake visible between the trees.  

In early spring, planings from road resurfacing work were left in piles on Coombes Lane and Gravelpithill Lane and at Ellis Hill Farm . The material was spread along the lanes and rolled flat; not many farms have their own road rollers. The work was carried out in conjunction with Wokingham Borough Council .

This view of the farm from 16th April shows a JCB resting on the remaining pile of road planings. On the left are a preserved Showman's caravan and a stationary steam engine.

The lanes had received a similar surface in the mid-1990s, which had lasted for well over a decade.  

By 2010, the footpath next to the ford along Coles Lane had almost been washed away. However, by June 2010, the path and footbridge supports were repaired to a high standard, as seen here.

The repaired footpath was able to cope with fast-running water when the Mole Brook overflowed, and was put to the test on 29th April. After several days of heavy showers, an overnight storm caused the Mole Brook to flood, as shown in the next photograph. 

On the morning of 29th April, it was impossible to reach the footbridge from Arborfield.

Another view from 29th April shows that the Mole Brook had overflowed spectacularly. By mid-afternoon, the meadows between Arborfield and Shinfield alongside the River Loddon were submerged. The Mole Brook added to the Loddon's flow near Carters Hill .

Two days later, Mill Lane in Sindlesham was inundated, and the hotel car park was under water. The Cinema Park and Ride was closed for four days. 

The meadow alongside the Mole Brook was under water on 29th April, leaving little room for the horses to graze.

The field drain alongside Hazelton's Copse was gushing water into an already-swollen  ditch alongside Coles Lane on 29th April.


This view is taken from the same photograph as the field drain shown above. No fewer than three deer can be seen making their way along the edge of the field. They are often seen around Hazelton's Copse.

For many months, this field had been the territory of a buzzard , who could often be seen perched either in a nearby tree or on the electricity cables that supply Newlands Farm. 

Prior to 29th April, there had been a mass of primroses growing along the edge of the ditch beside Coles Lane leading down to the ford. This view shows the primroses, with Arborfield Cross and Newland Farm's barn conversions  in the background.

The same primrose bank, looking in the other direction towards the ford. Coles Lane itself became a mini-stream on 29th April.

The primroses had been in bloom for about a month. Wild bluebells had started appearing at the beginning of April, but the cold wet weather stopped them growing much more until the beginning of May. 

On 29th April, there were far more bluebells in bloom in local gardens than in the woodlands.

In the background can be seen one of the grit boxes installed following the snows of 2010. Mercifully, they weren't needed in early 2012.  

The water level had fallen by 1st May so that a horse and rider could brave the ford on Coles Lane, and intrepid walkers could manage the footpaths on either side of the footbridge.

The footpath to Long Copse, on the west siode of the village, had been as dry as a bone since the beginning of 2012.

The rains of April and early May had turned the surface into glutinous mud, as seen here on Mayday bank holiday.

By early May, in the Coombes, once-solid footpaths showed much evidence of hoof-prints and tyre-marks where they shouldn't have been.

At last, the wild bluebells were in full bloom in Long Copse on Mayday bank holiday. However, they were nowhere near as abundant as in previous years.

Cuckoos could be heard around Long Copse from at least as early as Easter Day in 2012, and one was heard on Mayday Bank Holiday Monday.   

Bound Oak was again in leaf in 2012, producing quite a canopy by 7th May.

Alongside can be seen the markers for the oil pipeline that runs through the parish.

Bluebells could also be seen in Pound Copse off Greensward Lane on 7th May, but again they were more sparse than normal thanks to several weeks of cold and rain.

This woven fence had been erected in Pound Copse over the previous winter. 


Despite the soaking, the hosepipe ban remained in force.


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