Don’t let the bustards grind you down

About 13:45 on Sunday 8th April Derek Pickett, Jim and Emma Gunter, Mark Godwin and Peter and Marion Spencer met up with Lynne of the Great Bustard Group at Enford Village Hallf for a booked visit to the Great Bustard release site.

The Great Bustard features on the Wiltshire County flag and on the Wiltshire Coat of Arms. Note the dragon (based on the Wessex Wyvern?) in the canton of the shield.

Wiltshire Coat of Arms

The last Great Bustard was shot in England in 1832. David Waters, a retired Wiltshire Police Officer, set up a project to re-introduce the Great Bustard to Salisbury Plain. Details about the project including some short video clips can be found on the Great Bustard Group website at:

Salisbury Plain is a chalk plateau covering 300 square miles (780 km2) mostly in central and southern Wiltshire stretching into the neighbouring counties of Berkshire and Hampshire. Most of the Plain is military training area. There are a number of villages on the Plain including Enford and private owned farm land. The Great Bustard release site is on privately owned land. The wildlife on Salisbury Plain, including the Great Bustards, has adapted to their often noisy Army neighbours. Lynne did mention that the Great Bustards were not too keen on helicopters. Probably because they can fly very close to the ground and the down draft from the rotors stirs up the dust.

Bustards 1

We climbed aboard a Land Rover and Lynne drove us out of Enford village and on to Salisbury Plain. In order to protect the release site I will not go into detail of which direction Lynne took. After a short, rather bumpy in places, drive we arrived at the viewing hide; a large wooden hut. Lynne had brought several pairs of binoculars for us to use, I had brought my own. Those who work in the acting profession will advise you never to work with children or animals because both can be very unpredictable.
The Great Bustards that David Waters and his team released on Salisbury Plain are completely free ranging. The birds, who are not advised about group visits such as ours ,decide if they will put in an appearance or not. We were fortunate that two male birds permitted us to view them through binoculars.

Bustards 2

We climbed back aboard the Land Rover and Lynne drove us back to Enford and to the Great Bustard Group shop outside the village. The journey included a drive along a flooded track which Lynne informed us was Winterbourne. The shop had several items for sale with a Great Bustard theme. After we had made purchases and paid the £15 each for the tour, money well spent, Lynne drove us back to the Enford Village Hall where we said goodbye to her. We then adjourned to the village pub, the Swan Inn, for a drink.

Wessex Chronicle: The back issues


One thing I have been meaning to do for ages is upload back issues of the Chronicle to the website. Well, with the change in format, now seems the perfect opportunity. Each of the links below will allow you to download a PDF of all the Chronicles I still have available, starting in 2012, when the digital edition was first launched. The most recent issues are not included, in deference to those who had subscribed. Update 02/01/2018: All issues are now uploaded. An index will appear in volume 18 issue 4, being emailed to former members soon. All four issues of volume 18 will be uploaded to this site in January 2019.

Volume 13, Issue 1
Volume 13, Issue 2
​​Volume 13, Issue 3
Volume 13, Issue 4
Volume 14, Issue 1
Volume 14, Issue 2
Volume 14, Issue 3
Volume 14, Issue 4
Volume 15, Issue 1
Volume 15, Issue 2
Volume 15, Issue 3
Volume 15, Issue 4
Volume 16, Issue 1
Volume 16, Issue 2
Volume 16, Issue 3
Volume 16, Issue 4
Volume 17, Issue 1
Volume 17, Issue 2
Volume 17, Issue 3
​Volume 17, Issue 4

Big changes are coming to Wessex Society

Well, it's been a while since anything has been posted to this blog, but that's about to change. You see, at our meeting on the 7th of October, we decided to disband as an organisation with a formal membership structure. But that does not mean the end of Wessex Society by any means. The Wessex Chronicle will now turn from a hugely expensive print magazine with a tiny circulation to...well, this blog. Contact us if you have an idea for an article or interview that you would like to see published. Our quarterly meetings in Salisbury will change from business meetings, with agendas and minutes, to purely social gatherings. And instead of membership fees, we now have a Patreon page, where people can donate online. The average monthly donation for Patreon pages is $4.44 (£3.34). At the time of writing this, the Society has 244 likes on Facebook. If each of those people donated the average amount, we could have an annual income of nearly £10,000. With that sort of money, we could achieve all sorts of projects that we had to shelve for lack of funds, such as:

  • Paying for contributions to the Chronicle, attracting a higher quality of contributor.
  • Sending out Wessex flags to private businesses, and to district and parish/town councils, as well as county councils and unitary authorities, for them to fly on St Ealdhelm's Day.
  • Publishing our Essential Wessex series of books on Wessex history and landmarks.
  • Publishing our long-gestating Wessex Dialect Dictionary.
  • Sponsoring prizes in the arts for works exhibiting regional distinctiveness.

All these are previously-mooted ideas, thought there may be others we haven't thought of. If you think of anything else, please speak up. But above all, donate! ​The more we can collect in donations, the bigger we can go. So, it's over to you, lovely people.

St Ealdhelm’s Day round-up


The above images come from Dorset County Council, which was one of several councils to fly the Wessex flag outside its offices again this year. Somerset and Wiltshire councils also agreed to fly the flag, as did Portsmouth and Bristol City Councils, though a trip down to City Hall in Bristol failed to yield any evidence of them actually flying the flag we sent them. South Gloucestershire once again flatly refused, while Swindon asked for a flag, but not until the actual day, meaning that there was no way that we could get a flag to them on time.

Outside local government, Wiltshire Museum also flew the flag, pictured left. We had visited the museum as part of our annual St Ealdhelm's Day walk, which this year was held in Devizes. A full report of the walk will appear in the next issue of the Wessex Chronicle.