Roundway Hill, the A361 is a straight, fast road. Just as you reach the first roundabout, and hit the brakes (or vice versa), there's a sign pointing to "Devizes Marina".

Eh? Has global warming progressed further than I'd thought? Is Wiltshire no longer a land-locked county?

Nothing quite so dramatic, I'm afraid. Following the sign takes you to a half-finished housing development - with a bit of water beside it.

In the last few years, it seems that no respectable housing development should be seen dead without a bit of water beside it. It started in London's Docklands, where locations which people had paid good money to get out of - suddenly became "desirable", fought over by upwardly-mobile over-achievers - at least until the property bubble burst.

Thereafter, developers all over the country rushed to build apartments beside any body of urban water. Why? Well, I can only think that it made the buildings look bigger and better in the artists impressions - reflecting in still water.

This land once belonged to the Ministry of Defence (like most of Wiltshire, it sometimes seems). A bunch of developers bought it to build their dream portfolio element on. They also bought the cricket ground belonging to nearby Le Marchant Barracks and planned to build on that as well, until the locals pointed out to the somnolent Planning Officers that this was designated open space.

The Local Community (there's nothing so fearsome as an English Local Community on the warpath), went to work on the issue. Now the land is a children's play area and part is being turned into a new wildlife area, next to the Kennet & Avon canal, with newly planted trees and shrubs, native bulbs and a flowering meadow.

I am indebted to Mike Roberts, Honorary Secretary of the wildlife area (and Cartoonist), for this information.

Mike Roberts has written to update me. He's no longer Honorary Secretary of anything, but the open space remains safe. His Flickr page has photos of the current state of Marchant Barracks, and other pics of Devizes.

The same Local Community opposed Crest Homes, who wanted to build some 'modern' three-storey flats near to the barracks building. They objected strongly to such development close to this 'historic' site. Their imprecations were swept aside by the planning officer for Kennet District Council, with the words - 'I can't see what the objections are - there already is a tall building [ie. the barracks ] there...'

(I have to admit that I think Le Marchant Barracks is one of the ugliest buildings on God's earth. But I don't suppose Crest Homes' head office knew that.)

In any case, only time will tell whether Devizes Marina becomes the place to live, or whether it becomes the place to dump supermarket trolleys.

Two years on from my first visit, the owner of Devizes Marina, Allan Taylor, assures me that it is most definitely not somewhere for a supermarket trolley to be dumped.

Re-visiting it myself, I now recognise that Devizes Marina itself is a pleasant harbour for resting canal-boats.

Justly reproved, I commend any business which encourages the appreciation of Britain's waterways deserves support, not carping. Good luck to Mr. Taylor.

[Just a reminder that all of the above was written in the late '80s/early'90s. The names of the developers may have changed, but I doubt if the struggle is over.]

The Wiltshire Moonrakers The Wiltshire Moonrakers Holding Water Holding Water
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