Storm in the Willows -
Ratty response to car park proposal
Guardian - Tuesday August 15, 2000
by Helen Carter
A rural oasis on the banks of the
river Thames, which was the inspiration for Kenneth Grahame's The
Wind in the Willows and for the artist Sir Stanley Spencer, is
A proposal is being considered to
build a car park on the tranquil Marsh Meadow in Cookham,
Berkshire. Council planners say it is desperately needed - but
many villagers argue it would spoil the area.
Grahame created his enduringly
popular characters Badger, Mole, Ratty and Toad while walking
along the riverbank near Cookham, an area he described as
"heaven on the Thames".
David Ricardo, of the Marsh Meadow
Protection Group, has collected the signatures of 1,170 people
opposed to the car park.
Mr Ricardo, whose relative, Colonel
Francis Ricardo, inspired the character of Toad, said the meadow
was a national attraction because of its artistic and literary
"People say that it has the
most unsurpassed view in the whole Thames valley," he said.
"This view will be destroyed if a car park is built on the
Marsh Meadow. Even though Cookham is only 45 minutes from the
centre of London what makes it attractive is how rural it is. We
don't need a car park - there is adequate parking here
Cookham attracts tens of thousands
of visitors every year; last year 16,000 people visited the
Stanley Spencer gallery in the village.
The meadow, on green belt land, is
virtually unchanged since Spencer painted it in 1934 in The
The National Trust, which has a
small car park on Cookham Moor, has not yet decided whether it
will support the scheme. If it were to go ahead, access would be
required across the trust's land.
Windsor and Maidenhead council,
which is considering the plan, says the proposed car park would
have a rural appearance with extensive planting and gravel
surfaces. It would offer easy access to the village and river and
would be landscaped to screen it from important views across the
river and moor, said a spokeswoman.