The 1997 Marshfield Parish Appraisal

This document was produced by a volunteer group of Marshfield residents. It is reproduced here by kind permission of Marshfield Parish Council.


One-coat-colder Marshfield – that’s how some of the locals describe the village. Occupying some 5,500 acres, the parish stands 183 metres above sea-level – an open invitation to any passing breeze to become an instant gale. It’s not surprising that it takes a good 5 minutes to cook a soft-boiled egg.

Despite the climate, the area has been inhabited since prehistoric times. There have been previous surveys looking into life-styles and remains. But it is the people living here today who were the focus of interest when a Parish Appraisal was first mooted early last year.

How do they view the Parish that is their home? Where do they see it coming from and where would they like it to go? Are dog mess and parking on the pavements still the big issues, or has something new taken over? These are just a few of the questions that it was hoped the Parish Appraisal would answer as the Millennium draws closer.

About 50 people attended the meeting in the School last May when the idea of carrying out a Parish Appraisal was opened for discussion. It was explained that any appraisal would be completely separate from the Parish Council, funded by Rural Action and guided by Community Action. Also at the meeting was a spokesperson from Congresbury – where they had recently finished their appraisal. When it turned out that it had taken them five years from start to finish, there were some long faces.

But in true village spirit several interested people put their names forward, and from there a Steering Group was formed. The first and only resolution that the group made was that five years involvement was too long. It had to be possible to achieve results more quickly than that!

It was decided that something as important as a Parish Appraisal needed a high profile. Two competitions were set in motion, one to design the appraisal logo, and the other for the younger children, a poster that could go up in the village. The steering group also took stands at the Church Fete and the Village Day, trying to raise awareness of what they were doing in the hope that parishioners would feel more inclined to take part when the questionnaires went out.

Regular meetings continued through the summer. A computer software package was bought. Specially designed for the job, it offered a choice of 500 questions to work on, some of which could be altered and personalized. These had to be reduced to a maximum of 80 questions for the final questionnaire, as that was the capacity of the statistical analysis programme – let alone respondents’ concentration span!

Designing a questionnaire by group is not a simple matter. Village clubs and organisations were approached to see if they had specific matters that they would like covered. Then began a detailed picking through of the possible questions. There were discussions, and trial runs. Followed by more discussion. Progress was thorough, and slow. But – with Congresbury as a constant memory – things did move on. In September 1997, 630 bright yellow questionnaires were delivered – hopefully one to every household in the parish.

With a two week respite before collection – a fair time span allowed in view of the 20 odd pages of questions that had to be filled in – the steering group took time out…..

……..Until the questionnaires began to return. In all 257 came back (40%) and the wonderful job of number crunching began.

And here it is – the data about life in the Parish of Marshfield as seen by those who completed the survey. Hopefully now in a format that makes sense, not just to a computer, but to those who took part as well as those who did not.

1. Who lives in the Parish of Marshfield?

The current electoral register has 1200 names. Allowing for some children here and there, it would seem that the actual population count is approximately 1500. (In 1982 it was estimated at 1200 in total, but there have been new houses built since then so it was expected to be a higher figure.)

Questionnaires were returned by 257 households, with 657 people between them – an average of 2.6 people in each. 570 of those people took the time and trouble to answer the relevant sections of the questionnaire.

There is a slight discrepancy from national figures when it comes to distribution of the sexes. UK statistics claim a population division of 49% males to 51 % females: in Marshfield those figures are reversed at 52% male to 48% female.

1.1 How long have we lived in Marshfield?

The graph shows a gentle turnover of the population. The largest number – 31% – have lived here from 6-15 years, which suggests that people coming in are happy here. There is a healthy number who have hung on for more than 26 years – perhaps deserving medals for endurance. And indications that people move from house to house within the parish, or return after periods away.

30% of respondents spent their childhood here.

The Historical Society is very popular

2. Employment and Education

2.1 Employment

People who are about in the village during the day will probably feel that Marshfield does not have a major unemployment problem. Surprisingly the survey said we have 14% unemployed – way above the National average of 4.9% and the South Gloucestershire figure of 2.3%. This appears to be one of those imponderables that surveys can turn up. Bearing in mind that this is 14% of the 40% who responded, things may not be as bad as they seem.

A large proportion of those in work – 39% – work either at home or within the parish. The remaining 61% work outside the parish. However, 62% of respondents use their cars to get to work, so there must be quite a lot of rush hour movement within the village as well as on the exits to the by-pass.

2.2 Education

Education is one of the major issues in the village at the moment, with talk of a new village school and differing opinions on where it should be sited.

87% of respondents feel Marshfield Village School to be very important to the local community, and 81 % of parents with pre-school age children expect to send their children there. At the moment 86% of these youngest children attend Marshfield Playgroup.

75% of primary age children attend the Village School, 19% attend state schools in either Acton Turville or Colerne, and 6% go to private schools.

It is the secondary children who are more widely spread. 36% go to state schools in Bath, 25% to Chippenham, 2% to Bristol, and 39% attend private schools.

Only a few respondents answered the question concerning an after school club, and as it was not possible to link the responses with households where there were or were not children, it was decided that no reliability could be attached to the figures.

2.3 Adult Education/Evening Classes

Most people indicated that they would be interested in attending adult/evening classes in the village. Their interests covered a wide range of subjects. It is unlikely that people would actually enroll in the numbers indicated below, and if they did many classes would be over-subscribed before they had begun. But there is obviously a lot of potential talent out there just waiting for a chance to express itself.

3. Environment. Housing and Transport

3.1 Environment

Feelings about the parish seemed genuinely positive. The general countryside topped the league of important features of our local environment, with 75% making that a first choice. It was closely followed by bridleways and footpaths, coming in at 65%, and then Community events with 58%, and Conservation Area Status at 53%.

Other amenities that people added included – ‘Shops and school in middle of village’. ‘ Playground (like a lot).’ ‘School and community centre (like a lot).’ ‘Withymead play park, shops, pubs/post office, the community centre.’ ‘Hunting (like a lot),’ and ‘Darkness ie lack of lights.’ One respondent had highlighted the option ‘cemetery and churchyard’ and added underneath ‘I’m not dead yet’.

On the downside, litter and dog mess appeared to cause concern. There was an even divide over whether or not the former was a problem in the parish. A consensus of opinion – 71% – thought that the answer was individual action rather than a litter warden.

Other suggestions for dealing with the litter included – ‘Convicted offenders on Community Service.’ ‘The unemployed.’ ‘The council – as in the past.’ ‘Draconian legal action against identified culprits.’ ‘A litter warden in Withyworld.’ ‘Working groups,’ and ‘Village parties do a periodic clean-up.’

65% think that dog mess is a problem, with only 36% thinking that the situation has been improved by the introduction of the special bins.

72% would like to see the overhead wiring disappear underground, but many were worried about what it would cost and who would be expected to foot the bill. One definite “No” explained their thinking by adding the comment that there would be no perches for the birds if the cables went.

Traffic noise topped the poll of suggested disturbances at 52%. Other dislikes were low flying aircraft at 45%, and motorcycle scrambling at 30%. A lot of people were worried by lorries, either starting early in the morning, or driving through the village without apparently having a delivery to make. Also, comments were made about large vehicles returning to their central point at 4.30 pm in the afternoons. Parking by pub customers was another bugbear – as was illegal parking on junctions, and traffic speed. Animal noises from other people’s houses also received several mentions.

Many people did not answer this question at all, possibly because they are not disturbed by any of the activities listed, instead taking them as part of everyday life wherever one lives. ‘No! No! No!’ was hand written by one respondent – and ‘All the above is just life.’ by another.

3.2 Countryside: Footpaths and Bridleways

The people of Marshfield are quite active and outdoor minded. 70% use the bridlepaths and footpaths once a month or more. Of those, 43% said that they did not find problems when they were out and about, but others were not so content. Poor signposting was pointed out by 28%, while bushes or nettles and mud made life difficult for 26%.

Various useful comments were added which give a wider angle to the problems met by walkers. ‘Houses built on rights of way, eg Trimmers Lane.’ ‘Stiles are difficult for old folk, wooden kissing gates are a good option.’ ‘Crops in fields and no alternative provided.’ ‘Difficult with young children.’ ‘Mud due to horses.’ ‘Can’t use pushchairs.’ ‘Only in wet weather.’ ‘Paths inaccessible, eg Pixtons Green – gates, dogs, farmers hostile eg Ashwicke.’ ’3 ploughed up between Wilts border and Withymead.’

82 people said that they would be willing to help cope with some of these problems, of whom 23 signed the volunteer sheets to confirm their intent. Many older residents stated – regretfully – that they were too old to get involved in the physical work involved.

Kissing Gates are better for old folk!

3.3 Housing

Of the people who answered the survey a large majority live in owner occupied properties – 86%. How this figure relates to the parish as a whole is difficult to evaluate. But it is interesting to see that the survey returned a figure of 9% living in local authority properties, which tallies with the figure given by South Gloucestershire for the number of properties that they own here.

On the whole people seemed fairly happy with the homes they have. Only 11% of respondents answered the question about being able to move house. Of the few who did want to move, lack of suitable stock to buy and price/negative equity came out as the top two problems they were facing. Various comments cited lack of will power, inflated prices, not enough 3 bedroomed houses for young people as well as people saying that they liked living here and were happy where they are.

3.4 Transport

3.4.1 Parking

The Steering Group was well aware that there is a parking problem in the village. But as there is no obvious answer they decided not to put a direct question about it in the questionnaire. The idea was to see what came up without any prompting.

The survey certainly showed why there is a problem. The 250 households that answered the question on car ownership have 314 cars between them. That is 1.2 per household. In fact 102 households owned 2 cars. 79% of these households have garage or off-road parking. 440 people answered the question on where they usually parked their cars and – contrary to what might be expected, only 21% said that they park on the road with 78% stating that they used either a garage or off-road space.

It is dangerous to transpose data from a small population to a larger one, especially when no method of random selection has been used for the sample. But in this case it will not hurt, and is interesting. If each household in the village has 1.2 cars, and there are 630 households, then we have to accommodate 766 cars, without taking into account any visitors.

In the past developers have had to provide off-road spaces for two vehicles for each
property they build. That’s fine for the houses that do not receive many visitors…..

And – if we do increase tourism, where will all those cars go?

3.4.2 Public Transport

Only a quarter of respondents use the bus service occasionally, while just 10% use it regularly. 77% said that they never use the buses for social and leisure purposes.

This question brought in a string of comments – ‘Not much of a service.’ ‘None suit work times.’ ‘Would use buses if more frequent – twice a week is a little rare!’ ‘Service not suitable for work/practice/shopping and returning for picking up school children.’ ‘Would be used more often if more convenient times of service.’ ‘Bus service seems to be abysmal – impossible to use it.’

All of which must be cold comfort to those hoping people will leave their cars at home! But on the more positive side – ‘(Use for) getting to train services.’ ‘We use Lansdown Park and Ride.’

Out of 308 who answered the question about a parish transport service, 80% said that there was a need for a link with Lansdown Park and Ride, while 48% opted for hospital visit transport. There were a few comments which related to the actual question – ‘Maybe for elderly or others who need it.’ ‘No.’ ‘Not for us.’

But that question came before the one on the existing bus services, and many people put their feelings about the buses at this point. ‘A flexible service which can respond to need and stimulate interest.’ ‘Proper bus service.’ ‘Decent bus service into Bath.’ ‘More buses into Bath.’ ‘Shopping in Yate, Chipping Sodbury, etc.’ ‘Direct service to Bristol (not through Abson, Doynton etc.).’ ‘To prevent traffic jams in Bath.’

Where would the birds perch if they took the wires away?

4. Lifestyles

4.1 Leisure

4.1.1 What facilities do we leave the village for?

People who head off into the wider world for entertainment and relaxation will be seen in search of food. Restaurants topped the poll for out-of-village usage, with swimming pools and cinema coming along behind.

4.1.2 Youth Facilities

Over half of the respondents had no opinion at all about the youth facilities in the parish. However, of those that did have something to say, almost all considered the facilities either good or reasonable. There were some comments suggesting that people did not know half of them existed; a problem that might be overcome by better publicity.

4.1.3 Sports Facilities

There are more frequent cricket players than football players among the respondents to this survey, although a variety of sports are practiced by a few. Only 196 admitted to taking an active role in the outdoor sports suggested, many more preferring the indoor selection where skittles was the most popular. Many people added the sports that they would like to take part in; ten mentioned swimming and nine tennis.

While many people had no opinion about the sports facilities on offer in the village, it was surprising to find that the majority of those who did rated them as poor. With the cricket club and pavilion, the football pitches and pavilion, as well as the activities available in the Community Centre, that result was a shade disconcerting. For a Parish of this size, the facilities had been seen as above average rather than below.

Not as many were interested in helping to form new activities, but of those that did answer that question Marshfield Museum received the most support at 39%, with a rambling club coming second – 34% and a Painting and Drawing Group coming in third with 26%, just beating the Gardening Club which reached 23%. Other suggestions included bridge, photography, handbell ringing and a film club.

On the whole there was an air of apathy here with only about 25% bothering to answer these questions. Maybe there are enough clubs active in the parish already – albeit they are not widely publicised.

4.2 Shops and other Facilities within the Parish

The shops, pubs and Post Office get most of their custom once a week, with not nearly so many people using them every day. Very few respondents do not use them at all – about 4% out of the nearly 500 who answered. 46% thought that the quality of the shopping facilities within the parish were good, and 45% rated them as reasonable. The most common reason for using them was that people liked to support local shops and needed last minute items. Additional comments were ‘It’s easier.’ ‘Convenient.’ 7 like the butcher’s meat quality.’ ‘Passing thro, don’t live in the village.’ ‘Chewing gum and sweets are convenient’ ‘Certain quality products.’ ‘Good produce, bread, bacon, meat, cheese, cake and ice cream.’ ‘No good as opening hours are poor.’

35% also use the pubs on a weekly basis.

Existing village facilities appear well-used – and well-liked. The Community Centre came out as the most-used, closely followed by Withymead Playing Field, then Withyworld and the Church hall. While very few use the allotments, there was insistence that they should be retained.

4.3 Religion

Church and chapel were important to a lot of people. 452 answered the question – quite a lot for page 22! Many were obviously tiring by then. Approximately 330 said the institutions were important to them for baptisms, weddings and funerals as well as historic buildings. And 211 thought they were an important focal point. Other added important attributes were – ‘Christmas Mass.’ ‘Concerts/church choir.’ ‘A resting place for peace.’ ‘Young people’s groups, eg Brownies.’ ‘As a source of Christian teaching and support.’ ‘The clock.’ ‘Pram service and School Service (eg Harvest Festival).”

5. Public Services

5.1 Health, Social and Emergency Services

5.1.1 Healthcare

Not surprisingly, the most used healthcare facility was the Surgery, and 88% found the service good or reasonable. Far fewer people had used the other health facilities, but of those who had a further majority rated them either good or reasonable.

The biggest problem met when using the medical facilities in the village was opening hours. 45 people said that this affected them. Various additional comments included – ‘Phones busy.’ ‘Slow service in dispensing medicines.’ ‘Poor medical services.’ ‘Waiting time.’ ‘Don’t like the services to Chippenham after 7 pm.’ ‘Wait for chiropodist too long.’ ‘Delay in service.’ ‘Under funding.’

5.1.2 Emergency Services

It is good that so many people had no opinion on the fire and ambulance services – they have obviously not had reason to use them. As might be expected there were more opinions about the police service, with 33% rating it as poor.

These feelings were repeated in the more specific question about community policing. 478 answered – 38% rated it as poor, 29% as reasonable, 13% as good and 20% held back being of no opinion. Comments written in included – ‘Strange that our local policeman is moved out of the village at a time when crime is rising – surely prevention is better than cure.’ ‘Don’t know because I never see them.’

It seems that increasing crime has changed people’s minds about the need for a Neighbourhood Watch Scheme in the Parish. While past suggestions that one be started were rejected, this survey shows that 59% of the respondents are now in favour. Two people put their names forward as being prepared to shoulder some of the work, and these names have been forwarded to Ian Cousins.

5.1.3 Environmental Services

The general opinion about the main environmental services was high for gas, water, refuse collection and recycling in particular. The electricity supply was rated considerably lower down the scale, and even further down came sewage, street lighting, street cleaning and snow clearance/gritting.

90% of nearly 500 were in favour of keeping the public toilet.

5.2 Local Government

Most people were aware that Marshfield lies within a conservation area and is part of the Cotswold Area of Natural Beauty – 88% in fact. 45% had no opinion on South Gloucestershire’s handling of planning applications, 36% did not think that they handled them well and 19% were satisfied.

5.2.1 Parish Council

The Parish Council did not get off so lightly, coming under fire with responses to the question about how well it publicised its decisions and activities. Only 7% thought it did a good job in this area. Short of hand delivering a copy of all minutes to each house in the parish – which would push the Council Tax up – there seems little more that the Parish Council can do other than put the minutes on display in the village notice board.

Suggestions that more Parish Council business should be included in All Around Marshfield have been passed to both parties.

People were generally wary of paying more Council Tax to improve local facilities. Of the 468 still functioning that far into the questionnaire, the verdict of 44% against was marginally in favour of the noes, who also added several comments that echoed this – ‘No, we pay enough.’ Those that did think it possible had plenty of provisos – ‘Providing it is used for the Parish.’ Depends what you’re going to improve.’ “Yes – if it is for Marshfield.’

6. Communication

6.1 All Around Marshfield

The biggest demand for All Around Marshfield was to publish contact lists for all the local clubs. 75% thought that a good idea. And 72% want to see major planning applications and planning decisions while 38% would like to see Parish Council Budgets. There were a lot of suggestions that the Steering Group had not thought of!

‘Houses for renting/sale.’ ‘Information on local services.’ ‘Social events.’ ‘Regular school news.’ ‘Quarterly contact lists.’ ‘Sports reports.’ ‘Sports and social calendar.’ ‘Informative news and local event.’ ‘Reporting of local events I activities.’ ‘More about the real locals in the community, not just a few selected at random.’ ‘Welcome to people arriving in the village.’ ‘Who takes a bribe (paid a consultancy fee) for planning applications.’ And, finally – ‘Quite happy with it as it is.’

These have been passed to the editor and his team, but they are dependent on being given the up to date information by the people in the know – if they are not told what is going on they can not include it in the magazine.

6.2 Mobile Library

Not many use the mobile library service. 89% never do, and 5% use it every visit. The general feeling was that it provides a reasonable or good service – 78%. The biggest problem seemed to be lack of information about when and where it comes. Comments went from ‘Didn’t know it came,’ through ‘Doesn’t stop where I live,’ to ‘Would like to but haven’t found it yet.’ and ‘If advertised better I might use it.’

7. The Future for Marshfield

7.1 Marshfield Village School

South Gloucestershire Council have approved Planning Permission for the new school to be built on land adjacent to Chippenham Road, Marshfield. Unfortunately, as this Planning Application is a ‘Departure from the Local Plan’ it had to be submitted to the Secretary of State. Permission has been given, so South Gloucestershire Council will now submit a ‘New Deals for Schools’ bid to Central Government at the end of this year for funding to build the school. If this bid is successful, Marshfield could see the opening of the new school in the year 2000.

7.2 Housing

When asked what kind of housing the parish needed, there was no one type that stood out. Opinions seemed fairly evenly spread about. The demand for housing for young people, and housing for low income families was equal at 42%. 32% felt that no more housing is needed, 19% wanted housing for local families, 17% housing for the elderly and 11% large family housing. (Prospective developers, take note.)

7.3 Tourism

We asked whether tourism should be encouraged in and around the parish, a move that would bring in more work – and more cars. The response was equally divided between yes, no and no opinion.

However, plenty of people had opinions about the most suitable visitor activities for the parish. Walking and rambling came out a clear winner with 68%, followed by photography and painting at 56%. Farm visits, horse riding and nature study came in at 53%, 51% and 51 % respectively.

This question did attract a lot of added comment. 7 don’t want more people in the village.’ ‘No, this is a working village.’ ‘Not motor cross.’ ‘Watching the Mummers on Boxing Day.’ ‘ Green woodworking.’ ‘Hunting.’ ‘Secure and supervised boating lake/model boat lake.’

Another suggestion was for a leaflet promoting the walks available from the parish, which could then be put in local tourist information centres. That way it would act as publicity for any increase in tourism, which would be needed if it is decided to expand this side of life.

7.4 Evening classes

As the WEA does actually provide evening classes in the village on a number of subjects, the list of subjects that the survey returned has been passed to them. This should certainly give them some ideas as to which subjects people have said they would be interested in.

Chairman’s Report

Well – it took a bit longer than we intended, due to a hiccup in the finances. But now – at last – here are the results of the 1997 Parish Appraisal. The Parish Appraisal was thoroughly and carefully prepared, with a wide base of support. The response rate indicates a high level of interest in the outcome, and adds authority to the results.

By far the biggest topic for the personal comments was the new village school. By the time this is printed you will be aware that a site has been settled. And while many will be happy with that, there are a good number who will be feeling disappointed as they wanted the school to stay in or near the centre of Marshfield.

The other subject that collected a lot of comments was Withyworld. While a majority of you were obviously pleased with the facilities there, there were a large number who were not particularly complimentary. Litter was seen as the major problem – along with mud, which has now been sorted. There was also concern about dogs and older children having easy access.

There were quite a few comments – as expected – about parking and dog mess. With some unexpected ones about horse droppings and the limited opening hours of the village shops.

Overall though, it came across loud and clear that most of us enjoy living here, like the parish as it is, and do not want too many changes in the immediate future.

It is hoped that these results will provide a serious guide to the feelings in the parish and will be given consideration by anyone planning new developments or changes.

Meanwhile, I would like to thank everyone who responded to the survey, and those who helped put it all together, for their time and interest. And hope that everyone – participant or not – finds these results interesting and informative.

This survey and report were designed and produced by the Steering Group over the last eighteen months. Thanks go to the Parish Council for their support and the dozens of volunteers who helped distribute and collect the questionnaires and reports.

The front cover is the work of Alexander Norman (picture) and Sam Currey (logo).

Tom Riley

Chairman, Steering Group

History of Marshfield

Marshfield is as nearly unspoiled a small old town as can be found anywhere in England – it can be called a town by virtue of its past importance and architectural character, although its modern status is that of a village.

The village of Marshfield stands more than 600 feet above sea level on a ridge which formerly made up the boundary between Wessex and Mercia in Anglo Saxon times. The village looks out upon two distinctly different aspects. To the north is the long stretch of flat-looking fields bordered by dry stone walls, and to the south are encountered wooded valleys and hedge-lined fields.

Marshfield was an historically important local town, partly due to its strategic location in the Cotswold wool country, but also due to its proximity to Bath, and Bristol with its port. From the Saxon settlement of AD931, “Meresfelde” appears in the Domesday Book. Deliberate planning started around 1265, leading to market status and the granting of a Charter for a three day fair. Marshfield conforms to the typical planned medieval market town layout, with long narrow burgage plots running back from a broad High Street to a pair of back lanes called Back Lane and Weir Lane.

By 1334 Marshfield was the fourth most prosperous town in the area after Bristol, Gloucester and Cirencester. Its economy was built on barley (rather than wool) – leading at its peak to 18 malthouses – and its rural location on the Bristol to London route. The industrial revolution passed Marshfield by, leaving the medieval character remarkably intact.

The Church and Manorial Farm are situated to the east end of the village which may have existed before the planned town. On the present Church site there was an earlier church dedicated to St Nicholas in the early 13th century. In 1242 a new church was built on the site and was dedicated to St Mary the Virgin. In its present form the church dates from around 1470, when monks from Tewkesbury Abbey rebuilt it in a perpendicular style, and the subsequent restorations in 1860, 1887, 1902 and 1950.

Primary School Children’s Survey

The feelings of the parish would not be complete without some comment from the younger members of the community. So the children at Marshfield Village School were each given a short questionnaire to fill in. Out of 120 handed out, 43 were completed and returned – 36%.

Their questionnaire was a blank version of the form below, so that they could rate their response to each pair of attributes. The table shows the combined results.

Apparently the majority of the children do see Marshfield as a friendly, happy, green and safe place to be, actually like to be here, and think that there’s plenty to do.

This is an important finding, and one that must be taken on board by the powers that be. It would be tragic if, by the time a future survey is carried out, these findings did not come up again. Just as the school is important to the parish – so are the children.

Let’s hope that any future developments in the parish do not disturb this equilibrium.