Parking threat to Toad's meadow

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The Thameside meadow that inspired The Wind in the Willows is under threat of being turned into a car park. The affluent residents of Cookham, however, have vowed to save it from such a fate.

The Thameside meadow that inspired The Wind in the Willows is under threat of being turned into a car park. The affluent residents of Cookham, however, have vowed to save it from such a fate.

Kenneth Grahame, author of the classic children's tale, was believed to have invented Badger, Mole and Ratty - characters that enthralled generations - while strolling along the river bank at Marsh Meadow.

The author described the area as "Heaven on the Thames", and is said to have modelled Toad on a neighbour, Colonel Francis Ricardo, a distant relative of one of the present-day campaigners, David Ricardo. Yesterday Mr Ricardo, 61, said: "Toad enjoyed Marsh Meadow and the countryside and he wouldn't want to see them being spoilt.

"People come from every continent in the world to walk in the meadow."

But the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead council has submitted planning proposals to build 90 parking spaces and install CCTV cameras at the site, arguing that the land is already used as a temporary car park for local events and represents a tiny fraction of the meadow.

Campaigners have gathered 1,000 signatures on a petition, and hope local celebrities such as Ulrika Jonsson, pop star Chris Rea and GMTV presenter Lorraine Kelly will support the campaign.

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