As this is the first AQIVA (pronounced Akeeva) newsletter, it is perhaps a useful introduction to state briefly who, what and why we are.
Previously known as FAB (Friends of the Amphitheatre and Bullring), we are one of several volunteer “friends of” groups around Cirencester: our particular interest is in the complex incorporating the Amphitheatre, Querns Wood, Four Acre Field, and the Obelisk. Our name does not include an “O” for “Obelisk”, for the sole reason that it didn’t fit very well!
Working closely with the town council, and other stakeholders, it is our aim, in the broadest possible sense, to be involved in the promotion, development and protection of the complex, focussing in different ways, as appropriate, on history, heritage, health, leisure, education and the environment, with something for all ages.
Grand words, but is that all they are? With a combination of projects, events and activities, we have a series of short, medium and longer term objectives: some simple, some complex. Ultimately, we have to be judged on results but we hope that we can be part of creating a legacy that will bring enjoyment and benefits to local residents as well as the town as a whole for many years to come.
OK, that’s the boring bit out of the way. What’s actually been going on for the last couple of months, what are the plans?
This is on Cotswold Avenue, by the scout hut. No-one actually knows how old it is, or why it is there, although, amongst other theories, it is thought it might have been a line of sight marker from the Bathhurst Estate. It appears in local records as far back as 1807 but it is not known by how much it pre-dates that year. Nevertheless, it is part of our heritage, and some of you may have seen that a great deal of clearance work took place recently in the immediate surrounding area. This will be periodically maintained to prevent it becoming completely overgrown again, and currently it is planned that the site will be better landscaped come the autumn.
We are following in the footsteps of the “Our Future Cirencester” volunteers and have plans to organise events and activities at this nationally important site. There are a lot of barriers to getting anything big off the ground, such as getting the necessary permissions, raising funds to put on a big event, and, possibly most importantly, getting equipment onto the site. So the likelihood is that we will start small and build up to a community-wide event in a year or so.
In the meantime, there are smaller things that the town council would like to do to enhance the visitor experience, but the amphitheatre is a scheduled ancient monument, under the guardianship of English Heritage, so, as mentioned above, there are restrictions as to what can happen on the site. For example, don’t do anything that involves digging a hole! A meeting is planned in March with EH to get a better sense of what they might permit in terms of events or facilities.
Meanwhile, the leaflet showing the Whereat Trail (a walking route from the museum to the amphitheatre, and named for Norman Whereat, a previous mayor of Cirencester) has now been published. It is available from the museum.
Have you been down to the woods today? Or recently? Over the last year or more, the town council, and a wealth of volunteer labour that they have been able to draft in from a variety of sources, have developed a network of paths, now enabling users to do a complete and largely mud free circuit of the woods, as well as a path leading down to the main hospital entrance – with signposts!
There is ongoing site maintenance and clearance, as well as some (sad but necessary) tree felling or severe cutting back for safety reasons. But there is also new planting, and in the spring it is intended that all the new trees that were put in last autumn, courtesy of Waitrose, will be labelled so that we all know what they are. At the same time, some of the older trees, of particular significance, will be labelled too.
Four Acre Field
Good news! The much admired wild flower planting that was done last year will be repeated and, all being well, will cover a larger area of the slope than last time. Weather permitting, ground preparation is likely to be carried out towards the end of March.
There is a proposal for outdoor exercise equipment to be installed. Apart from the obvious general physical health benefits of exercise, there is a growing certainty from research done within the scientific/medical communities that such activity also offers significant mental health benefits, for example, reducing the risk of dementia. The proposal is being explored further.
The possibility of providing some seating around the perimeter of the field will also be explored. Often, such facilities are donated in memory of a departed loved one, and we would welcome approaches from anyone who might wish to provide something as a lasting memorial. (NB we would also love to have some seating in the amphitheatre, but you can’t fix it to the ground if you can’t dig holes!).
In addition, we hope to put on some activities for children, maybe a play picnic/sports day across the site with the Play Rangers, possibly late August, by when the parents are getting frazzled and the kids are getting bored towards the end of the school holiday. We would like to hear your views on this.