Newsletter no. 4, so we’ve now had the full cycle of seasons. There’s been a longer than usual gap since our last missive, but AQIVA don’t have a December meeting so we’ve waited until after the January one to bring everything up to date.
You may have noticed that there has been a lot of tree thinning behind the obelisk, as part of the project to try to restore some of the original line of sight from town and parts of the Bathurst estate. However, over the years, the trees, hedgerows and vegetation of all kinds have grown up across the whole amphitheatre and surrounding area, high and dense in many places. Therefore, it may not be possible to achieve as much impact as was originally hoped without a much greater clearance programme, which is neither realistic, nor desirable. Nevertheless, the work will give much greater prominence to an important part of Cirencester’s cultural history and, a little later on, an interpretation/information board will be installed, such as can be found alongside other important features around the town.
Meanwhile, work started at the end of January on the pathway which, as funding becomes available, will ultimately run from the obelisk down into the amphitheatre surround.
The application to the Country House Foundation for a grant to do maintenance and restoration work on the obelisk itself has been turned down, but other possible finance sources will be investigated.
Improved signage and digital interpretation, in conjunction with English Heritage, remain part of the plan, but exactly what and when still need to be finalised, as well as coordinating whatever is to be done with information already put out by the museum.
Meanwhile, some excellent news for people who regularly use the pathway from Querns Wood into the amphitheatre and have to cope with an unavoidable and sizeable stretch of mud as the path ends. This will be improved come the spring, to give a much cleaner and safer walk through.
Also, as you may know, planning permission has been granted to the Dowager Countess Bathurst to convert what was the hospital staff car park into a pay and display parking area. If agreement can be reached between all concerned parties this creates the possibility of creating a formal pathway from there into the amphitheatre, so that the new area could become the advised car park for visitors to the amphitheatre, and signed accordingly from town.
A lengthy document, but a summary of the various actual proposed phased projects can be found at appendix D, pages 53-70. Inevitably, as circumstances change, there may be modifications to this, and some projects are easier to achieve than others! But do have a look if you can.
Nothing specific to report except for the barrier fence that has been put up as you go into the woods from 4 acre field, on the Cotswold Close side. This is actually a perfect height to practice limbo dancing, but otherwise serves as a reminder that the slope beyond is quite steep and often slippery, so please use the pathway that goes off to the left and then back round again in a more gentle incline.
Four Acre Field
The consultation that we did seems a long time ago – in fact, it was a long time ago, but we hadn’t quite completed the analysis at the time of our previous newsletter. Anyway, many thanks to all those who took part. Briefly, as a reminder, we put forward a range of ideas as to how to encourage greater use of the field for leisure and outdoor activity, as well as how it might be made a more attractive and interesting place to be. In addition, people were specifically asked to give their views on the possibility of installing outdoor exercise equipment. The three ideas that received the most support were, in order, as follows:
- Improved pathways
- Improved landscaping/nature/wild flowers
- Outdoor exercise equipment
There were, however, also some valid concerns about the outdoor exercise equipment which we have taken into account, this, of course, being the whole purpose of consultation. Therefore, we have looked at ways of achieving item 1 and incorporating item 3, but in a less formal way, and without encroaching on the main central area which would remain clear for all the different kinds of recreation for which it is used now (always our intention). We don’t want to turn what we hope is an interesting and informative newsletter into War and Peace but, briefly, our goal is to have a perimeter pathway, with distance markers, around all 4 sides of the field, with a few benches “en route” which can be used to do some very simple, but effective, exercise routines. That said, the cost of doing this, using a durable path material, is in excess of £30,000, so we have to regard this as a longer term objective. Stage 1 would be to have a decent pathway running from the Chesterton Lane entrance straight through to the woods. Even that is a significant amount of money but we will be looking at funding possibilities – but no guarantee!
Meanwhile, all being well, come spring/early summer, we hope to have at least a couple of benches around the field, somewhere for parents (or, more importantly, grandparents) to sit and watch the kids playing. Also, there will be an AQIVA notice board which will enable us to pass on items of importance or interest to a wider audience.
As regards the wild flowers, last year they were concentrated in one long strip, and we hope that the perennials will come back and that at least some of the annuals will have reseeded. But we don’t know for sure – that area does take quite a hammering. Anyway, this year, we will leave that strip to see what happens and sow groups of seed in other areas around the field to create more splashes of colour. As with everything, funding is limited, so if you know a friendly seed merchant who would happily provided additional seed (wild flowers only, please – no lettuces or cucumbers), then we’d love to hear from you.
We meet on the 4th Wednesday of every month, starting at 7 pm, at Chesterton primary school. The next meeting is on Wednesday 25 February: please come along if you wish to.
As mentioned at the outset, this completes our first full seasonal cycle of newsletters, so perhaps it is a fitting time for a brief review. Along with regular general maintenance work across the AQIVA complex, over the last year or two we have benefited from improved pathways and signposts in the woods, new trees, wild flowers, dense undergrowth clearance around the obelisk (come April, don’t miss the display of the few flowered leek) as well as the more extensive work currently in hand, and much more besides. Many individuals, organisations and companies, too numerous to mention, have contributed towards this, in one way or another. However, we would in particular like to thank Martin Conyers, estate services manager at the town council, and his team, for everything they have done to make all this possible.