Up until now, we have issued newsletters roughly every quarter since we started, but, for a variety of reasons, we will have only managed three this year (but hopefully back to normal in 2018). This does mean that much of the content of this newsletter will be historical, including events that took place in what passed for summer in this neck of the woods. But there was some good stuff going on, so, irrespective, it is worth being reminded of them.
Before getting on to that, we are delighted to say that we now have a fully functioning website: www.aqiva.org.uk Amongst other things, this contains all the previous newsletters, for those of you who are interested but didn’t join us until part way through our existence. Also to be found is our five-part Roman history, which puts the amphitheatre and surrounding area in context with wider events. So please pass on our details to anyone you know who might like to learn more about the AQIVA area and activities.
If you have been through the Obelisk site recently, you will have seen significant change, as a result of ongoing clearance and preparation work. This included tidying up along the stream by students from the National Citizenship Scheme, organised by Cirencester College in July. More recently, 6th September saw a huge advance, with a team of some 20 apprentices from St James’s Place supplying muscle and enthusiasm to finish clearing and then planting along the dry stone wall bed. SJP also made a donation towards the purchase of plants and shrubs. This area then received the first of the benches made during the Ronan’s Trust workshop in August (see the 4 Acre Field report further on).
November 4th was “Bring It: Plant It” day, where everyone was encouraged to bring along suitable plants from their garden to set along the banks of the stream and elsewhere. This proved very popular and it will be interesting to see what comes up!
Many thanks to everyone who came along: it was great to see some new faces.
Looking back at our first newsletter (March 2014), we reported that “a great deal of clearance work took place recently” which at that time consisted mainly of thinning out a lot of really scrubby trees, to start opening up the view from and of the site. In the less than four years since then, the whole area has been transformed, with further work still planned.
Things are moving forward on the proposals for the toposcope/Roman seating/mural, by the entrance to the amphitheatre from Cotswold Ave. This has now officially been designated the Gateway Project. Funding is not yet assured but the Town Council are waiting to hear more from applications they have made. Somehow, giving it a name makes it seem much more real.
The felled tree along the border with 4 Acre Field was planked up and converted into outdoor furniture and other items as part of the Ronan’s Trust workshop (see next section). Two of the benches have been given homes in the woods, one on the site of the tree planting carried out earlier in the year by Ronan’s Trust, and the other along the pathway from the hospital car park to 4 Acre Field.
Four Acre Field
Our contribution to Love Parks Week took place on Friday 28 July. The mainstay of the day was a 5 a side football tournament sponsored by Tesco, and even though only a dozen or so kids turned up, they were given a thoroughly enjoyable few hours by the Tesco team. In the end, everyone was declared a winner, with all receiving a medal, a cup and a certificate.
On the same day, a session was planned to familiarise people with how to use the outdoor exercise equipment. Our thanks to Sean Middlecote, one of the personal trainers at Catalyst, who stepped in at the last minute to run this after we had been let down at short notice by Elite Fitness. There was also a nature based educational game for kids, which seemed to consist mainly of them running to and fro with containers of water (with quite a few adults joining in). The weather had remained threatening, but dry, right up to the finale, which was a guided history tour around the Amphitheatre. At that point, it became a toss-up whether to head for home or start building an ark. Common sense prevailed, and the tour was deferred to a week later (when the rain was only marginally less).
The Ronan’s trust workshop took place on 9th & 10th August. On day 1, oh boy, did it rain. Nevertheless, a good number of hardy souls attended and the aforementioned tree was given a fitting extension to its life, during a fascinating and educational day of learning how to make outdoor furniture. Day 2 dawned as fair as the previous day was foul, and the workshop continued with the making of bird and bat boxes, and the decoration thereof. The project was funded by the National Lottery.
It is planned to plant shrubs along the eastern border (the one that runs parallel to Cotswold Avenue). Timing is still to be confirmed, but hopefully this side of Christmas.
This year AQIVA has started to undertake visitor counts in the Amphitheatre – we have done 3 so far; May, July and August. The counts are random and somewhat unscientific, consisting of someone standing in the Amphitheatre for about an hour literally counting how many people visit.
The aim of the counts is to try and get a sense of who is visiting the Amphitheatre and whether visitor numbers are increasing. As everything else, visitor numbers are affected by weather, but there has been some interesting feedback. Dog walkers and families make up a fair proportion of local visitors, but Chesterton School reception class had an end of term Teddy Bears’ picnic and the Scouts use the space for outdoor activities. People have visited from elsewhere in the UK and there have been a number of international visitors – from a group of Russian language students to a family group of 9 from the Czech Republic and people from as far away as Australia.
The Amphitheatre is now receiving an increasing number of posts on Trip Advisor. People’s opinions vary, some love it as a ‘hidden gem’ and others are unimpressed seeing only ‘grassy mounds’. If you visit the Amphitheatre, please feel free to post a comment on Trip Advisor or Facebook, all feedback is useful, and if you come across any interesting visitors, particularly organised groups, please let Alison know on firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks to all those who helped with this year’s counts. We aim to do 4 in 2018 and would like to hear from anyone who may be interested in taking part.
Since the last Newsletter we have held two working parties at the Obelisk, the first to maintain the hedge alongside the car park (in a downpour!) and the second to help prepare the area by the wall for the shrub and hedge planting undertaken by the St James’ Place apprentices – weather not much better! With the recent planting event this area is looking great, but this means that the challenge next year will be to keep on top of the weeds and keep it looking good, so we will need lots of help. To make it easier for people to take part we are trying to vary the work sessions across weekends, weekdays and, in the summer, evenings.
However, not all our volunteering opportunities involve heavy spade work; we also need help with, for example, visitor counts, litter-picks and organising and stewarding events such as Love Parks Week and Heritage Open Days. We will keep you informed as things are planned, and even if you can only spare an hour or so on occasions, this will make a big difference.
Apart from this newsletter, you can find information and photos on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/FriendsOfAmphitheatre
See also the notice board at the entrance from Chesterton Lane into 4 Acre Field
If you would like any more detail, please contact our secretary, Alison, at email@example.com.
If you have friends, family, neighbours or anyone who might be interested in learning more about what is going on, please pass on our contact details.