First Year Appraising Landscapes trip to Wistley and Ravensgate Hills in the Cotswolds
Last week the students were led on an introductory tour around the immediate urban locality of Francis Close Hall campus. This took in a range of built and open landscapes, from the Victorian terraces of St Paul’s ward to the Regency style town houses surrounding Pittville Park; from the landscaped lawns in the Georgian squares to the former Honeybourne railway line now a cycleway, the discreetly hidden Churchill Memorial town park and the naturally planted course of the River Chelt.
This week our attention switched to the more natural environment of the nearby Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Having taken the bus to Severn Springs, reputedly one of the sources of the Thames which flows east down the dip slope, the students climbed Wistley Hill following the Cotswold Way, a long distance footpath which winds over 100 miles from Bath to Chipping Camden following the line of the oolitic limestone scarp top. We were blessed with excellent viewing weather – the fantastic panorama of the Vale of Gloucester opening up before us, framed by the Cotswolds to the east and the Malverns to the west with Cheltenham sitting snugly in an embayment below us.
Apart from discussing the observable topography, soils and vegetation, the group were treated to some poetry, the day being National Poetry day. Bob read out the poem Up There by the local First World War poet Ivor Gurney which makes references to the Cotswold edge coppices, the Roman archaeology and the local birdlife which he fondly remembered. This opened up the special idea of place – and the love of places. “Love makes you see a place differently, just as you hold differently an object that belongs to someone you love. If you know one landscape well, you will look at all other landscapes differently. And if you learn to love one place, sometimes you can also learn to love another” [Anne Michaels: Fugitive Places]. The view from Ravensgate Hill is particularly laden with meaning and memories, sights and sounds, textures and colours. Clearly trying to assess its character and scenic quality is such a difficult and subjective task.
We also had explained to us the work of the Woodland Trust volunteers. The nearby Lineover Wood is a notable woodland of ancient lime trees and a site of special scientific interest; Paul Arnold and Tricia Atkinson gave a brief resume of the kind of work they do as volunteers, from hedge-laying, dry-stone walling to coppicing and ‘managing’ the ‘unimproved’ limestone grassland to increase biodiversity particularly butterflies and moths. Anyone interested joining them on Sunday mornings see Bob for contact details.
Bob Moore 8.10.15