An important component of the Appraising Landscape module is learning about hydrology and the hydrologic cycle, not simply for an understanding of the science but to see how it can be applied in landscape architecture. It is well known that our planet is frequently affected by extreme climatic events, not least the heavy rain storms which is now all too common in Britain. Like many places, Cheltenham has not escaped severe flooding and 2007 was a particularly bad year. It is difficult to believe that a small, insignificant river such as the Chelt which is quite benign for most of the year could turn into the proverbial ranging torrent as it did ten years ago. Luckily the Environment Agency had earlier completed major works at the Cox’s Meadow site on the upstream side of town and although major flooding took place, it was thanks to the storage area created there that it wasn’t very much worse.
The first year students were taken to observe this site and have its operation explained. While it is essentially a method of attenuating any flood wave coming down the river, an opportunity was not lost in its design to create a landscape of both wetland and grassland habitats, for both general amenity and wildlife benefit. So the result is aesthetic and biodiverse as well as functional.
The accompanying illustrations show scenes from the trip and some photos taken in 2007 for comparison – don’t miss the last one showing Bob’s personal research into flood depths.