FINDING YOUR FEET an induction week walkabout
Although early morning mist seemed a bad omen, by late morning the sun had warmed up the Cheltenham air and the induction class was blessed with near perfect weather to undertake an introductory walk around the St Paul’s neighbourhood. The purpose of the walk was to offer a sensory experience of the areas adjacent to Francis Hall campus and to encourage the students to start to note significant features within the urban environment.
The journey started along St Paul’s road where the unusual hexagonal Penfold post box was pointed out. The VR motif signifies Victoria Regina (Queen Victoria) as they were installed in 1866 and currently eight survive in Cheltenham.
From the Victorian terraced houses in St Paul’s we then crossed into the more elegant Regency area of Pittville. Wellington Square offers a tranquil area of greenery away from the busy road traffic. Some magnificent trees are present notably the London plane (Platanus x hispanica) which we gathered under. The surrounding houses are large and ‘classic’ in style (Greek columns). Mostly now subdivided into apartments, they command high prices on the property market.
Our itinerary then took us into the Pittville estate which was created by Joseph Pitt in 1824 – he envisaged a new spa town centred on the pump room (It was here that the landscape architecture course first began in 1961 using rooms on the first floor). After the visit to Cheltenham in 1788 of King George III the town became increasingly fashionable and Pitt’s speculative development traded on such fame.
Doubling back through the terraced houses of St Paul’s we noticed that most had little or no front gardens, wheelie bins being an eyesore and on-road parking extremely difficult – a hazard to pedestrians particularly the disabled. We did notice a dramatic catalpa tree with prominant heart-shaped leaves.
We entered Pittville Park (western section) at the end of Marle Hill Road, and made our way to the waterfall where Wyman’s Brook has been dammed to create a lake, a large expanse of tranquil water occupying the lower parts of an interesting vegetated landform: both trees and wildflowers such as teasels.
Leaving the park via the hilly knolls near the leisure centre, it was pointed out that the surrounding landscape was designed in the 1960s by Geoffrey Jellicoe, former President of the Institute of Landscape Architects and probably the most notable landscape architect of the 20th century. He took as his inspiration the classical world’s notion that the well-rounded person is both an artist and an athlete which he saw as the product of an education in fine art and sport in the local colleges (now the university). His underlying purpose is as true today as it was then: to recognise the negative health impacts of urban living, to use sport and green space to facilitate recovery from mental fatigue and encourage more active use and exercise, to improve town-dwellers’ well-being and quality of life.