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Pittville Park, Cheltenham Section 3 – Understanding the Site

SECTION 3 – UNDERSTANDING THE SITE

The Landscape Agency, August 2008 74

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Pittville Park, Cheltenham Section 3 – Understanding the Site

3.0 UNDERSTANDING THE SITE

This chapter describes the current condition of the Pittville Park. For ease of reference the
site has been divided into character areas. See Fig 1.3

This section summarises the site’s geology and topography, followed by a general
description of each character area. This is followed by surveys relating to the ecology,
vegetation (including arboriculture) and hydrology of the site as well as the views to and from
the site.

It concludes with an analysis and assessment of the surviving remains of the historic park
based upon a comparison of the surveyed features and historic mapping.

3.1 EXISTING CONDITION

3.1.1 Location, Geology Topography

Location

Pittville Park is located within the Pittville area to the north of Cheltenham.

Cheltenham is located on the outer edge of the River Severn flood plain and has a
predominantly lower lying flat landscape. Towards the east, the Cotswold escarpment rises
dramatically which provides the town with a significant character and setting.

Geology

The spa town is built on Lias clays and marls which sit upon triassic deposits. The lower Lias
clays form the solid geology of the area and are considered to be a non-aquifer.

Pittville Park sits predominantly upon this geology, however, a part of the Marle Hill character
area to the west of the park was historically used for clay extraction and for the subsequent
production of bricks. When in c1950 the extraction had ended the redundant clay pits were
used as a household and commercial waste tipping site. This practice ended in 1967 and
the site was capped with a layer of clay and at that time Wyman’s Brook was diverted into a
culvert which runs east west under the park and Tommy Taylor Lane. There is a significant
layer of ‘made ground’ in this area and contamination was discovered in the 1990’s.

Topography of the Park

Pittville Park occupies the valley sides surrounding two ornamental lakes and Wyman’s
Brook.

To the south of the lakes, the Agg Gardner area has a gently north sloping topography with
tree lines bunds towards the lower lake.

To the north of the lower lake Marle Hill slopes steeply towards the residential houses of
Albermarle Gate. To the west of Marle Hill on the land once used as a residential and
commercial tip, the topography is considerable more undulating than the central and eastern
areas of Marle Hill.

Beyond the lower lake, west of Agg Gardner, the topography becomes undulating with man
made, tree covered bunds becoming a predominant feature. It is believed that these bunds

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Pittville Park, Cheltenham Section 3 – Understanding the Site

b. Marle Hill Centre

Marle Hill centre occupies the central position upon Marle Hill, with the Lower Lake to the
south and the houses of Albermarle Gate to the north. To the east the boundary of this sub
area is defined by the avenue of mature trees which locate the historic carriage drive which
ran from Marle Hill House, across the Lower Lake towards Cheltenham via the Lodge House
which stood on what was to become the Agg Gardner recreation ground. To the west the sub
area abuts the Marle Hill west sub area.

149

2007 Marle Hill Centre looking west

2007 Eastern boundary defined by mature trees

2007 Footpath to the north of Marle Hill centre

The Landscape Agency, August 2008

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Pittville Park, Cheltenham Section 3 – Understanding the Site

The boundary to the north is
defined by a hard, bitmac surfaced
narrow path which stands upon
the raised platform once occupied
by Marle Hill House. Today the
platform is occupied by the
residential houses of Albermarle
Gate. This footpath is not part of
Pittville Park but is used by visitors
to the park. This northern
boundary is lined in places by
mature and semi-mature trees and
large shrubs which restrict visual
access both into the park and to
the residential houses. 2007 Overgrown shrubs

2007 Boundary to the north east of the sub area

To the north east of this sub area the boundary becomes delineated from the residential
houses by mature shrubs and trees. This planting provides visual and seasonal interest
along with a valuable habitat for wildlife.

2007 Cedar of Lebanon contributes to the character and setting of Marle Hill

150

Towards the centre of the raided platform is an open area of mown grass with mature
specimen trees, especially a Cedar of Lebanon, which contribute the character and setting of
this area. At this point the footpath loops around north and continues within the residential

The Landscape Agency, August 2008

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Pittville Park, Cheltenham Section 3 – Understanding the Site

3.6.3 Views to the site from the wider landscape

The location of Pittville Park on the undulating flood plain of the River Severn restricts views
into the park, apart form those afforded on higher ground. To the east of the park, on the
Cotswold escarpment, a suitable vantage point offers long distance views over Cheltenham
and features of Pittville Park can be distinguished and are highlighted below. See Fig 3.4

2007 View from Cotswold escarpment towards Pittville Park (above and below)

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Pittville Park, Cheltenham Section 3 – Understanding the Site

3.7 MANAGEMENT OVERVIEW

Pittville Park is under the ownership and management of Cheltenham Borough Council.

Management of Pittville Park must be considered within the context of all the parks and
green spaces in Cheltenham. There are over 120 named parks and open spaces within the
borough boundary, with 16 of those designated parks. Residential areas also have open
green spaces, along with school grounds, all of which are cared for by a dedicated parks
team with 42 staff.

The majority of the team are deployed to manage grassed areas of Cheltenham, with 30
team members split into individual teams to cover parks, schools, amenity, public realm and
residential areas. Seasonal workers are required to supplement these teams.

There are 3 team members who manage and maintain almost all of the shrubs within
Cheltenham, however, given the significant number of parks, gardens and open spaces, this
maintenance must be limited. 3 team members are employed to plant up and maintain road
side and city centre bedding displays, whilst 5 team members work within the nursery,
growing bedding plants to sell on to other local authorities.

The parks teams also work hard to produce high quality floral displays for the Cheltenham in
Bloom and Heart of England in Bloom competitions. Awards are always achieved and
although these competitions take valuable time and monetary resources, they considered in
some instances important in promoting Cheltenham as a tourist destination.

Pittville Park once has it’s own dedicated team to maintain the landscape setting. Cut backs
and amalgamation of teams led to this dedicated team being withdrawn. Today the teams
are van based. There is also little formal training given to team members, other than a basic
knowledge in horticulture. Specialist talents are encouraged wherever possible however
budget restrictions often mean that team members have to cover a variety of jobs.

It is felt that the parks team is extremely hard working, dedicated and, at a senior level,
familiar with and respectful of the historical significance of Pittville Park and its value to the
residents of Cheltenham as an amazing ecological, recreational and educational resource.
However, budget restrictions and staffing cuts have succeeded in restricting their ability to
manage and maintain the park’s historic fabric to a high quality. This in turn has lead to a
deterioration in the landscape setting, removal of flower beds, wholesale cutting back of
shrubs without respect for their form and habit, installation of inappropriate and haphazard
styles of furniture and repair or replacement of worn structures with materials ‘borrowed in’
from other sites, which all contribute to a loss of the aesthetic character and setting of the
park.

The Landscape Agency, August 2008 226

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