This entrance leads from Chippenham's main shopping street into a parkland landscape of river walks, trees and large open spaces. It was tired and run down, so the council earmarked (a reported) £65,000 to improve it. I imagine the brief given to potential contractors went something like:
- Stabilise the river bank area
- Screen the adjacent Emery Gate Shopping Centre so the parkland feel to the landscape is extended further towards the High Street
- Prevent further erosion to the grassed areas at the boundary between the tarmac entrance and the parkland pathway
If this was the brief, then it has been fulfilled as you can see in the picture - click to enlarge if needed. I suspect much work has been carried out below the waterline to stabilise the bank (this might be where most of the money was spent?) and the bank itself has been covered in a fine mesh which will probably discourage people from coming down to the waterline (and thus churning up the bank) to feed the ducks and swans. I'm totally mystified why ivy has been planted through the mesh - I know this is often suggested as a disguise solution for people with steep banks in their gardens - but I feel it doesn't fit with the context here, especially as the river floods from time to time. I admit I don't have an alternative to suggest - offers anyone?
The side boundary by the shopping centre now sports a nascent hedge of mainly beech plus some hazel and holly and a few trees (possibly hawthorn - it's hard to tell before they're in leaf) to add some height. The hedge also continues to the tarmac*/pathway boundary providing a barrier and encouraging wandering feet to keep to the path. I know I should be grateful native species have been used and that dreadful red mulch isn't there this time around, but I feel rather short changed. As the area's been mulched over (except where it's floated off down the river - see picture), it seems the planting aspect of the work could be complete. Where's the wow factor for one of our main public spaces? In a month's time we'll be welcoming thousands of visitors to the annual Folk Festival. Monkton Park is the focus for a number of the activities as well as housing one of the camp sites. So those thousands of visitors will see these changes. Will it say Welcome to our town we're rather proud of it to them? I don't think so, I suspect most of them will just laugh.
And then I see The Bicycle Garden's marvellous guest post from the landscape architect who redesigned the hell strip (boundary between car park and road) at the campus where she works and I just want to weep. So, I'm off to the council offices to ask some questions.
* = Why use tarmac? Why not take the opportunity to use a more absorbent paving material like everyone else is being encouraged to do, especially as the river floods from time to time?