A couple of weeks ago I showed you the changes made recently to key roundabouts on the outskirts of Chippenham designed to welcome everyone to the town. At the time I also ranted about the design of the main planting on the roundabout itself, describing the mixture of trees and shrubs as being 'plonked rather than planted'. Unfortunately this is par for the course for many of our roundabouts and applies to many places, not just Chippenham.
However, a mere couple of miles away at the opposite end of the A350 bypass is a roundabout which has the same elements, but to me has the encouraging signs that things can be done a little bit differently and better whilst using the same plant formula. Here we see trees plus shrubs as before, but the choice of plants has been simplified to a single tree species with an underplanting of massed shrubs such as Cornus and Euonymus. The tree is a species found in the local countryside (note to self: must go and identify it) and the shrubs are commonly used on the nearby estate. Thus the transition from a rural to an urban environment is simply and clearly marked by using these plants.
From a distance, the trees are reminiscent of some of the woodland found in the surrounding landscape where small copses of trees mark the hilltops or ancient sites, particularly on the chalk downs between Chippenham, Calne and Avebury. The shrubs have been clipped into shapes resembling the burial mounds also found locally. On closer inspection the trees are arranged in lines which echo the lines of the roads leading to/from the roundabout, almost avenue-like in their aspect.
The planting can't have cost any more than the other roundabouts which are eyesores. The fact it looks planned to me gives out the message 'here's a town which cares a bit more about its appearance'. The other roundabouts give out the message 'we can't be bothered here', so this one's a vast improvement.
Then walking back home via my local supermarket I looked back at the roundabout again. They've even designed the planting here to frame the view. At last, someone's put some thought into the design of Chippenham's public planting!
As I continued my walk, I got more excited about the possibilities of a single tree species/ 1-3 shrubs massed planting. Each roundabout could have its own signature combination. Silver birch + Cornus would look wonderful in the winter, and imagine crab apples with a Rosa rugosa hedge surrounding them. The use of lavender hedging, weeping pears or willow, all kinds of Prunus as well as native hedgerow species combined with garden-worthy plants and shrubs listed in the Natural History Museum's postcode plant database would be fantastic.
The right combinations of trees and shrubs (crown lifted or close clipped where needed) would also mean that sight lines are maintained, thus reducing the likelihood of accidents: I'm convinced the tree/shrub combination on the roundabout closest to my house has been the cause of several near misses I've had as I'm lost to the view of oncoming traffic when turning right. These simple combinations would be cheap, effective, safer, low maintenance and also great for encouraging local wildlife.
Local authorities please note.
If you have a contribution for this month's Out on the Streets, you can add the link to your post here. There's still plenty of time to show us what it's like in your neighbourhood - it doesn't have to be about roundabouts either!