A Walk in the Park – A Blog about Pittville Park
This is mostly about my local park which has served as a local birdwatching patch and now helps me with my searches for insects, flowers and blog pictures. But we start a little south of the actual park with some history.
A little to the north of Cheltenham town centre you come to a magnificent arch over equally magnificent gates. They have recently been restored (2012-16) by the Friends of Pittville.
The sign over the arch proclaims it as the entrance to Pittville Park but it actually the entrance to something even grander. Just inside the gates are two notices. One describes the gates and the other is about the Pittville Estate.
The Pittville Estate
Joseph Pitt (1759-1842), a local lawyer who prospered from property speculation, wanted to create a large estate of houses and gardens to the North of Cheltenham with its own Pump Room – a new spa town to rival Cheltenham. The gates would have been the entrance to this estate.
The estate was only ever partly completed. The housing development is relatively small but a little further north we will come to Pittville Park and the impressive Pittville Pump Room opened in 1830. It’s all now included in the expanded town of Cheltenham.
As part of his new estate the area of Pittville Park to the East of Evesham Road with its ornamental lake was formed about the same time as the Pump Room by damming the stream called Wyman’s Brook. Originally it was enclosed by railings for the private use of residents and subscribers to spa facilities. It was formally opened to the public in 1894 just after its purchase by Cheltenham Borough Council.
There are several informative notices in the park and we will come back later to the useful map on this one.
The area of the Park to the West of Evesham Road, not included in Pitt’s original plans, is called the Marle Hill Annexe on its notice. It has a Boating Lake, formerly known as Capper’s Fish Pond. I hardly ever see boats on the lake. The Boathouse opens in summer providing ice-creams and other refreshments.
(While some of my information comes from these signs, I have also turned, as always, to Wikipedia.)
A Walk Round the Park
I will take you on a route round the park and point out areas of interest. I have several routes that I use but they are all similar to the route I will use here. Here is a map from the park notice on which I have numbered some locations to guide you round. (My pictures come from two or three visits so the weather and vegetation may appear to change suddenly.)
To the Boating Lake
I won’t start anywhere near Pittville Gates. North of the Park, just off Albermarle Gate there is a rough car park marked , which I use when I drive to the Park. It’s one of the few places around Cheltenham where I can park free.
Not far from here is one of my favourite trees, this tall redwood.
From our starting point it’s a short walk downhill to the lake. This large grassy area is used for ‘Pitch and Putt’ golf in the summer. Here is one of the greens almost ready for its flag.
We come to a path by the lake marked  on my map. Note the chair and the bridge.
I stand behind the chair turn a little right and photograph a group of six young trees.
Then I go to the middle of the bridge and photograph the view of the lake and its surrounding landscape.
My plan is to do a blog showing you how these two pictures change through the year.
Here is the path continuing along the northern edge of the lake.
A little further on the lake widens. Here are two views showing how it changes with the seasons and the weather.
The Far West
I will come back to the lake but we have to cross Tommy Taylors Lane to an extension of the Park, a wilder area normally not frequented by park visitors – just dog-walkers! On the map we go from  to .
Sometimes I start here when I have walked to the Park. I follow the edged of this section clockwise, starting with the trees at the edge by the Prince of Wales stadium.
At the far end we come to a corner  with a wild area nearby.
From here the short walk along the far edge is ideal for summer visiting birds.
This area of land that we are circling used to be an extension of the mini-golf but it hasn’t been plain grass for a few years. It’s now left as longer grass with wild flowers.
As we come round back to the road the back gardens of houses provide the habitat for sparrows and other garden birds.
After crossing back at  I don’t always do the next short section along the edge by the street known as Albermarle Gate.
There is some more rough grass with wild flowers and an expanse of grass that includes the mini-golf area.
There is another impressive tree followed by a development of houses jutting into the park.
Some of these houses share a small open area by the park with another one of my favourite trees at .
Just beyond this is the car park  where we started.
Wyman’s Brook Outlet
I need to say something here about Leonhard Euler, who in 1735 famously considered the mathematical problem known as the Seven Bridges of Königsberg. The city of Königsberg in Prussia (now Kaliningrad in an enclave of Russia) was set on the Pregel River, and had two large islands connected to each other and the mainland by seven bridges. The problem was to decide whether it was possible to follow a path that crosses each bridge exactly once and returns to the starting point.
Well the answer that it is impossible. Going round my circuit of Pittville Park is similar. Wherever we start and stop there is some duplication. So we move instantly from the car park  to the end of the lake  where we have already been.
On this lake you may find swans, ducks and other waterfowl but when I went round there was this Magpie.
Here is the lake as seen from near the end.
Water leaves the lake here down a little waterfall to the reconstituted Wyman’s Brook on its way out of the park. It soon disappears underground for a while. This is the best place to spot Grey Wagtail.
I used to do a regular bird census and would routinely count twenty or more Mallards here at the end. But numbers have now dropped and it’s common to find none here.
This may be a bit repetitive but around  on the map is another of my favourite trees leaning over the lake.
Here is a squirrel by the lake before we come to the section by the island.
South of the Boating Lake
The path continues and near the point marked  there are several tall trees.
We pass the other side of the bridge which we saw earlier.
This metal pedestrian bridge, joining the north and south banks of the Lower Lake, was opened in February 2012, replacing earlier wooden bridges which had been damaged beyond repair. The bridge is decorated with metal sculptures based on drawings made by local schoolchildren and artists.
A little further on we see the Boathouse opposite and then a murky looking almost stagnant pool.
It can’t be that bad as there are often birds here, sometimes Great Crested Grebe. I saw a Coot here recently settled on its newly assembled nest.
Just before the Evesham Road is another area of trees – sometimes with Green Woodpecker or Jays.
East Lake and Pump Room
It’s best to go under the road through a dismal underpass to the part that Pitt included in his original designs. This section is dominated by its lake with stone bridges at each end. Here is the first bridge  and the view from it.
We walk past a quaint little building reminiscent of the Boathouse. (Public Conveniences!)
There is a large Children’s Play Area, recently rebuilt and enlarged, and an open grassy area leading to the Pump Room .
I will say more about this building when I look at Cheltenham. I stop at the edge of the lake with this building behind me. Usually there are lots of Mallard, Moorhen, gulls and pigeons here.
We are nearly done. At the far end  is the other bridge.
You can look back over the lake.
The other side of the bridge is a nasty looking area of stagnant water and a much smaller bridge over the incoming Wyman’s Brook. This is rumoured to be the best place to see a Kingfisher but I have only ever seen one once – for about two seconds.
Continuing round there is a short section with an enclosed area of trees to the right, then a final view of the lake before heading south towards town.
This open tree-lined section would have been the way from those splendid gates when the park was enclosed.
Half way down at  our last numbered point on the map is another little building, the Central Cross Café.
I have never been tempted to stop here but I am a bit of a coffee snob. Over a small road past the cafe is an old building, used as an ARP (Air Raid Precaution) Centre from 1942-46. It now serves as a location for Scouts. (I want to call them Boy Scouts but the sign is clear – boys and girls welcome.)
Another bit of tree-lined grass brings us to the end of the park, still a few hundred metres from those gates!
As for my blog about Slimbridge I have so far only taken pictures in the wintry half of the year. In the spring and summer we will see more flowers, more leaves on the trees, more birds and more insects.
Even in winter I get my exercise by walking to the park and round it.