Sue Bradley from the Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust explores the wild side of Pittville
The nights are drawing in but there are still plenty of reasons to enjoy the great outdoors, as Sue Bradley discovers
Pittville is one of the jewels in Cheltenham’s crown, the epitome of Regency living and the location of the town’s largest ornamental park.
The suburb, which dates back to the early 1820s, lies just over a mile from the busy town centre but provides an oasis for people and wildlife.
At its heart is Pittville Park, which consists of two distinct sections bordering the Evesham road.
Its eastern side is the location of a magnificent Grade I-listed pump room, to which visitors once came to take mineral-rich spa waters; a children’s play area and various bird aviaries, along with the large ‘upper’ lake, which attracts a large number of wildfowl. Moorhens, coots and herons are particularly prevalent around the two floating islands installed to improve the quality of the water.
Lying south of this lake is Pittville Lawn, which contains a collection of trees and shrubs thought to have been planted in the late 1890s, including ginkgo, paperbark maple, yew, California incense cedar and a majestic cedar of Lebanon.
The western side of the park is more naturalistic, with a number of small wooded areas and another lake, which contains a small waterfall that flows into Wyman’s Brook.
Kingfisher, tree creeper, great spotted woodpecker, jay, great crested grebe, mallard and a breeding pair of swans have all been recorded here.
Despite its long history as pleasure grounds and gardens, Cheltenham Borough Council and volunteers from Friends of Pittville continue to make improvements around the area, many of which are designed with wildlife in mind.
The latest work on the western side includes the planting of three copses of native trees, including seed and fruit bearers, and the sowing of the Pittville Park cornfield urban meadow on an area close to Tommy Taylors Lane that was previously part of the pitch and putt course. This area is filled with wildflowers, including corncockle, corn chamomile, cornflower, corn marigold, wild carrot, foxglove, viper’s bugloss and corn poppy, which provide nectar and pollen for a wide range of insects, including butterflies. Meanwhile cereals such as barley, oats and wheat provide winter food for birds.
Pittville Park’s importance is recognised by both a Grade II listing under the English Heritage register of historic parks and gardens and a Green Flag Award, the benchmark national standard for publicly accessible green spaces in the UK.
Visitors are asked to pass on sightings of wildlife to the Gloucestershire Environmental Records Centre at www.gcer. co.uk. In June the park was the scene of a ‘bio blitz’, organised by the students and staff of the University of Gloucestershire, Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust and Cheltenham Borough Council, when surveys were made of the dawn chorus, birds, butterflies and bats. The results are due to be published shortly.
Great spotted woodpecker
Great crested grebe