New students to the landscape architecture course in Cheltenham have been introduced to the delights of the dérive. From the French and literally meaning ‘drifting’, the dérives we have undertaken have included wandering around the town centre during induction week and a slightly more directed walk along the River Chelt.

Induction week coincided with the Cheltenham Paint Festival (see which provided a topical backdrop to our meanderings. Initially we set off along the Honeybourne Line, a former railway now a well-used public right of way.  From the roof-top level we had views to the Cotswolds and Malverns and then via Winston Churchill Gardens to the bridge over the River Chelt. Passing briefly through the Wilson Art Gallery and Museum we entered the Minster, St Marys, Cheltenham’s only surviving mediaeval building.

The river walk began in Charlton Kings and it was instructional to pass through a number of urban open spaces and witness both the beauty of the varied tree planting, with their greens starting to take on autumn hues, as well as the significant number of users of the riverside parks: dog-walkers, joggers, commuters and landscape students(!). Cox’s Meadow was a particularly important site because the wetland habitat is central to the flood alleviation scheme, demonstrating both the problems and opportunities of urban rivers.


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