Prospect-refuge theory on Wistley Hill

Yesterday the Appraising Landscapes class ventured into the wide open country of the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, undertaking a five-mile walk which took us up the back-slope from Seven Springs (source of the Thames) onto Wistley Hill which gave us a magnificent panorama of the Gloucestershire scarp and vale landscape, then down into Cheltenham suburbs where we picked up the course of the River Chelt and followed that back into town.

The weather was perfect for hill-walking in early February, being a cool but sunny day. The high pressure system ensured hardly any wind so the exposed scarp edge wasn’t troubled by wind-chill despite the extensive areas of frost on the coarse grassland.

Once at the top the view enabled us to have a discussion of the prospect-refuge theory of Jay Appleton and of its relevance to landscape architects undertaking landscape character or visual impact assessments in such a location. Being actually on site meant that all aspects of the genius loci could be appraised – the visual aesthetic, the ecological, the psychological – and of course taking due recognition of seasonal effects – the subdued winter landscape, any birdsong and the low sun and long shadows.

A fulfilling day.

Initial ascent along the Cotswold Way
View west showing Cotswold escarpment
GPS-tracked route taken

Bob Moore 8th February 2023

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