Photography is a funny old thing. The act of talking a photo preserves a moment and can often help you to cherish something or someone just a little more. It’s an act of remembrance. There’s a lot of things we take for granted. Once something becomes part of your life it can cease to noticed and appreciated. It’s true of both large and small things and is one reason why the advice ‘stop and smell the roses’ is so wise and also so under-appreciated.
We moved to Cheltenham in 2005 and one of the things that immediately stuck us was the elegant regency architecture and the tree lined streets. It really is a green and pleasant town. If you look at a satellite map of Cheltenham you’ll see the large areas of parks, connected by green corridors. One of these is the route that most people enter Cheltenham; via the M5 to the A40, past GCHQ towards Lansdown road and the center of the town. You pass over a kilometer of mature trees and hedgerows, which provide wildlife habitat, absorbs sound & pollution and hides a large stretch of 1950’s housing called Benhall. However this is under threat as Stagecoach West is trying to get Gloucestershire council to widen the A40 to shave a few minutes off journey times. You can read about it in the Gloucestershire Echo and at the excellent ‘Save Cheltenham’s Trees’ Facebook page. (Please do click and Like the page).
As soon as I heard about the proposal I went out and photographed some of the area. Landscape photography is a way of compressing and composing reality into two dimensions and more than just preserving memories, it can make a difference. I’m a visual person and so rather than running through the many reasons that this scheme should not go ahead, I thought I’d show you with images. Imagine what you’d be seeing if the greenery wasn’t there. This hedgerow is worth saving.
The trees and hedgerow have taken decades to get to their present state and any remedial work to install a token barrier just won’t replace what would be lost. Gloucestershire County Council described the hedgerow as a ‘wildlife corridor’ and a I’ve seen a lot of birds flying in & out, though my specialty is photographing people & places.
A bus lane running eastwards into town was built a few years ago by taking out a tuning lane and slightly widening the A40. It’s caused a number of accidents since then with people tuning on & off the A40 and being hit by buses and taxis ‘undertaking’ the traffic. The traffic on the A40 is significantly worse since then and this scheme would exacerbate that. Westbound here’s a bridge over the rail line which is a major choke point, so adding in a second lane really isn’t going to achieve much. If Stagecoach was serious about wanting to have more people travel by bus they would reduce the prices. That would make a far bigger difference to most people that cutting a bus journey by a few minutes. The scheme would cause over a year of traffic disruption and is set to cost over £1.5 million, which is money that would be far better spent on improving Cheltenham’s cycling lanes etc.
Could I please encourage you to click and sign the online petition and especially contact your political representatives on Gloucestershire country council and Cheltenham Borough Council (click and identify them) and ask them to stop Stagecoach wrecking the entrance to Cheltenham. All of the political candidates in the recent general election opposed the bus lane plans, including the new MP Alex Chalk. Please do also tell others about this proposal and encourage others to get involved. The A40 hedgerow isn’t paradise, but if it’s paved over, we will miss it. There is still time to protect what we’ve got.