Aberystwyth Campus a lost cause

by the Curious Scribbler

Graduation is past, the students are gone for the summer, so the Aberystwyth University Estates Department is once again ramping up their programme of landscape destruction.  Last summer saw the disappearance of several important  shrub plantings including the long stretch below the Hugh Owen Library.  We have had plenty of time to savour the results of that.  Brambles and weeds now flourish in the optimistically spread  bark mulch on the slope, the so-called-wildflower planting has been strimmed down to its brown dead stems, and in the present hot summer, the grass and new turf has, understandably, taken on the appearance of the savannah.  There is a particular irony in the observation that while we ordinary folk stopped mowing our lawns six weeks ago because they weren’t growing, the University’s contractors’ machines have passed repeatedly over the ground during those weeks, kicking up clouds of dust and barely a blade of grass.  That is what happens when you put your lawn mowing out to contract in Shrewsbury.  Specialists contractors cannot be redeployed to do something useful, as in-house staff could have been.  They were employed to mow lawns.

The new appearance of the border below the Hugh Owen Library

The mature plantings of deep rooted shrubs hold up better in the drought.  The welcome shade is enlivened by the diversity of tone and texture.  You could look across a parched lawn to the dense glossy green of holly, cotoneaster, and escallonia, the sculptural leaves of viburnum or choisya, the dusty grey-green mounds of Olearia about to burst into flower, the dark feathers of low growing juniper.

Or you could.  A new outbreak of needless destruction is taking place around the presently unoccupied halls of Cwrt Mawr and Rosser.  As I approached the Cwrt Mawr Hub I was astounded to find the tightly pruned bushy heads of an entire hedge of hollies lying scattered on the ground.  The trees, each with trunks about six inches in diameter, have been sawn off above ground.  It had been a blameless hedge, less than chest high and well tended, and it screened a long plastic bike shelter.

Holly hedge adjoining the path to Cwrt Mawr Hub

Strolling further among the buildings of Cwrt Mawr, things get worse.  Some destruction may have been necessary due to work upon a water main, but the damage is far worse than that.  There is clearly a philosophy here.  Where a border formerly stood, there shall be just one tree, denuded as far as possible of its lower branches. 

Cwrt Mawr

Around Rosser I found more borders had just been destroyed.  The sad mounds of destroyed shrubs lay inn heaps beside the stumps.  Here, not yet wilted, were the boughs of evergreen choisya, olearias about to bloom, azaleas in tight bud with next spring’s blooms, cotoneasters, purple and green leaved berberis. In one border the designated survivor is a Eucalyptus, in another it is a sorbus.  In the furthest border there are no designated survivors.  The penitentary style of the buildings has a new brutality.

Cwrt Mawr.  The  heap on the left is of azalea, pieris and juniper.

Trefloyne A,  –  a great heap of Olearia and Choysia lies around a pollarded tree

This bed was planted with olearias, Choisya ternata and Eucryphia nymansensis

Huge daisy bushes, about to bloom, cut off at the ground

Rosser –   Another harmless border destroyed to enhance the view?

It is no secret that the Estates Department’s decision-makers have no horticultural  or landscape design qualifications.  It is they, and external contractors appointed by them who are wreaking this havoc. How they imagine it will make Rosser and Cwrt Mawr more attractive to students and their parents I have no idea.

It is depressing to write so dismal a piece. I close with another picture taken today, of the cul-de-sac leading to Penbryn 7  Here we see the towering glory of mature olearias cotoneasters and berberis clothing a steep bank, immaculate and maintenance-free.  It is for this sort of quality that Cadw awarded the campus a II* listing twenty-five years ago How long, though, will it survive an administration intent on destroying heritage?

The approach to Penbryn 7, glorious planting interrupted only by the ubiquitous new parking notices.



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12 thoughts on “Aberystwyth Campus a lost cause

  1. What seemingly unnecessary destruction –
    this is happening in far too many places – we complained a few years ago when some farm land was sold resulting in absolute destruction of mature hedges and trees…..we were told the council has no environmental officer…………..
    has anyone tried informing CADW BEFORE more havoc takes place in Aber?

  2. Perhaps they are thinking about the safety and wellbeing of students (based on reported incidents and the knowledge of the statistics around unreported assaults). This “needless destruction” opens up entrances and walkways to and from halls making it much less intimidating, especially during the dark winter months.

    • Hello member of the Estates Department. ‘Knowledge of statistics of unreported assaults’ seems to be a very dubious form of knowledge. Aberystwyth woos potential students with the claim that this community is very safe. The ‘knowledge’ you refer to should be made public in the interests of transparency. Do we in fact have a dangerous epidemic of predators behind every bush?

      • I think this is getting out of hand now the university needs good clear up to tidy it up as it was starting to look unkept and untidy!

        In my opinion we are now in 21st century things move on with times and now students like a tidy campus!

        I agree with above that a lot of walkways were over green and becoming a health and safety issue for students and leaving blind areas and were becoming welfare for concerns!

  3. Such a shame . How on earth did those contractors get employed and more to the point continue to be employed??

  4. My usual gripe with landscapers is that they make every bush look like it was meant to grow square. That is what they think Is tidying up. I think that might be a better solution to what appears be former years of overgrowth and a lack of horticultural knowledge in how to correct it. Beautiful plantings are an investment . Have you gotten any indication that something else will be planted there?

    • I agree. Skilful pruning at the right time of year would enable the bushes to bear flowers and fruit. Many are choice or rare plants. Unfortunately most are being trimmed by hedgecutter into mounds which show little character.
      As for a plan.. none has been revealed.

  5. As an Aber Student, many of us are distressed and unimpressed at the ‘landscaping’ work going on. Whilst I appreciate the need to keep the campus tidy and free from hazards this is robbing it of character. A friend and fellow student of mine lobbied to try and have some of the shrubs replaced or at least stop any more from being removed but due to the impossibility of the student council being quorate a new policy has not been voted on. Furthermore on taking the complaint to both the SU and the uni directly the standard line is that the students have been consulted. I, and numerous others are unaware of any consultation that took place. I am hopeful that members of the student body will continue to campaign against overzealous pruning and hope that we can stop this destruction in the future.

    • I’m sure you speak for many. The problem is how to get your voices heard. In theory the University is highly responsive to the wishes of its students, possibly Estates management is less so. I know students were also upset by the clearances which took place at the corner by Cwrt Mawr during exam time earlier this year.
      I can only suggest you use social media to galvanize fellow students into expressing their views: an email costs nothing.

  6. Sadly, there are people praising the destruction on local social media….several posters raving about how much better it is for wildlife! I despair at the ignorance…and the total lack of students speaking out against this vandalism. Sad….after attending Aber myself a quarter of a century ago…..to see such lack of awareness, and campaigning, by todays students. What went wrong to produce such apathy?

  7. I was a student in Aber, 1975/78. I spent a lot of time on the Penglais Campus, living there in my first year (Ifor Evans – now Penglais 7 it seems….what a depressing renaming) and in my third year (Thomas Charles Evans…I think this might be Rosser now). The campus plantings were thoughtful and in keeping with the character of the campus. It all seems hideous now. I have to say I don’t agree with all the planting on the right as you lead up to Penglais 7 (the last photo in the post). In my day it was a large grassy expanse leading up to Cwrt Mawr. Glorious to sit out on during the warm summer days.

    • Thomas Charles Evans is part of the Penbryn group of halls. Rosser was built new in the early 90s; TCE is much older and when I was there (was in Rosser 1995-96) it was known to be quite dilapidated while Rosser, as you might expect, was still new (as Ade Rixon said in the Courier: “even newer than Trefloyne, but not nice at all unless you have recently been released on parole”).

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