CED Stone Inspiring Beautiful Landscapes

The Groves‚ Chester

Posted: 22 Apr, 2015


Cheshire West and Chester Council




Porphyry Setts


The Groves‚ on the banks of the River Dee‚ is one of of the most attractive areas in Chester. It is separated from the main shopping area of the city so many people visit Chester and are not aware of the Riverside and its activities. It is an aspiration of Cheshire West and Chester Council to encourage the use of the river.

The Groves‚ an early example of a Victorian promenade‚ is a public riverside walk with an area of trees‚ seating‚ a bandstand‚ kiosks and boat trips. It is enjoyed at all times of the year but is extremely popular and busy in the summer months.

The surfacing was self binding gravel on this fairly sloping site. It tended to be washed away‚ causing blocked drains and a constant need for re-applying material. Also‚ in very dry periods the area became very dusty. Together with the trees providing dappled shade‚ the gravel surfacing did have an aesthetic quality and a pleasing character. This quality was important to maintain‚ especially with the nature of the proposals to provide a harder surface and remove some of the trees.

The new scheme paid respect to the avenue of mature lime trees that flanked the promenade. The smaller rowans were removed and additional lime trees were planted to strengthen the avenue. It was very important to protect and not impact on the existing trees that give The Groves (as the name suggests) its distinctiveness and character.

The porphyry setts create a warm‚ autumnal feel. Laying the setts unbound (no cement at all) was clearly going to benefit the trees and allow for easy maintenance if the roots should disturb the surface layer. The result is a perfect combination to create robust surfacing but maintain a soft appearance that looks even better once a few leaves have blown off the trees and sit on top of it.

As it happened‚ before the work was even complete‚ a broken pipe underground caused a trench to be dug through the newly laid setts. Immediately‚ the benefit of laying unbound showed itself. All the setts could be re-used without any cleaning needed and a seamless repair effected.

Simple porphyry edgings around the trees and the borders of the site are concreted into place to provide the edge restraint needed by an unbound system. The result is a delight‚ looking most elegant and achieved at a much reduced cost compared with a concrete and mortar system. Not only that‚ but the carbon footprint is far less. Not every situation lends itself to this methodology but‚ where it does‚ there are many advantages.