Broad Walk

The Broad Walk has been a major feature of the landscape since at least the mid seventeenth century, when it replaced the earlier section of tree lined perimeter walk, which existed in the sixteenth century. It was much celebrated and is the most important surviving designed landscape feature of the Meadow and it was used as a major promenade.

The walk crosses the documented line of Oxford’s Civil War defences and is on the northern edge of the Meadow floodplain.  The designed landscape character of the walk was of a raised terrace walkway planted as a regular, narrow avenue bounded by railings, with views through the tall elms to the Meadow or Cathedral and College buildings beyond.  

It was maintained as a closely spaced elm avenue until 1975 by filling any gaps, later using Huntingdon elm. It was then partially replanted with widely spaced alternating Oriental and London Plane, following the devastation of Dutch elm disease.  The chosen layout was a compromise between replanting the avenue and leaving views, which was not entirely successful.

The Broad Walk is still a busy promenade, with a wide gravel path, partly lined with trees in grass verges.  However, the partial replanting in the 1970s on a wider spacing with alternating species has not retained the feature’s former character; it is no longer a unified featured and no longer reads as an avenue along much of its length. There is a plan to recreate the former avenue with a disease resistant elm cultivar and in 2014 some trial planting of these disease resistant cultivars of elm was undertaken on the south side of the walk in order to assess which variety will do best.