#HedgehogAwarenessWeek – What are BMD doing to help?

BMD ecologist Laura McManus, highlights the current issues faced by Britain’s hedgehogs, what BMD are doing to actively support hedgehogs through their landscape designs and how you can help.

Britain’s Hedgehogs

Britain’s well known and loved spiny mammals are still under threat and we need your help to allow them to recover and thrive once again. Hedgehogs (Erinaceus europaeus) are now listed as ‘vulnerable to extinction’ on the Red List for Britain’s mammals (ICUN compliant). Despite hedgehogs having been protected in the UK since 1981 under the Wildlife and Countryside Act and more recently, their status having been elevated to a Priority Species under the UK Post-2010 Biodiversity Framework, populations in the UK have continued to decline greatly since the millennium. It is estimated that during this period more than 50% of hedgehogs have disappeared from rural areas of the UK and 30% from urban zones, however urban figures are now slowly starting to improve.

Current Issues

The primary driver behind the declining population of hedgehogs, as with many terrestrial mammals in the UK, is thought to be habitat loss, degradation and fragmentation. The intensification of agricultural practices has led to the removal of hedgerows and use of chemicals, reducing habitat availability and food supply. Expansion of urban areas and associated infrastructure has further contributed to this loss and caused habitats that do remain to become fragmented, isolating hedgehogs from suitable feeding and nesting grounds. Road networks associated with this urban expansion form a significant issue for hedgehogs, with road casualties being one of the leading causes of hedgehog mortality. Climate change has exacerbated these threats by placing further stress on the declining hedgehog population, with extreme and unpredictable weather events such as flooding, warmer periods throughout winter and hotter summers effecting hedgehogs ability to breed and nest, store up fat and maintain hibernation over winter.

Fact File

These unique creatures have strong muscles along their back allowing them to roll into a ball of defensive spines, protecting them from predators. An individual hedgehog has around 7000 of these spines made from adapted hair. During the colder months, hedgehogs enter a state of deep sleep known as hibernation. During this time, their heart rate can dramatically fall from 190 to just 20 beats per minute. This is in order to save energy during periods when food resources and temperatures are low.

BMD Approach

BMD are actively supporting hedgehogs across the country through integrating the needs of hedgehogs within their landscape design of residential developments. Mechanisms to avoid road traffic casualties are encouraged and implemented throughout these designs, including strategic deflective planting and wildlife underpasses to allow hedgehogs to safely navigate and cross roads when commuting at night. The retention, creation and enhancement of rough and long-sward grassland within the heart of our designs provides important habitat for hedgehogs in new urban zones. Gaps in fences or ‘hedgehog highways’ are recommended between residential gardens to prevent hedgehogs from becoming isolated and letting them travel freely in search of food and shelter. The inclusion of flower, nectar, fruit and nut bearing species and species that attract insects within our planting designs, further support hedgehogs by delivering a source of food throughout the year.

How you can help

There are many simple ways in which we can help hedgehogs thrive at home. Our gardens and public green spaces offer valuable habitat for hedgehogs, so here’s a few top tips and key improvements that you can make to help:

  • Install a ‘hedgehog highway’ by making a hole in the bottom of your garden fence or wall, this will allow hedgehogs to commute through your garden into neighbouring habitat.
  • Create a wildlife corner in your garden by leaving the shrubs and grass to grow long, building a log or leaf pile and planting some wildflowers. This wild corner will become a haven for hedgehogs enabling them to feed, nest and hibernate.
  • Hedgehogs are lactose intolerant, so to help provide food for local hedgehogs you can try putting out some meat-based wet dog or cat food and a shallow water dish, but leave the milk in the fridge!
  • You should always check large piles of garden debris (such as twigs, leaves and soil) before disturbing them or having a bonfire during the colder months. You may find a hibernating hedgehog inside!
  • To figure out the best ways to help the UK hedgehogs in the future, it is essential to know where they are and how many there are. As landscape architects and ecologist working in harmony, BMD often refer to the Big Hedgehog Map to help inform initial plans and designs. You can contribute to this dataset by mapping a hedgehog sighting or ‘hedgehog highway’ hole near you.

 

Here are some of the hedgehogs that have been spotted in BMD gardens across England:

Hedgehogs may be visiting your gardens and public green spaces, no matter how big or small, so let’s help them thrive!

 

Find out more ways to help

Hedgehog Mapping: https://bighedgehogmap.org/

Hedgehog Top Tips: https://www.hedgehogstreet.org/hog-awareness-week/

Help a Hedgehog: https://www.wildlifetrusts.org/what-do-if-you-find-wild-animal/help-hedgehog

Hedgehogs and Development: https://www.hedgehogstreet.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/Hedgehogs-and-developers-ZR.pdf

 

By Laura McManus – Assistant Ecologist

#LoveParksWeek – the importance of local green spaces and parks

This week is #LoveParksWeek and to celebrate, our colleague Zuzanna Golczyk, discusses the importance of local green spaces and parks.

Parks are very important to all of us. Our recent experiences during lockdown have brought this to the forefront of the public’s attention. Having a chance to exercise in a nearby park has been, for many people, the essential link to normality throughout these months. This year we’re joining #LoveParksWeek 2020 to help celebrate our local green spaces and parks. #LoveParksWeek is an annual national campaign run by Keep Britain Tidy that aims to encourage people to enjoy local parks and to raise awareness about our environment and the communities which help to protect them.

Parks during Covid-19 lockdown

It’s difficult to overstate the positive impacts which being in the park can have upon our well-being, particularly during these difficult and unprecedented times.

Because of the Covid-19 outbreak, the whole world has had to learn a different way of working and functioning. Being able to visit the park has given people a much needed release during the pandemic. Parks were also the first places where people could begin meeting friends, family members and loved ones again as restrictions lifted.

However, the current situation has put many people’s wellbeing under stress. Spending time in nature can counter these effects. It is widely recognised and documented that experiencing nature has a beneficial effect on many aspects of our lives. Research has shown spending 20 minutes in a natural place can reduce stress and help people from feeling overwhelmed during difficult times. It also enhances the ability to focus, which can make it easier to work from home. Psychologists say that even surrounding yourself with plants at home or watching nature videos can have a meaningful impact on our wellbeing.

Access to parks and other natural spaces will remain vitally important on the road to recovery from the pressure that the pandemic has put on our health and wellbeing. We need our parks more than ever before.

Creating places for the future

Bradley Murphy Design’s (BMD) leading aim is to create places for people and nature. This means that over the last 9 years, across a wide portfolio of projects, BMD has designed and delivered an array of parks and public green spaces which provide an engaging, direct experience of nature for those who visit them.

We believe that parks and green spaces are essential for individuals and communities and in 2018 created the award-winning H.A.L.O model to underpin the design of exemplary public spaces. The H.A.L.O model for growing healthy infrastructure was named the winner of the Ebbsfleet Garden City: Landscape for Healthy Living International Design Competition 2018.

H.A.L.O re-evaluates how the green, grey, blue and built infrastructure work together to make new communities inherently healthier, greener and smarter. It comprises four key design interventions, Hives, Arcs, Links & Organics, that collectively form an interconnected web of healthy infrastructure on residents’ doorsteps.  The whole process started with identifying the obstacles that hold people back from having healthy lifestyles and developed into a design ethos with people’s health and wellbeing at its centre. It won the award for its ‘radical but realisable’ approach that could be applied to future developments.

HALO Ebbsfleet BMD

Approach

Our company aspiration is to design and build accessible and resilient places that have the power to regenerate not only landscapes but whole communities, contributing to healthier lifestyles. To enable us to achieve this, we want to raise awareness of the need and importance of these spaces, educating where we can and collaborating with stakeholders to reach a common goal of beautiful and useable landscapes for everyone.

What can you do?

We invite you to join us in celebrating our parks and green spaces by taking a picture of your favourite park and post it using #LoveParksWeek.  You can also support your local park by joining the local green community group, volunteer group or Parks Trust, donating to charity or simply sharing this message to raise the awareness.

Waterbeach Barracks and Airfield; healthy infrastructure for modern living.

Waterbeach Barracks & Airfield, Shortlisted for ‘Planning Permission of the Year’

In August 2014, Urban&Civic Plc were appointed as Development Partner to DIO (Defence Infrastructure Organisation) to redevelop the 290 hectare (716 acre) former airfield and barracks site at Waterbeach in Cambridgeshire.  The site constitutes the western two thirds of a new settlement allocated by South Cambridgeshire District Council through their Local Plan process, which has a capacity for 8,000 to 9,000 homes.

BMD were commissioned by Urban&Civic to provide the full suite of green infrastructure services covering landscape architecture, soil science, ecology and arboriculture and have worked alongside Fletcher Priest Architects, David Lock Associates, Stantec (formerly Peter Brett Associates) and a wide range of other partners since the outset of the project.

The airfield and barracks is an entirely brownfield site located on the northern edge of the historic village of Waterbeach.  Sitting at the meeting point between the Western Claylands and Fenlands landscape character areas, the site is a gateway to the fens with excellent transport connections that is just three miles from the Cambridge Science and Business Parks, home to some of the most dynamic employment generation in the world.

With a man-made lake at its heart and historic links to the Schedule monument of Denny Abbey in the north, the inherited features within the site, such as the extensive areas of existing grassland and woodland plantations, combine to form a rich ecological and heritage mosaic that drove the masterplanning process from the outset.

A critical and ongoing element of the project has been demonstrating how the site will achieve a net gain in biodiversity without relying on any offsite improvements or other offsetting measures.  Central to this is the creation of four Biodiversity Priority Areas that harness the best of the sites existing assets and build on these to create rich and distinctive habitats at a macro scale, which are linked through smaller scale interventions to provide an interconnected mosaic of treatments for wildlife and people.

Combined with the site’s flat topography and adjacency to the city of Cambridge, this extensive green infrastructure framework formed the ideal basis for the creation of an exemplary pedestrian and cycle movement network that has been designed in collaboration with SCDC, Cambridgeshire County Council (CCC) and a range of key stakeholders and cycle advocates.

The fenland setting has also been the inspiration for a sustainable drainage system that operates from the streets to the existing and new lakes, to bring the water story to life and nature to the doorstep.

The outline planning application was submitted jointly by the Secretary of State for Defence and Urban&Civic to South Cambridgeshire District Council (SCDC) in February 2017, who, during a specially constituted Planning Committee on 13th May 2019, resolved to grant permission for 6,500 new homes and associated employment, transport, educational, health and community uses.  Formal planning permission was granted by SCDC on the 27th September 2019, following the completion of the associated Section 106 agreement.

Waterbeach Barracks & Airfield is the culmination of long-term partnerships between the Client, the design team, local authorities and a cast of stakeholders and consultees that will create a unique and exciting place to live and work.

BMD are currently working on the detailed landscape design of Key Phase 1 and construction is due to commence on site later this year, with first occupations anticipated in 2022/23.

For more information about Waterbeach click here.

Leven Road Gasworks, a landscape designed with a nature led vision.

Leven Road Gasworks, a landscape designed with a nature led vision. Shortlisted for ‘Planning Permission of the Year’ as part of the Planning Awards 2020.

BMD was commissioned in 2017 as Landscape Architect to work on a visionary residential led mixed-use masterplan for St William (part of the Berkeley Group). This uniquely placed development occupies 8.3ha of land along the river Lea in Poplar, East London on the site of the former Leven Road Gasworks and will deliver 2800 homes.

Before the gasworks, which formed an iconic backdrop to the river from 1876, the River Lea was originally flanked by extensive wetland and marshland. The marshland was part of the Bromley Marsh, remnants of which still survive on the northern banks today.

This unique location, in such an urban part of East London, gave us a real opportunity to design around the River and the Living Landscape of the wider Lea Valley, plugging Leven Road Gasworks in to an existing network of ecological habitat, landscape and wildlife.

BMD’s nature led vision for the project, in collaboration with masterplanners JTP and the London Wildlife Trust, identified four deliverables to help underpin the design development:

  • Conserve and enhance the existing and historic river character
  • Provide net biodiversity gain across the site
  • Consider how best to integrate the existing community with the proposed development
  • Connect the wider community with the river for the first time

In order to integrate the site with its urban context, the site broadly splits in two. The southern half of the site was designed with more of a gridded street format, aligning with the wider urban grain and allowing space for an interesting set of harder yard spaces and public squares. The northern half of the site was looser, referencing the river and the site’s marshland heritage.  We used landscape as the connection, linking the river back to the wider community through a brand new riverside park and the use of sculpture, play on the way and walking routes flanked by trees and wildflower grassland to frame views.

The scheme provides:

  • Nearly 60% of the site as open green space and new habitat, connecting with remnant marshland along the River edge and important ecological sites along the wider River Lea valley.
  • The inclusion of a 1 ha public park and new river edge footpaths and cycleways. Running and walking routes combine with wildflower grassland, kickabout space and look outs across the river, encouraging the new and existing community to explore the river and wider footpath network.
  • New wetland bordering the river to the north. The introduction of reedbeds, bioswales and attenuation ponds enhances the site for birds and invertebrates as well as filtering contaminants before discharging back to the river
  • Over 5000m2 of formal play, in addition to the park, including both formal elements and areas for nature inspired informal play on the way
  • Sections of the largest gasometer retained and incorporated as a sculptural mascot at the gateway to the river park.

 

As a highly urban site, with a lot of challenges around the integration of community, Leven Road Gasworks is the result of great collaborative working between the client and design team and the invaluable input and commitment from the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. It’s a scheme which seeks to promote social and healthy living as an integrated part of a nature led design, creating a long-term legacy for both people and wildlife.

For more information about Leven Road Gasworks click here.

Alconbury Weald, shortlisted for ‘Best Use of Heritage in Placemaking’.

Pop-Up Bar (Alconbury Weald) 09-08-2019

Alconbury Weald, a landscape-led development in Cambridgeshire, has been shortlisted for ‘Best Use of Heritage in Placemaking’ as part of the Planning Awards 2020.

A largely brownfield site, the former RAF airfield at Alconbury was bought by master developer Urban&Civic in 2009. Over the next 20 years, their vision is to transform the 1425-acre site into Alconbury Weald; a unique and inspiring place for working, living, learning – a place for everyone to call home.

A project of epic proportions, BMD are solely responsible for delivering all landscape architectural and ecological services for Urban&Civic on-site.  Championing design quality throughout, we are a key part of Urban&Civic’s extensive work with stakeholders; supporting their community engagement programme that has established Alconbury Weald within the local area and provides continual feedback that shapes our design proposals.

Urban&Civic has been keen to create a sense of arrival and unique character for Alconbury Weald from day one; encompassing high-quality homes, historically respectful layouts, natural landscaping and inspiring civic buildings. Once complete, it will consist of 6500 homes, an employment Enterprise Campus, schools, sustainable transport links, energy infrastructure and community facilities – integrated with more than 600 acres of green space at its heart.

Key Phase 1, is the start of an exciting journey for Alconbury Weald; a place that has harnessed the power of landscape to transform a dusty airfield into an established community. Inspired by the Site’s rich aerospace history, our landscape design connects the new community to surrounding grasslands, water and ancient woodlands.

Our landscape-led vision for this first phase is underpinned by three pillars – Growing a Pioneer Community, Staged Placemaking and a Multi-Generational Design Approach.

Working collaboratively with Urban&Civic and the wider project team, here’s how we delivered on them to make it a unique place.

  • Set within a newly-created ‘urban forest’, we have delivered a sequence of interlinked spaces, each with their own distinct character, that form the heart of a new community.
  • We worked with the site’s existing landscape assets and designed ecologically-focused features that provide extensive habitat for wildlife and will deliver a net gain in biodiversity across the development.
  • We translocated over 120 mature trees, including a 70-year-old London Plane, using Europe’s largest tree spade and planted new trees raised from seed collected from adjacent ancient woodlands.
  • Over 1ha of species rich grassland and woodland have been established, the specification of which has been shaped by trials undertaken on-site.
  • People focussed and inclusive, the landscape and public realm draws upon the area’s character and the site’s heritage to deliver a unique and welcoming place.
  • Delivering a ‘landscape and social infrastructure first’ approach meant key open spaces, pathways and facilities were open when the first residents moved in; making it feel like home from day one.
  • Key Phase 1 delivers ‘instant’ impact landscape – helping Urban&Civic set the tone for the entire development and sell the Alconbury Weald vision to their customers and future residents, resulting in record sales launches for housebuilders.
  • Ensuring social and environmental resilience have been at the heart of design thinking and decision making. Facilities and opportunities for all ages are layered to create places that bring people together.

 

Truly landscape-led masterplanning, detailed design and implementation have created a place with a unique identity that exhibits a real sense of permanence. Drawing on a combination of client, consultant and stakeholder collaboration, bespoke design, technology and expert advice, our approach has opened access to and engagement with landscape for all.

For more information about Alconbury Weald, Click Here