Two new play parks opened this month at Wintringham

Bradley Murphy Design (BMD) were the lead Landscape Architects coordinating the design and delivery, alongside Jupiter Play, for our client Urban&Civic.

The play areas are inspired by getting close to nature, encouraging active play and active minds. Climb and balance through the orchard lined Ripple Park, run up and down the ripple runners and climb the Bret Park play tower to peek through the pine trees. There is something for everyone in our newly open play parks at Wintringham.

Richard Clarke, Landscape Architect at Bradley Murphy Design (BMD), discusses the two play parks, their features and design inspiration.

RIPPLE PARK

The play park contains a meandering play trail either side of the pathway to encourage play on the way, utilising a range of wooden play equipment set amongst rolling landforms and ornamental trees. This play area also includes a bespoke wave form that everyone can run up and down, jump off and sit on, inspiring unique play ideas. Picnic benches and seating overlook the active landscape, whilst naturalistic planting areas and larger trees wrap around the edges creating separation from the roadside.

BRET PARK

Nestled amongst large pine trees, the play tower offers many ways to play, climbing to the top of the ladders, ropes or netting gives tree canopy views, while log steppers and ornamental boulders set into undulating landform create more natural play experiences. All set within swaying ornamental grasses, the play area also has seating areas with space for pushchairs with a small fence providing extra separation from the road.

Wintringham was acquired by Urban&Civic in 2017 and Bradley Murphy Design Ltd were commissioned as Landscape Architects responsible for the coordination and delivery of all Green Infrastructure services covering landscape architecture, soil science, arboriculture and ecology.

Wintringham forms part of the overall plan for the St Neots Eastern Expansion. BMD supported Urban and Civic in submitting a hybrid planning application in 2017 for 2,800 residential dwellings, a district centre, two primary schools and associated public open spaces including a design code for the first key phase, which was approved by Huntingdonshire District Council in 2018.

BMD are currently designing the southern extent of Key Phase 1 which will include an exciting play area destination, significant wetland habitat and access to Wintringham Brook.

National Children’s Gardening Week – Importance of gardening for children

BMD Senior Landscape Architect Yu Yang highlights the benefits of children gardening and how as a practice we embed gardening opportunities for children, families and schools as part of our landscape designs.

From 19th May to 6th June is National Children’s Gardening Week 2021. It is an annual festival to promote children’s gardening and celebrates the valuable experiences that gardens bring to children.

Gardening is an effective way to introduce children to the natural world, science and geography. It gives them a fantastic opportunity to observe, explore, and interact with natural elements, to experience the rhythm of nature through seasonal changes, and to understand how plants, animals and climate work together to harvest the beauty we see in our gardens and the food that we eat.

Warm weather and half term make this week the perfect time for getting children to explore the wonderful outdoors and inspiring them to enjoy gardening.  There are plenty of events going on in garden centres across the country and ideas for children to get involved during National Children’s Gardening Week.

Helping Children Grow – the benefits

We are very fortunate to have a small allotment in our garden where my children have planted vegetable seeds, watered, and tended them, and then watched them grow. I remember seeing their exciting faces when they picked up a tomato after weeks of caring. There are no overnight successes in the garden, so as in life. Through gardening, they’ve learnt dedication and patience.

Like many other parents, I do often struggle to maintain their adequate level of vegetable intake.  Interestingly but not surprisingly, children are keen to try the vegetables they’ve grown themselves. Being involved in gardening helps tremendously on fostering their healthy eating habits.

Children are also great sensory learners.  They feel the rich texture of the leaves, taste the sweet fruits/berries, see the colour and pattern, smell the fragrant plants like lavender and listen to plants rustling in the wind.

Gardening involves lots of physical activities. Children need to bend, stretch, dig, weed, lift, plant and water, participating in a wide range of movements that use plenty of their muscles. For the younger kids, using their hands can help them to form strong eye-hand coordination and develop better fine motor skills.

Working in a garden teaches children to categorise, organise and plan ahead – and these skills translate directly into other aspects of life. I was so impressed to see my older son come up with a plan showing the vegetables he wanted to grow this year, and when and where they would be transplanted in the ground. All simply because we did not plan much last year, and had to be really creative in cooking with mountains of courgette and beans…

Gardening can support children’s emotional functions as they express delight or disappointment when plants thrive or struggles.  A few minutes of weeding, digging or just looking at green leaves and flowers, have a significant effect upon the reduction of the level of the stress hormone, cortisol in children. They also feel the pride and confidence when sharing their gardening stories or presenting their products with families, neighbours and friends.

Embedding gardening opportunities in landscape design

Working with children, families and schools to create spaces for various gardening opportunities has always been our approach to connect children with nature. The new primary school at Wintringham Park follows philosophy of ‘Forest Schools’ to encourage and inspire pupils through positive outdoor experiences. Allocated gardening areas have been created to provide opportunities for children to do bug hunts, make mud pies, and grow vegetables and/or fruit. Ever since its implementation, it’s hugely appreciated by the teachers as a valuable resource for improving children’s health and support their overall development. In the recently submitted Marleigh (Phase 2) Reserved Matters Application (RMA), for our client Hill, the overarching principle of bringing nature into the heart of development has been well supported by the council and local community. The scheme offers huge opportunities for children to be active in outdoor spaces.  They can pick up an apple on the way to school, smell the fragrant flowers in local park, or grow their own vegetables on their doorsteps. Children’s interaction will bring families together, nurture a sense of identity and eventually form a strong local community.

It’s widely reported that childhood obesity is a major public health concern in the UK. The primary causes are poor diet and decline in physical activities. The urgency has been recognised in national and local policies with more and more councils setting out requirements for food growing spaces when developing planning policies and supplementary guidance. Wherever it’s formal allotment, community orchard, edible plants in local parks, kitchen gardens in school grounds or vegetable beds on podium gardens, children will harvest a lot when engaging with it. By making creative use of spaces, we can help to make gardening possible, accessible and enjoyable for all the children, enriching their experience with natural world for a more active, happier and healthier life.

Article Written by – Yu Yang (Senior Landscape Architect)

#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

Celebrating International Women’s Day with BMD Director Laura Bradley

It’s been 10 years since Laura Bradley and her business partner Ryan Murphy set up the award-winning landscape practice Bradley Murphy Design (BMD). 10 years which has seen BMD grow from a couple of laptops set up in the kitchen of Laura’s cottage to a thriving team of 38 landscape architects and ecologists.

For International Women’s Day, Laura discusses the decision to set up BMD, how time has changed the lives of women working within the landscape industry and the future of the industry as a whole.

When and why did you decide to set up BMD?

Following redundancy post the 2008 recession I took the opportunity to take the plunge and persuaded my old colleague Ryan to join me. We were stepping in to the unknown, but it was an exciting time and we worked hard to make it pay off. I’m so proud of the team at BMD and what we’ve achieved so far. We’re doing great things. As we enter our tenth year in business, I’m conscious of a greater responsibility too.

Do you think there is genuine equality for women in the property and construction industry today?

I was lucky to grow up with a fabulous role model of a working mum. She made me believe I could do anything and so sitting in meetings as the only female in the room is something I brushed off as ‘normal’ when I was younger. The balance has definitely improved in the last 15 years, but as a working mum myself, I still notice more the passive discrimination against parents (inevitably affecting more women than men): early meetings and late finishes for instance. As a company we’re actively addressing these issues through flexible working arrangements, encouraging people to work from home and championing online meetings wherever possible.

What has been the biggest challenge or difficulty you’ve faced as a woman in your career?

The biggest challenge for me has been coming back from maternity leave and readjusting to work with two children. The compound effect of a year and half away from the business and having two children under two was really hard. The inevitable mum guilt of not being at home added to the guilt related to not being able to fully commit to the business was constant. Although not diagnosed, looking back I was suffering all the symptoms of post-natal depression. Even now, with my youngest at two and a half, I don’t feel quite as mentally sharp as I was before. But, I’ve come to the realization that while I’m not the person I was before, I don’t have to be; I can be different, more empathetic, wiser, better. A silver lining to Covid has been removing the ‘juggle’ from the day. There’s less rushing around and more quality time both for the girls and for work.

What does the future of landscape architecture look like to you?

Landscape architecture has always been important, but the catastrophe of climate change is intensifying attention on our environment. This is vital if we’re going to have a chance of mitigating climate change. We have the tools to make a difference to the future of the planet, so we have a duty to be proactive about working with our clients to help push for more sustainable, greener development. The last year has helped underline for all of us how important accessible green space is to our health and well-being.  From a commercial perspective we can point to the increased value of homes, urban or rural, that have good access to well designed public spaces too. Our role is important, so I’m optimistic.

 

Highlighting and tackling forest litter in creative ways #LoveYourForest

Earlier this year, one of the BMD team Dorota Grabkowska entered the ‘Love Your Forest’ competition, with her concept ‘The Myr Tree’ being selected as the winning entry.

Dorota created the sculpture for the newly launched recycling campaign run by an environmental charity Hubbub, Suntory Beverage & Food (Ribena, Lucozade, Shwepps) and the Forestry England amongst other organisations.

The purpose of this sculpture was to visualise the passage of time by imitating the tree’s growth rings. Each ring on this tree stump represents how many years the different materials take to biodegrade. For example, one plastic bottle takes around 450 years to decompose in nature – an oak tree would grow up to 2 metres in diameter in that time. The term ‘MYR’ stands for 1 million years – which is how long it takes for glass to biodegrade if left in nature. Also, all litter shown in the MYR tree sculpture was found at the Forest of Dean.

The Myr Tree is now on display at the Beechenhurst visitor centre at the Forest of Dean until November, and will be touring around the Forest of Dean towns and visitor centres over the coming months, so have a look if you’re in the area! Also follow @myr_tree on Instagram to see the process of making it.

#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.