Landscape architect

Grand Designs

A moment of perspective

Over two days this past week, some of our team visited the grand designs exhibition at the Excel Centre in London’s Docklands and what seemed like a perfectly normal office outing, became a much larger lesson in perspective giving.

An event, much more popular with architects than landscape professionals, it’s perhaps not the first place you’d think to find a landscape architect on their day off. Grand designs may sound like a gimmick but it’s actually an exhibition with a lot of heart. If you are an “average Joe” with big dreams and big ideas about designing and building your own home, this exhibition brings everything you need or more importantly “need to know”, under one roof.

On a practical level, it is an opportunity to talk (for free) to professionals across a whole range of fields, to discover the latest design technologies and perhaps more importantly get an abundance of advice on self build issues large and small.

So why were we there? Well, it sounds obvious but the landscape has an awful lot to do with buildings. We wrote a blog recently on how the landscape can add exponential value to your home. When we look out the window of our homes, it’s the landscape we see, when the sun is shining, it’s the garden we sit in or park that we head for. We choose building plots or houses for their location and often proximity to nature and the countryside.

Landscape is so intrinsic to building that often, in fact, architects even have to consider the landscape before they can get planning permission to build some of the most innovative and unusual homes. Landscape and visual impact assessments or LVIAs as they are known are the starting point for many buildings so we (as landscape architects) can assess the impact they will have and mitigate against it before they are even built.

Architects and Landscape architects are intrinsically connected in the work they do. As landscape professionals we work with architects all the time, we understand planning process and know about all the aspects of landscape design down to the very finite detail and about how that connects to the building. That said, we are a long way from being architects and the opportunity to speak to some of the most established and remarkable architects in the field enabled us to discover some of the latest perspectives and trends in the world of architecture. More interestingly still, we had the opportunity to do this with a second hat on as we have secretly squirrelled away a grand design of our own so took the chance to get some advice (and potentially an architecture partnership) on that too. Interesting indeed to talk to architects in a personal rather than professional capacity.

But despite the professional and personal benefits of visiting Grand Designs, this was far from the most remarkable thing about our trip. Between roaming the stalls and listening to the dulcet tones of Charlie Luxton and Piers Taylor we sat, coffee in hand and just watched. And in life, it’s the moments between moments that are sometimes the most significant. What we saw was people; people with aspirations, dreams and ideas. People excited to discover and learn and craving inspiration or someone to inspire them.

As professionals, we are all driven by different agendas; outstanding design, sustainable solutions, finding opportunities for creative flair. Perhaps we value the traditional or the contemporary or the challenge of a tricky space or an inopportune site. What motivates us is different for every professional but what we are often quick to forget is that all our professional practices and aspirations only exist because of the boldness of our clients. It is easy to forget in our passion for our field that it’s not our money we spend or our lives we affect change upon. The awards we, as professionals, win and the incredible buildings or landscapes we create only exist because of the courage of our clients to pursue their dreams and to trust us to tread those journeys with them. An important reminder of our roles and moment of reflection, in our remarkable adventure on the road of landscape architecture.

 

 

Gardens

The Abstract Concept of a Garden

A Garden of Joy

I have small children, twins in fact. One day a few months ago, I was in my friend’s South London flat with said twins. It was early morning (too early) and my children were systematically destroying whatever they could lay their hands on. I was clearing up the handiwork of child number one when I noticed the deafening silence of child number two. I spun round just in time to see him cramming a handful of plant fertiliser into his mouth and pouring the last of a bag of compost onto the floor. A and E trip averted, I cleaned up the mess swearing about what kind of lunatic keeps plant fertiliser in a London flat with absolutely no outdoor space.

It was at this point, I opened my eyes. As I began to look around me I saw terrariums, window boxes, containers filled with plants of all shapes and sizes; there were herbs, succulents, cacti and some strangely appealing ikea plant that industry professionals are still yet to identify…this place was a forest; a wonderful forest of greenery everywhere I looked. More than this, this simple South London flat was in fact a garden.

 

Gardens

This very notion brought to me thoughts of an Urban Gardening Adventures blog I read recently which states simply “to live somewhere without a garden is soul-destroying. Unimaginable.”. His circumstances force him to take the idea of a garden well outside the box and make friends with house plants, cacti and bonsai gardens. You may think this is unusual but with the average UK garden size decreasing, making use of every inch of outdoor space and finding creative ways to have our very own garden is an ever more popular option.

The average British garden is just 14 square metres, with the average garden size for the 25-44 age bracket smaller still at a modest 12 square metres (HTA, 2015). To help you visualise that, it’s about the same size as a standard UK car parking space. Yes really.

Many people would consider a garden of that size inconsequential but counter that with statistics which show that having a well designed and maintained garden (of any size) can add 20% onto the value of a house and suddenly that garden takes on a life of its own.

More specific still, London agents Marsh and Parsons released some mind boggling research showing that the value of a London flat can be increased by an average of 12% by adding a roof terrace and this rises to a whopping 25% in the desirable Chelsea postcode. Their research even went as far as to look at how communal gardens and outdoor spaces also add substantial value, as much as 20% in some areas of London. According to their statistics less than a third of flats coming on the market have a roof terrace or communal garden but they sell faster and at a higher price than similar properties with no outdoor space.

What all of these statistics demonstrate is that actually, no matter how large or small your garden is, it adds an exponential amount of value to your home. And you can bet your bottom dollar that the ones which sell for a premium are the ones in which the gardens are bespoke, beautiful and make the best use of the space.

 

Gardens

But value isn’t just monetary and gardens add value in so many more ways. The news is full to bursting with research demonstrating the holistic benefits of gardens and the wider great outdoors. You can’t deny it, gardens are good for our mental and physical health, gardens are good for the soul. And that’s why Britains are spending more time than ever before outside and why my friend has filled her entire flat with greenery.

Gardens have so many functions; they give us social space, entertaining space. They are hobbies, play parks, art and sanctuaries. We love gardens, we want gardens and what we are beginning to discover is that a garden can be a much more abstract concept than a six by ten square of lawn behind a suburban home. Here at Studio 31, we see that more than ever. Yes its true that, we design country estates and more traditional large gardens but we also design small spaces, awkward outdoor corridors and balcony roof terraces. These corners and niches tucked between terraces or floating high above the cityscape ignite our imaginations because its our job to define them under that humble but significant noun “garden” and no matter how large or small the garden or how traditional or abstract it may be, a garden, by its very essence, brings joy.

 

Urban Trees

Urban Forests

How urban trees shape our cities

Last month, the Forestry Commission released a shiny new report entitled “Delivery of ecosystem services by urban forests”. At last there is a report which pools much of the existing research pertaining to urban trees and presents it in an influential yet strikingly analytical read.

In its totality the report hopes to inform future policy on “nature based solutions to climate change, health problems and the challenges of urbanisation”. Largely for the first time, it considers the detail of this, discussing the specific attributes of not only individual trees but also lines, clusters and the broader woodlands. It goes as far as to look at the benefits and deficits of tall versus short, deciduous versus evergreen and broad versus narrow canopy. All of which is something previous research has in the main, failed to do.

But if you’re not a fully fledged tree report reading geek such as I, is there a different way to understand this report? When we talk about ecosystem services, carbon sequestration and noise mitigation, what do we really mean and why should anyone care?

73% of the population of Europe lives in cities (UN, 2014) so it makes sense then that governments would want to consider the well being of that large majority and perhaps also whether their proximity to the natural rather than built environment has an impact on that well being.

This term “ecosystem services” put simply means “the benefits that people derive from nature” (Forestry Commission, 2017) and it may surprise you to know there are many more of them than you might initially think. Take for example “food provision”. Laughable maybe to consider taking to the streets of London to forage for food from the local tree population? But then think of those times in your childhood where your head was buried in a blackberry bush, cheeks purple with the stain of a freshly picked (and consumed) harvest. I see reference upon reference to local mushroom picking courses which advertise wandering the forest floors in search of ingredients for the latest fashionable wild mushroom risotto recipe. Cast your mind to Christmas and the smell of chestnuts roasting at street side stalls and children wrapped up for autumn delicately prising open prickly shells to their reveal shiny brown core. We love to “pick our own”, delight at the prizes nature has to offer and secretly revel in the quiet satisfaction this provides. Chestnuts, pine nuts not to mention the abundance of fruit on offer from trees turns our city streets from concrete jungles to local greengrocers.

That said, some of the largest benefits our urban trees have to offer are not (as in the case of fuel and food) goods but instead services. Our cities are primarily built from brick, concrete, tarmac and similar industrial materials; materials which absorb the heat and reduce the ability for water to escape naturally. The result of this, are cities with increasingly high temperatures and more at risk of flooding. With the great British weather not often the subject of “too hot” complaints, it’s slightly astonishing that heat-related stress accounts for around 1100 premature deaths per year in the UK (Doick and Hutchings, 2013). Trees mitigate against this by providing shade and blocking solar radiation. They also intercept rainfall and reduce surface water run-off thus contributing to flood prevention in urban areas (forestry commission, 2017).

Perhaps more commonly cited than temperature regulation or flood prevention is trees’ ability to purify the air. This report quantifies that, suggesting that management of street trees and woodlands has been found to be a cost effective way of reducing particulate matter (the potentially harmful particles in the air such as soot and dust) compared to technological or policy measures such as the use of greener fuels. With scientists across the globe focused on the task of reducing global warming, smog and the various other harmful emissions we as humans produce, this literature is suggesting that the humble tree is in fact a large part of the answer.

Urban Trees

There is a common misconception that any nature that is present in cities should be “left well alone” so that is can be persevered. The forestry commission paper argues that in fact, the careful and responsible management of our trees and green spaces contributes far more to enhancing the benefits that they provide than it does harm to them. It may seem obvious but there is research which actually proves that facilities (toilets, paths, signs) will improve usability and accessibility (Doick et al. 2013) and that the more people come into contact with urban trees, the greater the cultural, health and educational benefits.

The report references similar concepts to the ones we cited in our earlier blog on healing gardens and even goes as far as to state that nature is good for the soul. Well, ok, it doesn’t say exactly that but it does say that sensory elements like the sound of walking on crunchy leaves, bird song and the smell of damp wood after the rain all increase our connection with landscape and in turn our well being. There is a word we came across “petrichor” many moons ago, simply defined as “the smell after rain falls on dry soil” (Oxford Dictionary, 2017). We all know that smell, so familiar it is, that we almost named our practice after it.

Much of this report does appear to state the obvious but the point that would be easy to miss is that there is invaluable importance to doing that; it provides tangible evidence to the commonly accepted anecdotal support and therein provides much needed credibility.

For those who care the less about the wellbeing and environmental aspects that our urban trees provide, there are also a wealth of economic benefits. They boost tourism, provide setting for recreation activities and more indirectly generate employment in the form of arboriculture consultants, tree surgeons and many other landscape professionals.

It makes sense then that there are campaigns in abundance supporting the preservation of our green infrastructure of which trees make up a substantial part; The Tree Council, The Ancient Tree Forum and The National Park City Campaign to name but a few.

The conclusions to this report state largely that a management plan needs to be put in place which provides an overarching strategy for tree planting, maintenance and conservation in urban areas; a plan which considers carefully both the stakeholders involved and the location and function of any given tree. It appears urban forestry is both a science and art and requires both scientists and artists at the helm. However I wonder whether it is not only up to a wider government or even private sector initiative but also up to us as professionals and on a smaller level still, us as citizens of our cities to play our part too. We can use our trees, care for our trees, engage with them, play with them, plant them and protect them. As landscape architects, we use trees in almost every scheme we design and this report draws our attention back to the way in which we use these trees, particularly in urban environments. Are we, as the report suggests, considering the true value of the tree across all its ecosystem services rather than a purely aesthetic tool and if not is there a way to do both?

We think so.

Sustainable

Sustainability meets Conservation

Elmley Nature Reserve

Back in February, the directors here at Studio 31 took a trip to Elmley National Nature Reserve on the Isle of Sheppey, a place with sustainability at it’s heart. The initial and perhaps most notable thing about Elmley is that it is surprising. It sits in powerful and remarkable contrast to the rest of the much more industrial Isle of Sheppey. Turning off the main roads and into the reserve, you amble down a long and winding driveway being pulled deeper and deeper under its spell. The reserve stretches out in front of you, a strangely beautiful landscape. Not the rolling hills of Wales, not the traditional agricultural fields we see so often across the British countryside but something which seems less touched by the hands of man. Something perhaps best described by the Elmley team themselves:

“A vast wilderness. Spectacular landscape, soul stirring skies and breath-taking wildlife”

That’s not to say it isn’t of course (touched by the hands of man). Elmley is a 3200 acre estate. It is a working family farm, a nature reserve, a site of special scientific interest, an internationally important site for conservation, a special protected area for birds and a Ramsar site (wetland of world importance). It makes sense then that in order to keep the reserve thriving, it takes a phenomenal amount of land management. Moving away from the statistics it’s easy to see from the sheer abundance of wildlife that a great deal of effort has gone into maintaining this astonishing place. Murmurations and flocks of birds fill the sky almost every moment of every day. We saw barn owls, a stoat and made good friends with a resident robin. Not to mention, abundant hares and of course the livestock that graze the land.

The history of Elmley is almost as interesting as the place itself; citing a colourful array of events including a king disguised as a Jesuit priest, the smallest school in England and a devastating flood in 1953. It was in the 1970s though that the family who still run Elmley today took on a major part of the tenancy from Oxford University (alongside the RSPB who started a wetland reserve). In 1986 Oxford University who had owned Elmley for 150 years, invited the family to take on the ownership and this resulted in significant adaptation of the farming systems and land management for wetland birds and livestock grazing seen today. In 1992 the restoration had been so successful that Elmley became a National Nature Reserve and is still to this day, the only NNR owned and managed by a farming family.

Landscape Architecture

It is this family who makes Elmley so special. Their hard work and dedication to both sustainability and conservation is something to aspire to. Elmley is off-grid. Yes, an OFF-GRID FARM, powered by a solar array and some pretty snazzy batteries. Its huts are handcrafted by Plankbridge Master Hut Makers and use British natural materials and eco friendly insulation. We stayed in one such hut, the Saltbox, which testifies to the case that sustainability does not mean architectural compromise. This structure is an architectural triumph.

Food is locally sourced. The toiletries are Green and Spring which means they are made from 100% natural botanical materials and ethically sourced ingredients. Within the huts you find English oak, Romney wool throws and breakfast is delivered to your door in a vintage teapot and reusable glass containers. There is detail here and a refusal to compromise on ethics and that’s what struck most.

It struck us that sustainability isn’t always about the big things; it’s about a thousand small things. It’s about doing more when it’s easier to do less, the next big idea and incredible partnerships with other people who care too. It’s about going left instead of right and it’s about caring enough to find the information to make informed choices. Or at least that’s what we try to do here at Studio 31.

There is no end to the energy that the Elmley crew have, with more hut building commissioned and a plan to take on the mammoth task of restoring the beautiful but derelict original farmhouse to preserve it for future generations; these guys like their challenges big but my goodness do they smash them.

Landscape architecture is a far cry from running a nature reserve but there are parallels here too and the lessons we have learned from visiting have cemented the idea that we are making right decisions and that the combination of small details and bold ideas can create something not only beautiful but powerful too.

Thanks for having us Elmley, see you in September.

 

Photos courtesy of the very talented photographers…

Rebecca Douglas (saltbox)

Robert Canis (marshes)

A Date with Spring

A Date with Spring

by John Agard

With spring most definitely in the air, people are beginning to consider how to make the most of their outdoor spaces again. Gardens are being pruned, outdoor kitchens are being dusted off, thermals are being packed away and even the most fair weather of homo-sapiens are beginning to creep outside into the warm, open air again. In a toast to Spring, we have substituted our planned blog this week for a cheeky poem we came across by the extraordinarily talented John Agard. It’s a first person poem from the perspective of a tree about shaking off winter and preparing for Spring. It definitely reflects our work load at the moment; with all our designers working hard to get our projects designed and built in time for the long lazy Summer days ahead. Moreover, with more than just a small passion for trees here at Studio 31, it appealed to both our love for the humble sapling and also the cheeky side of our personality. We simply had to share and we hope you’ll enjoy it as much as we did.

Got a date with spring

Got to look me best.

Of all the trees

I’ll be the smartest dressed.

 

Perfumed breeze

behind me ear.

Pollen accessories

all in place,

 

Raindrop moisturizer

for me face.

Sunlight tints

to spruce up the hair.

 

What’s the good of being a tree

if you can’t flaunt your beauty?

 

Winter, I was naked

Exposed as can be.

Me wardrobe took off

with the wind.

 

Life was a frosty slumber.

Now, spring, here I come.

Can’t wait to slip in

to me little green number.

Garden Design London

London National Park City Campaign

London National Park City Campaign

Connecting people and the outdoors

About a year ago, an industry friend of mine invited me along to a walk around London’s green spaces. A friend of his, a man I now know to be Daniel Raven Ellison (guerrilla geographer and captain of the London National Park City Campaign) had put together a proposal to make London, the UK’s first National Park City and he was leading a guided walk to help demonstrate why.

The walk began as predicted, wandering London’s urban streets, picking up enthusiastic walkers at random tube and bus stops along the way. We strode down inner-city roads where houses and high rise buildings towered above us on both sides but then surprisingly slipped into a park, woodland or riverside path. We wove our way through the London streets dipping from meadow to stream, canal to allotment. I was spell bound.

I spent a good proportion of my childhood getting the train up and down to London but these trips were always for urban reasons; museums, art, culture, theatre or the latest tourist attraction. I never once travelled to London for the public green space and almost three decades later, I had no idea there was so much of it. I don’t think whilst I walked that day, I fully grasped the national park city concept but what I did learn, is that in London’s urban sprawl, there are pockets of green space, havens of wildlife and quite remarkable parks and gardens quite literally everywhere you go.

Fast forward a year and only 1 short month ago, I found myself listening to the first Sodshow podcast of 2017 where that very same friend of mine was being interviewed by passionate horticulturalist Peter Donegan. The topic; London as a National Park City. My mind was instantly cast back to that walk.

Mr Donegan remarked that the concept is such a simple one that it is almost baffling; create “a city where people and nature are better connected. A city that is rich with wildlife and every child benefits from exploring, playing and learning outdoors. A city where we all enjoy high quality green spaces, the air is clean to breathe, it’s a pleasure to swim in its rivers and green homes are affordable”  (National Park City, 2017). Think back to Studio 31’s last blog which discussed healing gardens and the healing power of nature and then consider this concept and how it is not so far removed.

The statistics are staggering. If we consider children alone; in 2013, the RSPB published a three-year study, which concluded that four out of five children in the UK were not adequately “connected to nature”. In 2012, a National Trust report revealed the growing gap between children and nature. Less than one in 10 children regularly played in wild spaces, it said, compared to half of children a generation ago (The Guardian, 2016)

It may not surprise you to know that London is home to 8.6 million people, but did you also know that it is home to almost as many trees? 8.3 million to be precise; That’s almost one tree for every person in London.  It has 13,000 species of wildlife and already encompasses 4 world heritage sites, 2 national nature reserves and 1400 sites for conservation (London National Park City, 2017). It seems, much of the nature and green space is already there, what’s missing is the people connecting to it, enhancing it, caring for it and recognising it.

The great privilege of a career in landscape architecture and garden design, is that we work with exactly this concept every day. We create spaces for people to be outside, we design gardens to bring a part of nature right to the doorstep. We give people places to sit and be mindful, tree houses to play in and orchards for al fresco family dinners. We design residential gardens, community or public realm landscapes and work on scales both large and small but what almost all our schemes have in common is that (whether by choice or coincidence), we connect people and the outdoors.

The National Park City concept aims to extend this further to allow people to have free access to high-quality and importantly public green space to connect with nature right where they live. Here at Studio 31 we aim to give people, individual gardens or landscapes, personalised for them. Often, we also get to work on public realm or master planning projects which looks at doing the same for larger groups of people but what we hadn’t considered before was that in doing what we do, we fill the gaps between the urban buildings with pockets of green space. We design roof terraces and courtyards which enable nature to creep into a few square meters high above the ground or at the rear of a row of terraces. We make London just a little greener and add just a little biodiversity here and there. When we design a park or a community space, we give people more useful, more accessible connection to nature and so when we think about the National Park City campaign, we’ve suddenly seen our work in a new light. Seen how in some small way through garden design or landscape architecture we can contribute something small to something bigger and perhaps more powerful than any urban city has seen before.

The Conscientious Landscape Architect

Studio 31

The conscientious landscape architect

Ten years ago, under a million stars and over 200km from the nearest semblance of civilisation, a quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson sprang to mind:

“Nature always wears the colours of the spirit”

This was never truer than in this place of red dust and scrub land. We were on the plenty highway, a dirt track stretching 800km from the east coast to the centre of Australia. Two people and desert, as far as the eye could see.

We didn’t know it then, but that moment of complete isolation, that moment of connection with the natural world; that was the moment that Studio 31 was conceived.

The intervening years moved us back to civilisation and in our own directions. They moved us to London commutes and last trains home. City life, silent studios and constrained design.  We felt the frustration of trying to make a better world through the bureaucracy and red tape of organisations torn between the people and process.

Further and further from the wilds of the Suffolk countryside and adventures of a farming childhood, and further and further from building dens in the woodlands of Surrey, we suddenly felt the urge to stop.

We scrawled out our ideas onto flip chart paper and in a mass of red, blue, and green marker pen, Studio 31 was born.

It has been considered that environmentally sound practices hinder progress, innovation and aesthetically beautiful design. What we here at Studio 31 have found is something quite different; that in an industry based solely on the enrichment of outdoor spaces, sustainable process actually enhances design.

Our starting point was lifestyle not profit, it was sustaining not destroying, it was full colour not shades of grey. Embracing rather than compromising on our personalities and our ethics, forced us to move away from convention and gave us the opportunity to be bold, be adventurous and be honest.

Hoping to lead not follow, our aims are simple; create unique, innovative and personalised outdoor spaces, consider our carbon footprint and have a little fun along the way.

This is our first adventure. Welcome to studio 31.

The Pear Tree Centre

The Healing Garden

The Healing Garden

The Pear Tree Centre

We can probably all relate to the great healing power of the outdoors. The moments of calm found perhaps in the wilderness but often just in the humble stillness of a familiar garden; the opportunity to take a breath in the midst of life’s relentless pace. The American naturalist and conservationist John Burroughs once said;

“I go to nature to be soothed and healed and to have my senses put in tune once more”

But more than just the opinion of a man, who spent his life immersed in the natural world, there is increasing research to suggest that nature does in fact have healing effects; effects which are tenable and based firmly in the realms of science. And it turns out that the science is in fact, compelling.

There are studies which show that after a stressful event, images of nature very quickly produce a calming effect; blood pressure, respiration rate, brain activity, and the production of stress hormones all decrease and mood improves (M. J. Kreitzer RN, PhD). Viewing plants, flowers, water and other natural elements has been linked to improved mental health and reduced anxiety. There are hypotheses which cite the healing power of plants or nature’s capacity to act as a distraction from the competing stimuli of day to day life, but whatever the rationale, the studies commissioned have found no variance in the outcomes. Nature has the power to heal and the power to calm.

Yet, perhaps ironically, poor mental or physical health, by its very character, reduces our access to natural amenities, often in a very literal sense. So much of our natural environment is inaccessible to people who may for example have mobility issues or a whole host of other physical or mental health conditions. It seems, the more we need nature, the less access we have to it.

One concept trying to counter this is that of the healing garden. The first reference to the link between horticulture and healing dates back thousands of years but the modern concept hasn’t moved too far from the original ideas. Healing gardens are spaces which enable people to easily engage with the natural environment; spaces which encourage active healing through just being outdoors and having the opportunity to engage all the senses in that process. They are designed in such a way as to promote healing through encouraging users to interact with the space and other people in different ways. One of our projects here at Studio 31, uses this very concept.  An idea that most of us have probably felt at some time or another; the idea that a garden can, in some small way, heal.

A few short years ago, The Halesworth Community Nursing Care Fund (HCNCF) sparked an idea to create a holistic hub for people who have been diagnosed with a life limiting illness. It was something so idealistic at the time, that it almost seemed a pipe dream but thanks to the passion, perseverance and dogged determination of a remarkable charity, it is now very much a reality.

LSI architects in Norwich have designed a contemporary building worthy of the project; one that steps away from the conventional medical stigma and instead radiates nurture, warmth and togetherness. Here at Studio 31, we have been asked to create an equally powerful outdoor space; one that gives patients, carers and family, a chance to be together, to escape, to reflect and to heal.

Our strategy is to build garden spaces that feel private and intimate but that also welcome people in. Our aim is provide users with choices and allow them to find, at a particular moment of need, a place in the garden to centre themselves or process all that may be happening. The garden is not only about the spaces that it creates but also the sensations and our aim is to create a therapeutic garden which nourishes all the senses.

Working on this project has taught us that garden design can be many things. It can be innovative, traditional or cutting edge. It can incorporate entertaining space, outdoor kitchens or art but whatever its structure or form, what garden design offers most is connection. Perhaps in a more conventional garden design sense, this might be a social space, to connect with family, a personal space to connect with a partner or perhaps a solitary space, to connect with the earth itself; with fingernails full of compost and the smell of soft, warm soil in the air.

In this very special garden, the concept of connection is a keenly felt one; connection with self, with family, carers and professionals, connection with the natural world and importantly connection with life.

With both directors of Studio 31 having grown up immersed in nature and our ethos deeply rooted in the ideas of honesty, creativity and sustainability; it is not hard to see how our team became excited about this ground breaking venture.

With the project due to start building work early this year, watch this space for updates on how it is progressing and the start of the landscape work subsequently. If you want to find out more about this pioneering project or donate to its inception or ongoing costs, please do go to the HCNCF webpage or contact us at Studio 31. Meanwhile watch our social media for updates on the design stages of a garden which aims to bring to life John Burroughs’ eloquent words.