The Project

CLIENT: Central Bedfordshire Council

ARCHITECT: Chris Burnett Associates

VALUE: £727,000+

AWARDS: BALI National Award 2017 – Regeneration Scheme over £500K

Background

Houghton Hall Park is a publicly accessible, 17 hectare urban public park, located centrally within the town of Houghton Regis, Bedfordshire. The Park has a rich heritage that is valued by the local community. It plays an important role in the history, culture and landscape of the local area and forms an integral part of people’s lives.

The Park includes The Green and the area formerly known as the Renault Sports Club (football fields). Houghton Hall House and its outbuildings are still present and visible to the north of the Park but are in private ownership. Consisting of distinct areas, the Park currently has the former Kitchen Garden, an ornamental Orchard, Eastern and Western Woodlands, as well as a network of scenic walks. Free car parking provision is located at the Park Road North entrance; entrance to the Park is free and it is open all year round.

The brief

Central Bedfordshire Council was awarded a grant of £2.2 million to transform the Park, from Heritage and Big Lottery Funds’ ‘Parks for People’ grant scheme. This enabled works to help restore the park to its former glory and provide better facilities for the community, including an exciting new heritage centre with rooms for meetings and activities, a cafe and toilets. There will be new gardens, improved paths, better woodland management and lots of opportunities for people to get involved in gardening, archaeology, wildlife improvements and a whole range of events with something for everyone.

The key to the project was to capture the historic personality of the Park whilst making it accessible and appropriate for use by modern communities. Although the Park will never be able to operate in the way it was originally designed to do, the works aimed to restore the feel of the original parkland through removing inappropriate and modern planting, restoring views, vistas and sightlines, replacing fencing with ‘historic’ estate fencing and restoring the flow of the park through restoration of original walks and rides. The project also improved access to the park, providing two new formal entrances to the south and west of the park and improving other semi formal entrances. Path resurfacing of the major routes through the Park, particularly through the Yew Tree and Chestnut Walks shown on the map of 1879, and in the eastern woodland, where the kennel complex was once sited, allow greater access to people with reduced mobility.

 idverde’s Role

idverde was appointed as main contractor to deliver the restoration works to the landscape of Houghton Hall Park which broadly comprised of vegetation clearance, restoration of the walled garden, kitchen garden and extensive access pathways throughout the park.

Starting on site in February 2016, idverde completed the scope of works in May 2017. Specific works included:

  • Tree felling and scrub clearance
  • Woodland management
  • The construction of 2.2m high brick walls for the walled garden
  • Creation of planting beds and working areas for the walled garden
  • Creation of a new formal garden
  • New estate type fencing and gateways
  • Paths and surfacing including paths in Breedon gravel, resin bonded gravel and tar spray and chip
  • Seating and bins
  • Parkland tree planting
  • Preparatory works for a new play trail

 

Challenges

Works required the management of an arboriculture subcontractor to carry out extensive tree clearance (15% of contract sum), the artist working on bespoke railings and gates (10% of contract sum) and direct teams to deliver footpath construction, walling and extensive planting works.

Throughout the works, access to the majority of the large site needed to be maintained for the public, requiring us to work in a phased approach to minimise the impact of operations.

The critical path was influenced by the vegetation clearance works which had to be advanced immediately on receipt of award notification with no mobilisation period. This had to be managed with the Borough ecologist to execute the works in advance of the bird nesting season. The artist required coordination with the works to ensure that key components were delivered on time to enabled the completion of prior and follow on works.