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10 out of 10! Ten outstanding projects celebrated at CPRE Gloucestershire’s 10th Annual Award Ceremony

Tuesday, 24 October 2017 11:11

"Vegetable Matters" Farm Shop "Vegetable Matters" Farm Shop Lucy Blyth

24 October 2017

CPRE Gloucestershire has celebrated its 10th year of presenting awards.  At a ceremony held at Highnam Court on 4th October, Viscount Bledisloe presented awards to ten projects from all over the county that have been recognised for their outstanding contribution to the environment and to local  communities.

 “At a time when our rural landscapes and communities are under siege from poor developments, and when many local amenities are being lost, it is heart-warming to find so many innovative and inspirational projects,” says Professor Patricia Broadfoot, Chair of CPRE Gloucestershire.

There was a real variety of award recipients ranging from the local farm shop, Vegetable Matters, in the north of the county, to environmentally friendly allotments in Kingswood, in the south, which have been warmly received by their village communities. Other community enhancing projects were the Stoke Orchard Community Centre, Horsley Play Project and Minchinhampton Rugby Football Club Clubhouse. These awards really reflect the judges desire to encourage projects that present added value to the communities in which they are located.  

There were larger projects too – the outstanding Tree Top Walkway at Westonbirt Arboretum, and a flood defence scheme on the Severn Estuary benefiting wildlife.  Two domestic dwellings also featured on the list; and the restoration by volunteers of an historic lock on the Thames and Severn Canal.

2017 Award Recipients

The Horsley Play Project

“So many people, especially local mums, from Horsley have been involved in turning this area into this beautifully designed space with numerous different opportunities for recreation and learning. We are all delighted to receive a CPRE Gloucestershire award for the scheme recognising the quality, the community engagement and vitality this project has brought to the centre of the village.” says Rachel Emous-Austin, landscape architect at Austin Design Works, who led the design with the steering group. “Everyone wanted to see the lacklustre play equipment turned into something which would appeal to older children too and provide seating and shade for families. Over the summer the play area has become a great community meeting place for all the family at the centre of the village.”

The sturdy, strong wood play equipment sits well with the other elements on the site which include a dipping pond, a willow tunnel, a “wilderness” zone, a kick about area, space for seasonal planting, and seating.

Sited in the heart of the village close to the community shop, village hall and church, the play area is an outstanding addition to the life of the whole community.

Vegetable Matters Farm Shop, Ebrington

Amanda and Peter Drinkwater, co-founders of Vegetable Matters, were delighted to receive the award so soon after their opening.  “People seem really keen to re-engage with ‘basket buying’, as opposed to supermarkets, choosing produce themselves and asking us about how best to store and cook local veg,“ Amanda Drinkwater explained.

At a time when small Cotswold town high streets are losing local, affordable produce shops, Vegetable Matters has opened its doors to sell locally grown vegetables and fruit, over 90% of it coming from fields local to Ebrington. “The idea of ‘Field to Fork’ has begun to resonate with a public who want to know where their food has come from and who want to support their local farmers,” commented Professor Patricia Broadfoot, Chair of CPRE Gloucestershire. “We are here to promote and support local enterprises like Vegetable Matters,” continues Professor Broadfoot, “where you can enjoy high quality consumer standards in rural locations.” Vegetable Matters is not only well known for its local vegetables but for its daily fresh bread baked by Jeff Jones and food by local chef, Lisa Trinder.

The shop is a purpose-built building constructed of high quality materials in keeping with adjacent agricultural buildings and it is low rise ensuring that it fits sympathetically in the local landscape.  The building scores well on environmental credentials.   The bricks were reclaimed from a demolition site in the West Midlands, and a 12 inch thick composite roof keeps the shop cool in summer and warm in winter.  Internally, there are some nice features such as a Ferguson tractor wheel chandelier – a nod to the farming heritage.  

Outside, the farm shop has superb views from the terrace which overlooks the valley where the vegetables are grown.

Importantly this business has created a number of new jobs for local people.   It was part funded by the Cotswolds LEADER programme.

Stoke Orchard Community Centre

“This centre is at the heart of community life in Stoke Orchard. We are delighted to have received this award since great care was taken to build it with high environmental credentials to the Passivhaus Standard,” says Richard Chatham, Chairman of the local Parish Council. “There has been so much effort from the Parish Council, the Community Centre Committee and the Community itself in embracing the vision of the Community Centre and using it to build a cohesive and active community relationship, at a time when there has been a massive increase in the size of the Parish,” continues Richard.

This Project was an integral part of the redevelopment of the old Coal Research Establishment in the centre of Stoke Orchard.  The Establishment had closed in 1994 and the land was derelict. The Centre opened last November.

The design of the Centre was conceived by the Parish Council itself and refined by the architect chosen by the developers. The walls are eighteen inches thick to maximise insulation; an air management system provides for constant air exchange with heat exchange when necessary; underfloor heating is provided with the energy sourced from an air pump; and solar panels are fitted on the roof.  Running costs are minimal.  

The external design of the building looks good too and it is set at the back of a delightful new green space with play equipment.

STIHL Treetop Walkway, Westonbirt Arboretum

“This Walkway has been a 10 year project and it was important to us that its design was in keeping with the surrounding 15,000 trees in the Arboretum,” says Andrew Smith, Director at Westonbirt. “We wanted people to connect to the trees and their canopies at a dramatically different level”. The 284-metre walkway has step free access so is fully accessible to wheelchairs, pushchairs and even dogs.

The Walkway is the main access into Silk Wood. It is the longest structure of its kind in the UK and respects the landscape of the arboretum through graceful curves which draw visitors along its length.  Constructed of steel and timber, the walkway is held aloft by solid timber legs.

Trees and timber have provided the theme for an extensive range of interpretation and there are play features in the form of a rope bridge and a ‘crow’s nest’.

Interpretation along the walkway celebrates wood as a material and the remarkable way trees grow. It is aimed primarily at families with children aged 8-13.  

Minchinhampton Rugby Club Clubhouse

Will Garrard, one of the club’s directors, said “The Club is delighted by this award. Many people and contractors in our community gave time and expertise for free to make this happen. We wanted the building to work with the surrounding countryside and not be the eyesore that so many sports buildings can be”. The clubhouse was opened by Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal in March and has helped the club to grow membership to over 500 members. “This is a time when sport is a family and community activity and having a permanent location has transformed the club. We are a rural team and we wanted our clubhouse design to reflect that,” added Will.

A purpose designed club building has been developed alongside three pitches and training ground, after a rather peripatetic club history over the past 30 years. The clubhouse has been thoughtfully designed as a simple low cost well insulated timber barn-like structure, using a form of construction suited to volunteer labour.  Indeed, through fund raising and a volunteer workforce, this has been a tremendous community build effort.

The simplicity of the building and careful attention to its external detailing has resulted in a building that fits well into the wider agricultural landscape on the edge of Minchinhampton at Hollybush.  

Kingswood Village Allotments

Alan Hooper, from the Allotment Association is delighted, “All of us involved with the creation of these allotments are so pleased with this award. We wanted to protect, and encourage, wildlife, in particular a thriving colony of Great Crested Newts, and took advice from both the National Allotments and Leisure Gardens Society and a newt-specialist ecologist to find out the best way to lay out the plots.” As a result almost all of the 33 plots have been created with “no-dig” raised beds so the newts find protection away from digging spades. “We are particularly pleased with how many younger families have taken plots. We have some very keen young growers here!” added Alan.

A new allotments association was created to manage the site with an express objective of preserving the land and its use for future generations, whilst also promoting the benefits of environmentally friendly gardening to the members of the association and to local residents.

The tenancy agreements and management policies have been set up to specifically promote and encourage local wildlife and to ensure the sustainability of the Great Crested Newt population. These allotments are a model of how to do it and a great community achievement.

Little Pinnolds, North Nibley

Little Pinnolds is a holiday home.  This is not a new property but a carefully and skilfully thought out rebuilding of a dilapidated and disused Cotswold stone cow shed, bringing an existing building back into active use.

Visually, the home is a sympathetically designed addition to a quiet corner of Gloucestershire, near North Nibley.  Using the vernacular materials of Cotswold stone and wood the building is of a scale and proportion fitting for its setting.

Little Pinnolds is not entirely isolated as it has a neighbour in the New Inn, Waterley Bottom. A well used public right of way runs past the building but the domestic architectural details of the entrance and main windows are on the opposite side overlooking a recently planted vineyard beneath the woodlands of the Cotswold scarp edge.

This is a very imaginative and well-considered project which has enhanced the area.

Plusterwine and Alvington Court Farm Saltmarsh Creation Project

With the largest tidal range in Europe, a wild and beautiful landscape, a rich cultural heritage and not least important coastal habitats and abundant wildlife, the Severn Estuary is an outstanding environmental resource.  Indeed, the estuary is designated a Special Conservation Area.

With climate change leading to increased storminess and gradual sea level rise, flood protection is an issue, as is the need to compensate for habitat loss as a result of flood protection schemes elsewhere and the consequence of sea level rise.  An important habitat is saltmarsh where about 320 hectares are forecast to be lost by 2050.

This project, west of Lydney, has two objectives – to facilitate better flood protection but at the same time provide new areas of saltmarsh.

Old flood defence banks have been breached and stronger new ones created further inland to provide the necessary flood defence but also to enable habitat change where 39 hectares of new saltmarsh is now evolving.   

The work was done in 2013.  In 2014 big tides brought seed and other material onto the area and saltmarsh grasses and English scurvy grass soon become established.  Redshank and plovers have nested and skylarks and snipe have been seen as well as brown hares.  Some existing habitat outside previous defences has been enhanced with scrapes for ground nesting birds and reed beds to encourage reed bunting and reed warblers.

A walking route along the new flood bank offers access opportunities and interpretive panels help to inform people about the scheme and what it is achieving.

Ham Mill Lock restoration

This project is the restoration of a Grade II Listed Thames & Severn Canal lock, dating from 1783 and is one of the final bits of the first phase of the restoration of the Cotswold Canals.  The lock fell into disuse after the canal was abandoned in 1933, over 80 years ago. The intention was to restore the lock to best conservation practice.

This has been admirably achieved by volunteers, over 100 of them working for a total of 12,000 hours. They came from backgrounds as diverse as electronics, chemists, publishers, plumbers, teachers, lorry drivers and civil servants and have become a team of bricklayers, fitters and labourers.

The team, who laid 12,500 bricks using lime mortar, replaced substantial areas of the lock chamber’s failed brickwork. Defective facing brickwork was cut back into good brickwork, with new brickwork tied into projecting ‘dog teeth’. This gave a very strong key and ensured that the new brickwork used exactly the same bond as the old.

The volunteers also installed the new lock gates, paddle gear and safety ladders, and restored the original spill weir.  Other work enabled restoration of the towpath to its original level.   At the same time the slope leading up to the lockside from under a bridge was re-profiled enabling this steeper part of the towpath to be used more easily by walkers, cyclists, wheelchair users and baby-buggies.

The outcome is an exemplary restoration, and also the passing on of traditional building skills.

Dursley Tree House

Near the centre of Dursley is a tree house.  This is no child’s play house but a highly innovative domestic dwelling built on a difficult heavily wooded sloping site.  It featured on the Channel 4 Grand Designs programme last year.

The building is constructed on steel columns set at angles. Designed to achieve minimum maintenance, the principal floor is elevated above the site and accessed by a bridge which also supports incoming services below the decking.

Externally, the lightweight structure is clad in rough sawn, untreated Larch planks.

Careful sourcing of materials included steel floor grilles from a redundant engineering works, a reused steel spiral stair, hardwood flooring from a disused sports hall and Cumbrian slate from an old Rolls Royce showroom.

Grey water recovery from bath and shower is used to flush toilets; roof mounted solar panels provide electricity; thermodynamic panels provide hot water and central heating; low energy light fittings have been used throughout; and there is a centralised ventilation system.  The main floor has under floor heating but the bedrooms rely on natural heat gain and high levels of insulation.

Trees naturally shade the building and overhangs to surrounding terrace decks control natural light and heat gain.  

The landscape on the site is almost unchanged.

This unique design has received much local support, aided by many local friends and experienced helpers, thus extending knowledge of this type of sustainable building, which will be Passivhaus Certified.

This is a fascinating home of which the owners are justly proud.

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