Contract Value: £4,000,000
Contract Period: July 2007 – January 2009
The RSPB and Teesside Environmental Trust’s Wildlife Reserve and Discovery Park is located at Port Clarence in Teesside on 1,000 acres of former industrial land and is now the largest wetland creation project in the North of England. The design brief called for the reserve’s visitor centre to appeal to a wide audience and have a role in exciting and inspiring the visitor about the surrounding wildlife and habitat as well as be environmentally benign, promote sustainable practice and enable sustainability education. The brief also set out a strong sustainability agenda, with an aspiration to achieve a BREEAM Excellent rating. We achieved the BREEAM Excellent rating in January 2010.
The design of the multi award winning scheme responds to the site, the sustainability agenda and the client’s specific wildlife viewing requirements The landscape design wraps the water around the building, giving the appearance of the building set on an island. Externally, ponds, pools, bridges and walkways have been created along with 10km of footpaths leading to wildlife areas, 3 new bird watching hides and public access cycle ways that are part of the SUSTRANS network.
When creating the various pools and ponds across the site problems were encountered with existing drains resulting in the need to adopt an alternative design solution. Les Wainwright, our Project Manager, was instrumental in proposing and developing the adopted scheme. Alternative options were explored before deciding upon this final most appropriate and cost effective solution. The solution was simple and involved excavating to clay prior to sealing the ponds with a clay bund.
All the ponds are interconnected and are fed from water pumped out of the nearby Billingham caverns. The site area had previously been used for brine extraction resulting in underground caverns requiring constant pumping. Water was historically pumped back into the River however we promoted an alternative method of maintaining the wetland area water levels by diverting water into the site and distributing to various ponds through pipes installed around the site.
Other sustainable elements to the external areas included processing waste from the toilets and kitchens via a pumping chamber lifting the waste to a Waste Water Treatment Plant, which then discharges into a final polishing reed bed and ultimately discharges into existing ponds and the use of rainwater harvesting to supply the Centre’s toilet facilities.
Surface water run off from landscaped areas is used to enhance the site’s biodiversity through the creation of a series of swales and open ditches. Run off from car parks is collected in reed filled swales to filter out potential hydrocarbons.
The wetland features of the design have also created a natural security barrier rather than rely on the provision of security fencing.
Great focus was also given to the use of sustainable materials with the use of concrete products such as road and pin kerbs kept to a minimum. Examples of this include:-
- Timber for fencing, cladding and play equipment is FSC certified.
- Sub-base for roads and paving’s consists of reclaimed crushed brick and concrete from on-site or local industry
- Surface dressing for unbound roads and footpaths is a by-product from local industry
- The sheltered garden feature was created using reclaimed railway crossing sleepers
Where possible, forms of enclosure have been specified as living barriers.
This included the use of willow to create a valuable natural habitat particularly for invertebrates. Where living willow could not be used dead willow panels fabricated by local craftsmen using willow grown in the North East was used.
The vast majority of tree and shrub species comprise native varieties appropriate for the location. Only a very small proportion of the planting consists of ornamental species.
The use of “amenity” grass seed mixes has been kept to a minimum. Wildflower and native grass seed mixes have been used to establish a diverse sward to verges, footpaths and car parking areas.