Berwick Woods

Quarry Restoration Project
Rainham Essex 

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Berwick Woods Project

The Berwick Woods Project.  Rainham, Essex. UK.

Steven was commissioned by Tarmac Southern Ltd, Thames Chase Community Forest and Havering Borough Council to produce design proposals for, and involve the local community in, the restoration and redevelopment of the Berwick Woods site through a series of nature conservation, arts and educational activities.

 

Formerly the East London Quarry - a sand and gravel quarry covering approximately 27 hectares to the north of Rainham in Essex - the Berwick Woods site is located within the Thames Chase Community Forest.

 

The area in and around Berwick Woods includes historic monastic ponds, currently used for fishing, as well as willow carr woodland which surrounds the silt lagoons left behind from its previous use as a gravel extraction site. The site is bordered by the Ingrebourne valley which has freshwater marshes and is a Site of Special Scientific Interest ( SSSI) for migrating birds and wildlife. Informally beekepers used the site to locate their hives.

 

Prior to the restoration project the site was used for antisocial activities including fly-tipping, use of firearms and offroad motorcycling; it had fallen into general neglect and had a slightly intimidating atmosphere. 

Image Credits: Bob Kauders, Jane Heath, Sally Haynes, Eileen Adams and Steven Follen.

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Local Schools Project 

Year 5 pupils at Parsonage Farm Junior School and Learning through Landscapes Trust

 

An Arts and Education residency took place at the nearby Parsonage Farm Junior School as part of the Berwick Woods Project

The project made use of the Berwick woods site to share with the local population the value and importance of the site , its wildlife and habitat.  Site visits, exploration of different approaches to drawing and making helped to bring new insights and skills to the school. The site was used as an outdoor classroom and the plants and wildlife recorded at the site were used as starting points and inspiration for designs for the school grounds. The project enabled the children to link art and design skills and curriculum with landscape development.

 

The initial residency secured additional further funding to work with a focus group of students to design, make models  and realise designs for seating, landscaping and planting for the school grounds. This additional project resulted in the design and manufacture of the 'Moorhen in Reeds' seat, a storytelling bench positioned close to the school entrance. The seat symbolises a  permanent link between the school and the Berwick Woods site.

 

A dipping platform was incorporated into the design for Berwick Woods, continuing the ability of the school to use the site as an outdoor classroom.

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Community Projects

Working with Thames Chase, Havering Borough Council Youth Services, Marsh Youth Group, Parsonage Farm Junior School, English Nature, Learning through Landscapes and The British Trust for Conservation Volunteers an number of public events, exhibitions and workshops took place on site and and in the local region to engage the local community in the project, process and designs for the site. These included:

  • Treeplanting weekends took place and residents were supplied with tree growing kits. Utilising acorns gathered from the site and within Thames Chase, residents were able to grow and nurture their own trees and then plant them out on the site as part of a formal ceremony.

  • A presentation to Marsh Youth Group about Stevens work and the initial designs for the site alongside discussions with young people through Havering Youth Services led to a 'maze building' weekend on site. Using thinnings from trees which had been felled as part of the habitat creation for the site residents worked together to build a temporary maze. Residents collaborated and engaged in a shared experience, building new bonds with a location that had previously had an intimidating atmosphere.

  • Wood carving  workshops with Havering Youth Services and SEND groups lead to the production of a series of large oak log seats for the site. Made from the tree trunks that had been felled to generate new habitat, the shape and form of the log seats echoed that of the gabion seat designs. The participants carved their names on the base of the seats.

  • Work with the Youth Services BTCV and English Nature also included conservation work including reed bed management and habitat creation.

  • Local businesses undertook work on the project including chainsaw work, project photography, installation of the artworks and support with planting schemes.

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Community Consultation and Exhibition

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A open event at Parsonage Farm Junior school celebrated the work developed by the Year 5 pupils at the school during the residency and also provided an opportunity to meet with Parents, siblings and local residents, to share their thoughts and memories of the area and discus the possible design proposals for the site.

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Design Proposals 

Steven's designs address the site as a whole - including for example ideas for planting on the entrance avenue and the configuration of the carpark, as now incorporated into Tarmacs five =year management plan.....

 

The Gabion seat in form and material is a reminder of the industrial associations of the former quarry. The seat at the same time refers to the ideas of reconstructed landscape where gabions have been used to stabilise and emphasise the manmade forms.

 

Tons of sand and gravel having been removed from the site, earth is now being returned to reshape the area anew. The seats solid, grounded shape suggests permanence, or the firm foundation of a more settled future for Berwick Woods .

The seats with their stone filling have the potential as habitats for plants and wildlife.

They offer a durable and low maintenance form of seating, fitting and unique to their setting. Their originality will create interest and produce a strong stamp of identity to the site. The will have value far beyond their basic function, fulfilling a sculptural role as landmarks and symbols of the new landscape.

Jane Heath. Arts Advisor, Berwick Woods Project

A range of design proposals for the site included a new raised and contoured landscape, planting, edible and 'forging' planting, earth shaping, pathways, entrance ways, carpark, fencing and seating were produced. Some of the designs were developed from discussions with interested parties including the edible planting , dipping ponds and the gabion seats; others refer to the sites history, location, habitats and wildlife.

 

Further funding supported the implementation of some of the designs including three gabion style seats positioned around the site by the ponds and at the new viewpoint near the carpark, these were accompanied by log seats carved with local youth groups. 

Steven Follen was Designer / Artist in Residence & Workshop leader for part of the Berwick Woods Project between 1995-1998.

 

Awards and Articles

The Berwick Woods Project has won industry awards including: The Cooper Heyman Cup for Outstanding Achievement in Quarry Restoration (2003) and The European Aggregates Association (UEPG) Sustainable Development Award (2005).

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The project with the school won a Havering Business and Education Partnership Award which funded further educational work with the school and the development of  designs and production of a 'moorhen seat' used by the school as part of an outside learning space.

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