Return to eco-friendly Village Hall for Landscape Design students

December 2011

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(NOTE: This is an archived press release.)

In late November, in recognition of their creative input, students from the Writtle School of Design (WSD) were invited back to eco-friendly Highwood Village Hall in Essex to see how the landscape and hall have recently taken shape.

With the hall only opening in July this year, most of the planting is new and establishing and there is still much more to be done. Fortunately the WSD students were able to contribute to a shrub planting session with the children from Highwood Primary school, the Chelmsford County Parks department, and the Mayor and Mayoress of Chelmsford.

The community planting session saw double staggered rows of native species being planted including crab apple, field maple, hawthorn and oak. The school children from Highwood village primary school got stuck in to the planting, and with guidance from the WSD students they managed to plant enough to create what will become a native hedgerow, an important habitat for wildlife in the village hall garden. The children will be returning to the garden in Spring next year to help maintain the new hedge. Alfie Appleton, a Year 6 pupil from Highwood School and resident of Highwood village, said. “Next time we come to see the plants I hope they will be sprouting. I would like the shrubs to be green and tall.”

The involvement of WSD students in the eco- social centre project started in 2009 when undergraduate Landscape and Garden Design students worked with the Residents of Highwood Village on garden landscape designs.

Back in 2009, WSD students attended a community consultation with representatives of the Highwood Community Group. The group presented their vision for the future and WSD students responded with inspirational designs derived for the community’s needs and from theories explored in classroom sessions.

Rob Dwiar and Will Dutch were two of the returning WSD students to the Highwood Village Hall, and both successfully completed a BSc (Hons) in Landscape and Garden Design and progressed on to study for an MA in Landscape Architecture at Writtle College. Will, spoke about his involvement in the landscape and garden design of the village hall saying. “I became involved in the project during my second year of study at Writtle College. My class was given the brief to design a community site that linked in with the Highwood committee and village aspirations. The overarching idea was to design an outdoor area that was able to hold many activities linking the landscape to the hall itself and beyond.”

After revisiting the village hall site Will went on to say: “It is pretty awesome to see our ideas come together and to see others enjoying the space we have designed.”

Landscape Design courses at Writtle can range from evening classes and one day a week courses in garden design to a variety of landscape related subjects including Landscape Architecture. Steve Terry who manages the landscape and garden design scheme has kept in close contact with the progress at the village hall and who with his colleague Tim Waterman was only too pleased to contribute to the project. Steve commented on how “very important it is for students to be able to work on real projects with clients who are able to inform students’ learning while benefitting from students ideas. Developing a sense of community is important to the work we do within the Writtle school of Design.”

Earlier on in the year, Highwood Committee member Petra Pipkin thanked Writtle staff and students "for making the project an important part of the syllabus". She went on to say. "We are so very encouraged and delighted to see the phenomenal amount of work undertaken. We are incredibly fortunate to work with you.”

To find out more about courses taught within the Writtle School of Design, please visit:


Pictured – Alfie Appleton, Year 6 pupil and resident of Highwood Village, being shown how to dig and plant shrubs by Will Dutch, Postgraduate student from WSD.

Info on Highwood village hall

The Eco Social Centre in Highwood, near Chelmsford, has nearly 80 solar panels which will provide 80% of its electricity and 60% of its heating.

It also features colourful toilet cubicles made from recycled plastic; drinks bottles and plastic bags green paving systems provide a structure for cars to park on lawns It is hoped that up to five tonnes of CO2 emissions will be saved a year by the designs.

The garden, designed by Writtle College students includes recycled materials and a mini-orchard with native Essex fruit trees.

The village has been without a hall since the previous one was forced to close in 2001.

The local parish council has spent the past seven years raising the £450,000 needed to design and build a replacement.

It has received grants from organisations including EDF Energy, the government's Low Carbon Buildings Programme, the Big Lottery Fund and Biffa.