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Cambridge University Botanic Gardens

Over the bank holiday weekend I took the opportunity to venture out of Essex up to the Cambridge University Botanic Gardens. Surrounded by the busy urban setting of Cambridge the gardens provides a welcome green space.

As soon as you enter the garden you are transported to a different world, the busy streets and noise from traffic becomes dull and is no longer visible, planting beds full to the brim with Alliums greet you and draw you further into the landscape. With a choice of direction we chose to take the walk through the more wooded area where there were less people headed, it also provided a nice cool walk and a break from the sun which was beating down on us. The path led us to the back of the lake where we were able to get glimpses of what was to come on our journey through the rest of the botanic gardens.

Cambridge Botanic Garden

Exploring the dry gardens next to the lake was by far my favourite part of the garden, not only because they are one of my favourite planting styles but because the way these were designed allowed for the highest user interaction, gravel paths denoted by larger rocks and boulders meandered through the area changing direction every few footsteps and changing in levels. It created so many different views across the gardens and paths lead you out of the dry garden into a totally different style of planting.

Cambridge Botanic Garden

Changes in topography it utilised to the its full potential through out the garden creating vantage points indicating destinations to head to in the gardens. As well as this, planting schemes have carefully been designed to entice users of the garden into different areas, for instance the large leaves of a Gunnera draw users to the waters edge where large stepping stones appear creating an informal bridge across the lake. A bonus to this is that large koi carp swim in and out the lily pads, their bright colours draw attention, inevitably stopping users and allowing them to appreciate the beauty of the space which surrounds them.

Cambridge Botanic Garden

Tucked away from the most popular features of the garden is a beautiful arboretum with mown paths through a sea of daisies. It provides an area to stop and just relax in the area, it also introduces some much needed shade to the garden.

Cambridge Botanic Garden

It was really interesting to see that different people attracted to the Botanic Gardens. There were families with both younger and older children, couples for all ages, tourists and professionals. Overall the botanic gardens are really well designed with open spaces, shade, shelter and calming and active spaces. The garden caters for everyone.

Public realm landscapes, cradle to grave.

If you are under 30 it is not often you may remember schemes being implemented and removed. Particularly giving the increased recognition of the landscape architecture profession and the increase of policy, both good practice and statutory in which we work to.

Maintenance of landscape schemes and choosing the correct plant type is essential to the performance and longevity, particularly with regards to visual amenity. With Secure By Design compliancy often seen as a challenge unless you are a firm believer in its values and statistics, it makes you wonder what happened before this guidance was brought into play in 1989 and landscaping was brought to the forefront in the early 2000’s in public realm by local authorities, landowners and house builders.

Although in the Capital we hear of site specific planting to reduce the chances of assisting crime, be it high density groundcover to prevent hiding objects and increase surveillance. Or the obligatory housing development ‘privacy strip/defensible space’ a firm favourite with developers. We rarely see it make the headlines elsewhere.

A headline article in Northern Ireland broke from trend recently highlighted the importance of this. An embankment to the front of a Belfast Train Station has recently been clear felled after it was assisting in the local drugs trade concealing deals from public view. The pictures beneath speak for themselves but it does raise the question for the designer, where to go from here?




Clearly bringing Secure by Design to the forefront and the public’s interest, how do you go about rectifying a landscape that probably looked like a typecast of every other station in its implementation in 1992. It raises questions such as has it fulfilled its original purpose and purposeful life cycle? Would better maintenance have helped control this? Is this just a normal landscape problem that has been brought to the limelight owing to a problem that today would have been considered from outset?

The answer, probably yes to all. Secure by Design is more prevalent than ever, CDM regulations ensure we actively design safer schemes for cradle to grave, particularly evident on these steep banks and planting styles and attitudes have changed, thankfully. It does highlight, particularly to younger members of the profession the importance of good design and consideration of every plausible aspect. Although styles and maintenance budgets/allocations change, your scheme should consider the long haul.

Whilst we could come up with options and alternatives, redesigns and retrofits. We will wait with baited breathe to see what happens in this space.

Three Minute Interview…Felicity Gannicott, Graduate Landscape Architect

Brief introduction, name, job title, location.

Felicity Gannicott, Graduate Landscape Architect, Stansted


When you were at school what did you want to be and why?

Aged 8, I wanted to be an astronaut discovering planets, finding out how it all worked, reality brought me back down to earth and I decided I wanted to do something where I could make a difference to the lives of people, I recognised that I was creative so decided to pursue a career that would let me explore my creativity and make a difference, Landscape Architecture seemed a perfect fit.


How did you get to be where you are today?

Through a lot of hard work at school and university, and the determination to keep going when the work became difficult. There were a lot of hurdles to overcome especially as university was the first time I was coming across some of the software used in the profession.


What aspects of your job do you enjoy the most, and why?

I enjoy the research that goes into planning applications and probably most of all creating figures and landscape masterplans. I get to present conceptual ideas graphically ensuring they can be interpreted by everyone. Having worked predominantly in the landscape planning side of Landscape Architecture, it is always a great bonus when I am able to get out on Site and can imagine where the proposals will be and from the viewpoints they will be seen from.


What is your proudest achievement?

Professionally, coming out of the undergraduate degree and building knowledge and skills required to write LVIA’s, Green Belt Assessments, Capacity Studies and there associated reports.

Personally, my proudest achievement was organising a Fashion Show for Cancer Research at 17, raising £1800 for the charity. It was a challenge but I discovered I was good at time and people management.


What is the best advice you’ve been given in life?

To work as hard as you can at everything and never give up and try not to put yourself in one bracket where you could get stuck in a position, to be an all rounded.

Show them what you’re made of, go be amazing.


What is your next adventure / goal?

Professionally, to complete my Masters in Landscape Architecture with a view to becoming a Chartered Landscape Architect.

Personally, to complete the Half MoonWalk, walking 15.2 miles around London, in the middle of the night raising money for the breast cancer charity Walk the Walk.


You can contact Felicity directly: