The National Trust-owned abbey is located on the banks of a tributary of the River Test in Hampshire, in a Site of Special Scientific Interest. The new wood-built Welcome Centre is part of an environment that includes ancient trees and richly biodiverse meadows which serve as a flood plain.
Grant Associates has worked on the landscape strategy in close partnership with the Welcome Centre's designer Burd Haward Architects, to ensure that every aspect of the new building and its surrounding area fully responds to the importance of the site's SSSI status and protects the function of the flood plain.
Interventions to minimise the impact of the scheme on this sensitive environment include the use of raised, timber walkways to connect the new visitor amenities to the priory and gardens.
With a strong focus on sustainability, the Welcome Centre is supported by steel stilts that help to protect the drainage function of the peat soil beneath. Other sustainable features include a log-fuelled biomass boiler (supplied with wood from the estate), and solar panels on the roof.
The £3.5m scheme was created in response to a rapid increase in visitor numbers to the 13th-century priory and its gardens. The creation of a detailed landscape strategy, which demonstrated a sensitive response to the site's delicate ecological and historic environment, was a key factor in securing planning for the new Welcome Centre.
Peter Chmiel, director at Grant Associates, said: "We are very proud that we were able to contribute to the improved visitor experience and facilities at this historically important and popular National Trust property.
"The new welcome building, arrivals sequence and associated landscape enhancements avoid impact on the flood plain, whilst making positive improvements in connectivity and experience for people and nature alike."