Seize HS2 opportunity, says Cole

Dominic Cole reveals work undertaken to mitigate HS2 damage to National Trust landscapes.

Cole: Eden Project landscape job
Cole: Eden Project landscape job

Leading landscape architect Dominic Cole has spoken of his role mitigating damage to National Trust landscapes by the proposed route of HS2.

He has helped the National Trust form two responses, published in January and July, to the proposed route of the high-speed railway and continues to advise, with two new environmental impact assessments due soon and in the spring.

The National Trust objects to phase one of the HS2 route but Cole said that "rather than do big objective things it thinks the best way to get a good result is to work closer with HS2." Speaking at the Eden Project in Cornwall, where he designed the landscape, Cole said he is concerned that listed gardens and landscapes are not given the same statutory protection as listed buildings.

He has assessed 12 National Trust properties and his particular concerns are Hardwick Hall, where the HS2 route bisects the view the hall was built to enjoy, and Aylesbury Vale, which features three trust properties including the country's best medieval manor house and a Roman road.

One idea is to make left-over land, such as corners of farm fields cut off from the rest of the farm by the line, into coppices or wild flower meadows. Banks and land bridges can also offer opportunities to improve landscapes, said Cole.

"The knee-jerk reaction is to put the whole thing into a tunnel, but that's missing the opportunity to experience the landscape. There are a couple of places where we might ask for a land bridge or a higher and softer embankment. In some places we are saying can we take a bit more land to make it feel better."

At Palmstead Nurseries' Soft Landscaping Workshop in September, environmental consultant Chris Baines noted the same thing, saying HS2 would carve up the countryside but allow the opportunity to bring biodiversity back to relatively sterile farmland.

Cole said he has spent a lot of time over the past year "being shouted at in village halls", adding: "I avoid politics - that's not my job." He is using HS2 as an opportunity to reclaim the historical access route to Hardwick Hall, diverted when the motorway was built. A plan to reinstate it using a land bridge is under discussion.

On the subject of the Eden Project, he said there are things he would have done differently and he particularly dislikes the tent structure in the middle used as an ice rink in winter and an event venue in summer. But he understands commercial needs and said the most important thing is to attract visitors all year round.

Lecture Hemp, orgies and vomit gardens

Dominic Cole's Landscape Institute Jellicoe Lecture (Eden Project, 8 November) was an amusing if slightly chaotic "ramble through landscape architecture", featuring hemp, orgies and vomit gardens.

He looked back to the Eden Project and spoke on current work such as the Aluna Project in Greenwich, which features the world's first tidal-powered moon clock inspired by artist Laura Williams. Cole has designed bee hotel-style habitats for aquatic life using channels and alcoves to encourage species to settle, improving biodiversity.

He is also helping a funding bid to restore Geoffrey Jellicoe's water gardens in Hemel Hempstead - an early influence fondly remembered from childhood trips with his mother.

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