Exeter City Council agreed a Masterplan in 2016 for Riverside and Ludwell Valley Parks. Exterior Architecture Ltd, produced the Masterplan document for this exciting project, which was largely driven by the EU Habitats Directive. In this article, we find out more…
The green space is critical for first line of flood defence; open, grazed floodplain marshes characterise the lower stream, where intertidal salt marshes begin to occur. A bird spotter’s paradise, the conservation area of the Riverside Park brings estuary birds into the city. In addition, numerous Council operated playing fields take advantage of the flat, floodplain meadows. The Northbrook (or ‘The Panny’ as it is locally known) flows through Ludwell Valley Park to connect with the River Exe. With its high point at Pynes Hill, Ludwell Valley Park contains some unique, elevated views, across traditionally managed fields over to the city, as well as out to the Estuary. The Valley Parks act as a green corridor; the Masterplan seeks to manage users of the Parks in order to protect local wildlife, whilst encouraging more people to access natural green space.
The need for the Masterplan was driven largely by proposed housing growth. Located within close proximity to the Valley Parks are three statutory designated sites: Pebblebeds Special Area of Conservation (SAC), Dawlish Warren (SAC) and the Exe Estuary Ramsar site. New housing will bring more people to the area who in turn will need access to green space. Improving the Valley Parks within Exeter is a means by which to reduce the pressure on the designated sites.
In particular, the effects of increased people presence at the Exe Estuary Ramsar site has been identified as requiring mitigation. One of the elements of the mitigation strategy is the enhancement of alternative natural green space, and the Council has identified Riverside and Ludwell Parks for this purpose. The aim is to make the Parks more attractive for people to visit, particularly those walking dogs, thus taking pressure off the Estuary and its wild bird populations.
Following on from a baseline landscape character assessment and input from local interested parties, the overarching vision was drawn up. The main features of the ‘character area vision’ are as follows:
- Protecting the green corridor and link to the northern Exe Valley – An area known as The Meadows, biodiversity and conservation are the primary objective. A new cycle connection and walkways around new habitats will improve access to a currently inaccessible part of the Valley Parks.
- Celebrating the engineered city and enhancing it for people and wildlife – The imbalance in access and biodiversity will be addressed between the flood channel and the river. They will be developed as equally significant aquatic corridors, with improved access to the river’s edge and improved biodiversity along the channel.
- A necklace of historic and contemporary urban pocket parks connected with the river – In the city centre, the green space alongside the water body will be maximised and conserved to create a linear network of pocket parks that will re-centre the urban green space at the riverside.
- Island Parks for the people of Exeter, bringing nature to the city and people to nature – The Island Parks will be the key recreational area in the Riverside Park. A variety of opportunities and recreational activities will be springboarded from here, including wild play and forest schools.
- Bringing the Estuary and its wildlife to the city – More trails and routes will be developed to disperse visitors and improve experience of nature and naturalness. New areas of no access will be created to ensure wildlife conservation.
- Providing opportunities for being in, being inspired by and learning about a living landscape typical of Devon and man’s role in managing land to support wildlife – Ludwell continues to preserve the heritage and tradition of Devon rural livelihoods, by using traditional land management techniques to enhance priority habitats as well as giving opportunity for young people to experience traditional ways of life.
Specifically relating to biodiversity, the habitat strategy aims to protect and enhance a diverse range of habitats that occur in the Exe Valley. In accordance with the Priority Habitats, traditional farming methods and land use are to be encouraged, from grazing and floodplain management, to traditional orchards and rotation farming methods with traditional sowing and fertilisation timings and methods. Land management options will work to maintain, restore and create priority habitats and support priority species that depend on these habitats.
The coastal and floodplain grazing marsh is a key habitat, along with the riparian habitats associated with this priority river system. It is especially important that the riparian system is protected with the proposed adjustments with the new flood scheme proposals.
Increasing woodland will create appealing diversity to the Valley, but this woodland will need to be managed to prevent dominance and succession from a wet woodland habitat. Encouraging marshland and wetland habitats will help to slow flood water movements as well as provide a priority habitat for estuary birds and wildlife.
The Masterplan document covers the next ten years from 2016 to 2026.
All images are ©Exterior Architecture
Author’s Details: Leighton Pace (CMLI), is a Director of Exterior Architecture (ExA) and brings a wealth of experience assembled over 20 years of working on landscape projects in the UK and internationally. Leighton is a talented designer and experienced practice director. He has extensive experience in developing responsive and meaningful design solutions that draw inspiration from the place and interweave the dynamic of human life into inspirational landscape settings. He has extensive experience in delivering excellence in ecological and landscape led Masterplanning projects for both private and public clients. The work he undertakes at ExA is underlined with a drive to deliver innovative contemporary design solutions that result in sustainable, liveable and enjoyable spaces. www.exteriorarchitecture.com