Woodland Community Space

Aim: To work as part of the volunteer group in Springwater Park to create an accessible and welcoming community space which will serve as a focal point for community events and as a work focus as the group develops.

Date: September 2017 to May 2020

Client: Love Springwater Park

Status: Completed

Principles: Holmgren

Framework: SADMIET / Jasmine Dale’s Permaculture Design Companion

Tools: Vision Statement, Mood Board, Biodiversity Survey, Sketch Map, Landform Survey, Microclimates Survey, Climate Survey, Soil Survey, Water Survey, Services Survey, Structures Survey, Access Survey, Boundaries and Interactions Survey, Beauty Survey, Listening to the Landscape Exercise, Elements Survey, Traditional Client Survey, Sector Analysis, Main Elements Analysis, Elements Map, Functions Analysis, Element Input Output, Guilds, Principles Analysis, Timelines, Thinking Hats.

How does the design reflect the Permaculture ethics?

People CarePlacing local people and their ideas at the heart of the design.
 
Creating an improved environment for visitors to a community park.
 
Improving access and safety for visitors to the park.
 
Providing an opportunity for people to get involved as volunteers with all the positive benefits to health and wellbeing that this brings.
Earth CareFocus upon improving the environment within the park, and increasing biodiversity.
 
Use of natural and reusable materials where possible.
 
Increasing the space for nature, and opportunity for visitors to experience nature.
Fair ShareCo-production as key element of design.

Improved accessibility key to the design.

Collaborative and participatory process.

How does the design meet my personal learning objectives?

Permaculture design as underlying foundation to the work that I do.Allowing me to develop my skills further with a more land based design.
Build links to the Permaculture community.Sharing process and documentation via social media and design group.
Develop learning within the structure of the diploma.Application of design tools to a more complex land based design – which I have done less of.

Resources / Support

  • Permaculture Design Companion – Jasmine Dale
  • Design Forum
  • Permaculture Design – Aranya
  • Love Springwater Park Facebook Group
  • Bury Council Countryside Officer
  • Bury Voluntary Rangers
  • Friends of Philips Park
  • Love Springwater Park Volunteers
  • Local councillors
  • Bury Council
  • Various funders

Context

In September 2017 I became involved in Love Springwater Park. This is a community led group dedicated to maintaining and improving Springwater Park for the benefit of local communities and the environment. The park is around 120 acres of green space located at the convergence of the River Irwell and River Roch in Bury. It was formerly an industrial site housing three factories, but now belongs to Bury Council and comprises of riverside meadow / floodplain surrounded by lodges and woodland. Part of the site was also historically a municipal tip.

You can compare a historic map of the park from 1932 to a modern map of the site below as well as explore some images of the park. The area marked at STABLES on the map is the area where the community space was to be created.

Our group was set up because the park, which is in a residential area between Manchester and Bury, was well used and well loved but had fallen into disrepair. It had become rundown and was a hot spot for anti-social behaviour. This meant that many local people felt unsafe in the park and did not visit (myself included!)

The group’s aim was to improve the park, increase footfall and hopefully reverse the cycle of decline. This design focuses on the first three years of the group and the project that we developed to create a new community space about the carpark. We decided to create this focus as a seasoned volunteer from another local park group recommended how beneficial it can be to have something specific to work towards when trying to improve and maintain such a large space. We chose the site as it was near the busier part of the park, and had historically been the location of the house of one of the factory owner’s from the park so it had a real sense of heritage and interest.

I chose SADIMET as a framework for the design and used Jasmine Dales brilliant design handbook as a foundation for the process.

Historic image of Springwater Dye Works

SURVEY

I began by creating a vision statement reflecting upon the things that we wanted to achieve through the design. I also created a mood board which took a more visual and tactile approach to idea generation.

Vision statement for the design
Mood board

I used both of these as a starting point to list what I thought were the key elements of the design. These were:

  • Space of community events.
  • Peaceful space.
  • Highlighted historical features.
  • Trees.
  • Wildflowers.
  • Natural planting.
  • Good access.

Next I thought about the landscape in terms of existing biodiversity.

At this point I created a sketch of the site, and then considered it in terms of:

  • Landform
  • Microclimates
  • Climate
  • Soil
  • Water
  • Services
  • Structures
  • Access
  • Boundaries and Interactions
  • Beauty
  • Miscellaneous

All of these elements can be explored in more detail in the album below. The provided map is not to scale, it is a map of the area where we were working and the immediate surrounding areas, it was created by me during autumn 2020 based on previous sketch maps that I had produced of the site.

Next I undertook a Listening to the Landscape activity observing the site in a more sensory way.

I undertook an elements survey thinking about the site in terms of:

  • Earth / Soil
  • Wind / Air
  • Water
  • Sun and Shade / Fire

After all of this I focused more upon the client ie Love Springwater Park Volunteer Group by undertaking a more traditional Client Survey to get a sense of what we wanted to achieve and what capacity we had to fulfil our aspirations. This survey was not undertaken in a traditional way. The survey represents conversations that took place between members of the Love Springwater Park volunteer group both formally within our regular meetings and informally. There is a little more detail about how the group is structured and the frequency of its meetings…etc… within the implementation section of this design.

Here are a selection of images of the space at the beginning of the design process.

Historic photo of one of the gateposts which remains within the community space. The stable block can be seen beyond.

ANALYSIS

I went on to undertake a sector analysis across the site. This included:

  • Soil
  • Wind
  • Rain / Water
  • Sun and Shade
  • Wild aspects
  • Views

The provided map are not to scale. They are maps of the area where we were working and the immediate surrounding areas, it was created by me during autumn 2020 based on previous sketch maps that I had produced of the site.

From the sector analysis I came to the following conclusions:

  • There are beautiful view within the site and from the site.
  • The site has really fascinating history and features.
  • The site is generally peaceful and sheltered.
  • Steep inclines on the site means water drains down the site.
  • There is a high chance of historical soil pollution.
  • The site has many users with different needs and aspirations.
  • The site has a huge amount to offer in many different ways. There is great potential!

I also analysed Slope, Elevation and Aspect for the site.

After this I considered zones. To being this process I observed the Main Elements on the site / within the design, then thought about their Zones from a Permaculture Perspective. I mapped the different elements and in terms of their relationship to each other, thinking in particular about the positive and negative flow between elements.

Next I undertook and Input and Output Analysis which I did for each of the elements that I had identified on the site / within the design. I then looked at these elements more closely observing their how the different input needs would be met and what each element could be harnessed for.

I thought about the elements in terms of their functions. to ensure that each one would provide as many as possible.

Alongside this I carried out a functions analysis. To do this I observed what the main functions of the design were, before ensuring that each would be supported by as many elements as possible.

Finally I created a map identifying the main elements of the design within the space – this would become the foundation of the next stage of the design process.

Historic image of chemical works on site.

DESIGN

I returned to the elements once again and looked at the inputs that would be needed to create each of them from a practical design perspective, and the outputs and yields that would be created as a result.

Next I thought about guilds within the design. I began by thinking about the community space from the perspective of people linked to it and outlined what each would / could contribute to the project. Then I gathered closely linked elements and thought about the yields that each guild group would create.

Finally within this aspect of the process I used the permaculture principles to explore the different elements of the design and to bring more clarity.

IMPLEMENTATION

I created an initial timeline for the project. This gave a rough chronological order to the design.

Then I created a more detailed timeline. For each element this outlined:

  • when it would be implemented.
  • why it had this place in the timeline.
  • how it would be achieved.
  • where it would happen.
  • who would be involved.
  • any other comments.

These two elements were the foundation of the implementation plan for the design.

All elements of the design were developed as part of the regular meetings and work parties held by the Love Springwater Park volunteer group. The core volunteer group comprises of around 20 people and meets once a month for meetings, and at least twice a month to work in the park. The group is open to anybody who is interested in getting involved and is run with a structure that is as informal as possible – the only “formal” roles within the group are those which were needed in order for us to obtain and bank account and to make funding bids. These are:

  • Chair
  • Treasurer
  • Co-ordinator / Secretary
  • Work Party Co-ordinator

. The meetings are used as the place to make work plans and develop ideas and all elements of the design were developed and informed by these meetings. In addition to this the group has additional planning “away days” which were also key to gathering ideas and developing aspects of the design as it progressed.

These discussions with, and as part of, the volunteer group took place formally within our regular volunteer meetings, and were minuted within the meeting notes. In addition to this the group is contstantly generating ideas and plans within conversations which happen more informally when talking about projects and developments that we would like to see within the park. The Community Space represents one of these aspired for developments, though it was the first that we properly focused upon together.

EVALUATION

The final element of the design was implemented in spring / summer 2020 when the new access path was added between the community space and the car park. The design in all its elements has been a great addition to the park and in itself has inspired many other pieces of work and projects. A selection of images of the space can be explored below.

The images show:

  • Sweeping the cobbled area / stables that is a key focus to the community space.
  • The new path from the community space to the carpark.
  • Setting up for a community event in the space.
  • Community woodworking event.
  • Art group working in the space.
  • The gate posts along improved pathway.
  • Cobbles in spring.
  • Wood from the woodland cut into stools to use in the space.
  • The bench that we installed.
  • Information boards on the painted loo block by the carpark.
  • Volunteers following our first event in the community space.

I went on to evaluate the design in more detail using the permaculture principles as a starting point to refer back to original aim of the design:

To work as part of the volunteer group in Springwater Park to create an accessible and welcoming community space which will serve as a focal point for community events and as a work focus as the group develops.”

Observe and interactThe design worked with local volunteers to create a space that reflects their needs and aspirations.

Flexible enough process to allow things to change as new ideas and opportunities arose eg new bins added when resource became available.
Catch and store energyThe flexible approach made best use of volunteer capaciy and other support as and when available.

Idea and interests of volunteers fed back into the process to bring new elements and aspects throughout – this is still happening!

Volunteers have led several events in and around the space since it was first developed.

The idea of using this as focus for work as the group developed was a great idea – it was really positive to have something concrete to work towards and many other programmes of work now centre around the space.
Obtain a yieldObvious yields are the community space, new paths and improved envrionment.

Also yields such as wood used on site.

Less obvious yields such as health and wellbeing of volunteers, and fun and friendship, are really important.
Use and value renewable resourcesVolunteers as key renewable resource in this design in terms of the volunteer group and Bury Volunteer Rangers – the design would not have happened without them!

The design has been a longterm response to the natural environment which is the ultimate renewable resource! Access to this and the care of it are both now greatly improved on site.
Use and value edges and the marginalBringing wild elements and historic elements in as key elements of the design adds real interest and diversity. The space feels as though all has been considered and plays a part.
Apply self regulation and accept feedbackAs a group our regular meetings where work plans were developed served as a great tool for regulation and reflection. We talked about things and changed them as and when needed.

The strong volunteer team, and support from countryside officer and voluntary rangers, were great assets for the project.

SADIMET supported by Jasmine Dale’s book worked brilliantly for the project.
Produce no wasteThe idea to uncover the cobbles from a former stable block was a fantastic idea – it provided focus which brought past and present together to form a strong identity for the “new” space.
Design from patterns to detailThe plan of works was really good – working on the cobbles first allowed us to learn about the landscape over a longer period of time and create an overall design which is more sensitive and integrated and which feels more as a whole.
Integrate rather than segregateTools such as guilds and zoning allowed clearer thinking about the relationships between the different elements. In the longer term this means that the final design as implemented feels more complete as a whole.
Use and value diversityAll collaborators inputs and ideas were valued and used when possible bringing strength to the final design and space. It’s everyone’s creation and has truly been a joint effort!
Use small and slow solutionsThe design was, and still is, a work in progress. As such there was no urgency to finish any particular element. This means the design developed in a pretty natural way. The “finished” space feels stronger as a result.
Creatively use and repsond to changeAs a volunteer group it’s important not to be too rigid in our plans. This means flexibility is inbuilt to the project allowing us to respond to new aspects more easily. For example path landscaping was a respone, by a group member, to a funding pot that became available.

TWEAK

As detailed at other points in this write up this design has very much been a flexible and responsive process and continues to be so. As such it has changed throughout the process and will continue to do so. In addition to this we do not see the community space as the end of a project but as a point in the story of the Love Spinrgwater Park volunteer group which continues to meet regulalry and work on a range of different projects in the park.

The group’s meetings, which take place roughly once every 8 weeks, and work parties which take place twice a month are the foundation of decision making for the group and the place that decisions are made around changes and developments to the design.

Future developments in the park include:

  • Supporting a flood remediation scheme by the Environment Agency.
  • Development of further community events.
  • Ongoing programme of invasive plant management.
  • Improved access to the Blackford Bridge end of the park.
  • Increase volunteer engagement and capacity.

REFLECTION

I reflected upon the design within the context of my diploma and permaculture learning using the Thinking Hats method.

Whiteavailable dataThis is the first land based design in my portfolio on any scale.

It was complex but not complicated – so felt like a good challenge.

Jasmine Dale’s book was an invaluable tool for this design and I found it really useful at this stage of my learning.

Keen to look at other land based designs especially where community and engagement are a key element.
Red gut and emotionI really loved the design – the challenge and scale was really exciting!

I loved using new tools within the design.

There were challenges of working with a volunteer group but also great positives.
Black – negativeMapping is something that I haven’t really done – I had to do mapping in this design but opted to do a sketch map. I have a bit of a mental block about mapping but this site felt too big! And a scale map wasn’t really needed. So my nervousness about mapping wasn’t really addressed!

There are always challenges of working within a community! Not everyone will agree with what you are doing and this can bring challenges.
Yellow – think positiveThere was great energy as a result of being part of the wider project team – that really drove the design and the project as a whole!

I really valued the expertise of the support that was available from the Voluntary Rangers and the Countryside Officer. This kind of relationship feels very important for learning on my diploma.

It was an exciting thing to make something happen in the park as part of the a group. It has been fantastic to see the positive energy that brought to the park and also to my own design work and thinking.
Green – creativity.Looking at the design and the finished space I wonder if we could have done something more radical / challenging. Is the change that we have created significant enough? Would it even be possible to instigate more change in this context when essentially working as a volunteer group?
Blue – processWithin the ZONES activity I placed the Community Space within Zone 0. It is clear on reflection that this is an error on my part and that this should be placed in Zone 2.

SADMIET supported by Jasmine Dale’s wisdom was a fantastic tool to use for this kind of land based design.

The volunteer group meetings and work parties created a great structure and support for the design work and project as a whole.

The amazing support from the countryside officer and volunteer rangers was crucial. Particularly at early stage of the design – who are your teachers and mentors when learning on your own during the diploma?

It was noted in the assessment of this design for my Interim Portfolio Assessment that some aspects of the process were not in the place that you may expect them to be in a design process, or were not defined as you may expect them to be.

For example:
– The “Soil Sector Analysis” may be more commonly referred to as a “Soil Analysis”.
-The “Guilds” and “Permaculture Principles” may be more commonly located in the ANALYSIS section as opposed to the DESIGN section.
– The map at the end of the ANALYSIS section may be better placed in the DESIGN section.
– The timeline in IMPLEMENTATION may sit better within the DESIGN section.

The tools were used in the order as set out in Jasmine Dale’s excellent book as her suggestion of how things have worked well for her. As I had made a specific decision to use her process to shape my design I decided, following discussion within my IPA, that I would leave these elements where they are rather than moving them to a location where they may be used more commonly. If I were to use the book again as the basis for a design I think that I would move some parts of the suggested process around based upon these reflections: for example I think that the timeline that I created would be better placed within the DESIGN section from my perspective as a designer.