In November 2009, around 50 hectares of the Hadspen Estate were covered in woodland. The remaining fields are comprised of arable land, pasture, meadow and set aside fields. The landscape is typical in character for the South Somerset Area.
A distinct ridge of semi-ancient woodland runs like a spine through the estate and is clearly visible from within the estate and beyond its boundaries. The plain in front of Hadspen House runs south west where the land falls to allow spectacular views over the Somerset countryside, up to the county border some 50km away.
The proposed estate wide strategy increases the woodland cover from approximately 12% to more than 40%. However, this will take centuries to fully establish.
Forestry is a long term strategy for the estate and , due to the slow growth of the trees, the prospect of financial return is for future generations. Although the proposal means a major increase in woodland cover, the diverse landscape character of plains and rolling pasture is retained. The planting firstly intensifies the existing woodland ridge by filling in patches to form a more continuous cover interspersed with new public footpaths and clearings. A continuous cover enhances bio-diversity and forms a valuable habitat for wildlife whilst also creating an enjoyable recreational space for the wider community.
Through strategic planting, the main views and characteristics of the Hadspen landscape are further enhanced. The combination of dense planting and openness along the A371 (the road that bisects the estate) allow both Hadspen House and the vast plain to the south west become more prominent. Similarly, the Old Roman Road becomes more defined as a historic but nowadays little used access road.
The proposed settlement is sited on the north side of the woodland spine, connected to, but distinct from the main settlement of the estate. The buildings are composed according to a hierarchy of use in relationship to sunlight. Dwellings, dormitory, refectory, office and teaching spaces are located at the bottom of the hill facing south west towards the sun and the woodland.
The timber workshop and processing shed with wood chip storage and CHP plant are located at the top of the hill where they connect to the ancient woodland.
The walled vegetable garden connects the dwellings to the industrial shed. The rammed earth wall extends to form a boundary within the large field.
The crafted green oak structure of the wood workshop is offset by a cheap and lightweight profiled metal sheet cladding that echos the language of agricultural sheds found in the Somerset landscape.
Daylight penetrates the space through vertical glazing at roof level between the alternating angles of the folding roof.