In 2007 we acquired 60 acres of intensively farmed arable land surrounding Pury Hill Business Park and transformed it into permanent pasture for livestock, parkland and woodland for wildlife, as well as grass tracks and paths for clients. This unique space now provides clients the chance to walk, run and enjoy the countryside during their busy day.
Firstly we fenced, ditched, and hedged the perimeter, and then grassed the whole area with permanent pasture seed mix. We decided to employ the renowned landscape designer, Julian Dowle, to advise us as to how best create the new parkland, which was to incorporate the two walks. This included moving and replanting over 1,000 semi-mature trees from an existing 15 yrs old woodland, to give instant structure to the scheme and shape for the walks. To do this we imported a giant tree spade attachment from the USA, and coupled it to a large loader shovel. The resulting outfit weighing 30 tonnes, could then pick up and transplant the semi-mature trees without damaging the roots. Many of these trees still had to be staked and wired, so that they were securely anchored until the roots were properly established. These trees then gave shelter for thousands of native saplings, running to 29 different species, which were planted beneath them. The whole planting plan was designed to create and enhance the two nature walks for the exclusive use of our clients, while still allowing access for agricultural vehicles to the Parkland.
To encourage birds to nest straightaway throughout the newly planted area, we manufactured in our own workshop, and then mounted 15 barn owl boxes and around 300 other nest boxes of different shapes and sizes, across the whole 80 acres, plus a further 60 around the office buildings. The majority of these nest boxes are occupied during the spring and early summer. If you stand near one for a short while you may be able watch the birds come and go, as well as hearing the fledglings calling to be fed.
All the ponds at Pury Hill are naturally filled when it rains, both directly and indirectly via surface runoffs. At the Business Park, the water is collected from the roofs, roads, and car parks. Everything is channelled through an underground petrol interceptor, which removes any contaminants such as car oil or fuel spillages before it feeds the Mill Pond. This pond has been designed to attenuate water flow, by storing the runoff during peak rainfall periods and releasing it at a controlled rate.
This ensures that there is no flooding of the Business Park or surrounding areas, and eliminates soil erosion that would occur with the fast flowing water. The Courtyard Pond is directly filled from the surrounding roof gutters, and so is free from contaminates. Across the road in the Field Walk, the small Corner Pond collects rainwater than runs down from the sloping grass fields that surround it. This does mean that during times of drought, the ponds’ levels will drop but we still do not top them up from the mains water system, as we do not believe this scarce resource should be used.
This all weather, 700 metres walk commences at the far end of the East Car Park, near Pury Hill Cottage. Walk along the path that winds through the belt of mixed woodland, which gives you shelter when you sit on one the seats. All year round you can watch and listen to the birds. In the spring and summer you can watch them flying back and forth to the many nest boxes hidden in the trees, either to build their nests or feed their young. If you only want a short walk, half way down the walk you can take the left turn onto the path that runs behind Briary Barn, and follows the rill that empties into the Mill Pond.
Otherwise keep on the main path that joins the farm track and turning left, walk alongside the grass paddock and follow this hedge for around 100 metres, picking up the path that runs downhill towards the Sunken Lake. There is plenty of seating alongside this path for a rest and to watch the moorhens, ducks, and other wildlife. Continue to the canal that winds round to the ornamental bridge.
Walk under the bridge, up the brick staircase, and you’ll find yourself next to the lock gates and looking across the Mill Pond towards the north end of the Business Park.
The lock gates are a water-retaining feature, and when the Mill Pond is full, you can watch the water cascading down the 2.5 metres drop, into the canal and onwards to the Sunken Lake. There are picnic tables alongside the Mill Pond path, where you can enjoy an al fresco lunch. In the summer, the swallows and house martins swoop over the water collecting mud for their eaves-mounted nest boxes placed around the Business Park buildings, and then they return to take insects on the wing to feed their young.
The circular route round this pond is fully landscaped with ornamental trees on the west side, with roses and ornamental shrubs on the east. It passes the SWAN raised beds vegetable garden, where you may see school children learning the rudiments of horticulture. You can either take this pond path, or go directly back to the Business Park, visiting either The Pury Hill Cafe or round to the Cygnet Bistro (on Fridays) on your way to your office.
This 1,400 metres walk circumnavigates the parkland opposite the Business Park. To reach the walk, just cross over the Pury Road opposite the site main entrance, and enter through the small wooden gate set back into the hedge. The whole route is kept mown and allows users to view the enclosed parkland, without having to encounter the livestock fenced within it. This dry weather walk was landscaped with several hundred semi-mature trees in 2008, which as previously mentioned, are under planted with 29 different native species of trees and shrubs, plus around a dozen native grasses and wild flowers.
We are really pleased that this habitat, which we created, is already being used by barn owls hunting at dawn and dusk for voles that live in the rough grasses. We are extremely keen to encourage wildlife diversity, and as you walk around the field, you will notice many nest boxes of all shapes and sizes. The larger boxes are for barn owls and tawny owls, the medum size ones mainly have tunnel entrances to encourage little owls and jackdaws to use them. The tit family, robins, and other small birds use the two types of conventional small nest boxes.
Down in the southwest corner of the parkland, you can take a diversion off the main path, to the small Corner Pond that was dug in 2007, and is planted with many water margin species. This is home to a diversity of wild fowl, fish and other pond species, which you can see from the small jetty – but do hold onto the ladder railing, we wouldn’t want you to fall in! Go back up the hill, to the main path that takes you past a small copse planted to screen the site from the A5, and you’ll find yourself back where you started, at the small gate.