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St George’s College, Weybridge

Project: St George’s College

Client: Blenheim House Construction Ltd

Location: Weybridge, Surrey, UK

Overview

Archway Green were commissioned by Blenheim House Construction Ltd to complete the soft landscaping for a new build development at the prestigious Surrey independent school St George’s College, Weybridge. The combined college and junior school grounds cover well over100 acres of land, including a fine expanse of woodland in addition to an exceptional range of first-class facilities for sports and athletics. The bespoke activity centre is a modern and architecturally distinctive building which adds interest and further distinction to the college’s buildings, which seamlessly mix tradition and modernity. Blenheim House Construction are renowned for proactively introducing new technologies and modern construction techniques whilst retaining traditional craftsmanship skills, and Archway Green share their passion for the best of both old and new.   

The Brief

Blenheim House Construction Ltd were the landscapers for the development of a new, state-of-the-art activity centre at St George’s College, Weybridge. Archway Green were employed to landscape the surrounding green spaces, including an imposing frontage with a formal approach and elegant beds to harmonise with the sophisticated new building, which boasts a graceful curved roof and extensive glazing. In addition, naturalistic surrounding areas were planted, in keeping with the wider college environment, which includes much native woodland.

Our Approach

Due to the contours of the environment, the new activity centre was sunk into the ground, making it a challenging and interesting space to work with. Archway Green aimed to strike a balance between formal and informal design elements in the soft landscaping design, so as to do justice to both the magnificence and modernity of the new building, and the heritage of the college and its historic properties.

A spectacular frontage was created with the use of pleached hornbeam trees. Having been grown on a frame, the resultant canopies, shaped to create a slim screening effect, are both dramatic and distinguished.

Splendid borders and substantial beds surrounded the accessible sides of the building on each floor. These were filled with a variety of stunning ornamentals, shrubs, plants and grasses to create a feast of colour and texture throughout the year. From the glossy deep purple foliage of Ajuga reptans ‘Braunherz’ to the attractive grey-green leaves and vivid pink flowers of Hylotelephium spectabile ‘Brilliant’, Archway Green carefully selected complementary and sensory plants. Salvia officinalis ‘Purpurascens’ and Lavandula angustifolia ‘Hidcote’ were among the native plants with wonderful aromas. Ornamental grasses such as the feathery pink-tinged Miscanthus sinensis ‘Flamingo’ and the shimmering silver Deschampsia cespitosa ‘Goldtau’ had a softening effect, bridging the contrast between formality and informality.

The building is faced by a gently sloping hill on one side. Archway Green seeded the slope so as to create a stunning textured landscape as both an attractive feature and to attract wildlife. Allium sphaerocephalon (round-headed garlic), with its wonderful upright purplish blooms, stunning delicate Iris ‘Perry’s Blue’ (Sib) and dainty-blossomed Achillea millefolium (common yarrow) were among the wildflowers planted from seed or bulb.

Saplings were also planted in this bower of delight, as were ornamental specimens in the beds and other semi-mature trees in keeping with the surrounding woodland. Of these one of the most beautiful must be Amelanchier x grandiflora ‘Autumn Brilliance’ or Juneberry, which offers delicate white spring flowers and bronze leaves, attractive summer berries which are excellent for garden birds, and reddish autumnal foliage.                                                                                         

A rain garden was also installed at the back of the building to improve the water quality by filtering pollutants and alleviate stormwater drainage.

The Result

The Activity Centre opened in October 2019, to great acclaim, and the building is unquestionably enhanced by its architectural planting.

The eye-catching highlight of the soft landscaping works is undoubtedly the planting of 11 pleached Carpinus betulus lining the main approach to the building. Pleaching was a characteristic tool of 17th- and 18th-century garden design, training canopies into a slim, narrow shape that provides elegant and effective screening. Their use creates a modern and striking aesthetic with pleasing echoes of tradition. Around these, the formal beds are rich in texture and colour from the many stunning complementary shrubs.

The beautiful ornamental Liquidambar styraciflua (sweet gum) gave instant impact with a root-ball girth of 18-20cm, and will give joy for years to come with its spectacular, long-lasting autumn foliage of fiery oranges, reds and purples.

The saplings on the wildflower slope and other semi-mature trees, too, will continue to mature, blending with the wonderful woodland grounds and the other natural features, including the River Bourne. A variety of saplings and semi-mature trees were planted, including five Acer davidii (Père David’s maple), two Tilia cordata (small-leaved lime) and 4 betula nigra (river birch) – the latter ideal for a river landscape. The Chertsey Branch of the Bourne enters the college grounds in the north-western corner and the Addlestone Branch from the south-east. The two rivers meet in the north-east of the grounds before flowing northwards into the River Thames at Addlestone. Archway Green is proud to have contributed to such a stunning environment which future generations of scholars – and wildlife! – can cultivate and enjoy.