Community facilities at Vanbrugh Yard and The Wilderness
In this short film our Partnerships and Community Engagements officer, Helen Wallis, shows us around the building proposals for Vanbrugh Yard and The Wilderness.
The community facilities at both Vanbrugh Yard and the Wilderness will be supported by a programme of community events and activities. Building work is planned to start in early 2022 and be completed by 2023.
Thanks to everyone who has shared their views. The proposals have been submitted for planning permission.
We’re opening up part of the existing Nursery Yard to create a new community space called Vanbrugh Yard.
Planning permission has already been granted for plans to convert Vanbrugh Lodge into a café. Vanbrugh Café will be set within a community kitchen garden and we have refined our plans for this to include a glasshouse/sun lounge for volunteers and community groups, and a small wildflower orchard.
Our new proposal is to open up the approach from Vanbrugh Gate, convert the sheds next to Vanbrugh Lodge into volunteer facilities and an accessible public toilet block, and transform the nearby machine shed into a storage space.
The Vanbrugh Gate park entrance is narrow, so we propose to widen the area by moving back the Nursery Yard fence, removing some shrubs and a small evergreen hedge and landscaping the area with wildlife-friendly planting.
The new volunteer facility will feature a ‘mess room’ with seating, kitchenette and storage facilities and an adjacent boot room. Volunteers can also use the glasshouse to sit and relax, as well as for growing plants.
The public toilets will be free and there will be a Changing Places facility accessible to volunteers and disabled visitors only. The Changes Places facility comprises an accessible toilet with a changing bench, hoist, an adjustable sink and a shower.
The machine shed will be equipped with solar panels and an electric vehicle charging point and be used to house the electric mobility buggy. It will provide storage and maintenance space for volunteer tools. There is also potential to store and display historic park artefacts such as Victorian tools and flower pots within it.
The Wilderness is proposed as a natural discovery space for schools and community groups, comprising a new outdoor classroom, an outdoor shelter, natural play facilities, nature trails, a dipping pond and an extensive wildlife meadow.
The existing Wildlife Centre will be converted into a reception area, with accessible toilets and storage space for education and community activities. It will provide a gateway into the outdoor learning space, which will be accessible to schools, volunteers and community groups. Public access to this area will be supervised e.g. on monthly open days or for special events.
A classroom to inspire outdoor learning
The Wilderness classroom will be highly sustainable, comprising:
- An acid grassland ‘green roof’ to extend the surrounding habitat
- Intelligent design featuring high-specification insulation, and windows orientated to control temperature and allow ventilation. This maximises daylight and minimises fuel use by staying cool in summer and warm in winter.
- An air-source pump rather than a traditional boiler to heat the building. The pump extracts heat from the air and is highly energy-efficient
A shelter to experience the great outdoors
- An outdoor shelter such as a canopy will be used as an informal learning and meeting space for schools and community groups. This enables us to increase our environmental education provision, by hosting two school classes per visit – one in the classroom and one in the shelter.
- A canopy avoids creating a permanent building, minimising environmental impact. We hope that it will offer children an exciting and unique outdoor learning experience.
Enhancing biodiversity and engaging people with nature
- We currently have two wildlife ponds in the Wilderness. One is shaded by trees and one is very shallow – neither are very accessible. We propose to create an additional pond designed specifically for pond-dipping. This will allow people of all ages to learn about freshwater species such as newts, frogs and dragonflies.
- The meadow outside the existing Wildlife Centre is mostly poor quality, but there are patches of rare acid grassland habitat, featuring butterfly food plants such as fine-leaved, native grasses and sheep’s sorrel. We propose to restore and extend the acid grassland to create a wildlife meadow which will be used for educational purposes.
- We propose new supervised nature trails. The existing circular nature trail is overgrown with invasive plants such as bracken and bramble, limiting its wildlife potential. We propose to allow deer into this area to graze it, opening it up to a greater range of plant species.
- We propose to incorporate the woodland between the Flower Garden and Deer Park into the Wilderness. We propose to install natural play features such as fallen trees for climbing and enhance wildlife habitat by planting native woodland flowers, creating stag beetle loggeries and installing bat boxes.