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Poplar College

What they had

Poplar College in Chippenham cater for students who suffer from learning difficulties. However, the college had limited outdoor space for its students to enjoy.

The council allowed them to use a large space adjacent to the college but it was in a very bad state and had been used as a carpark with rough asphalt surface. 

The team at the college had the vision for using this space for the students for recreational and horticultural experiences and this is the remit they gave to us to design the new space.


What they wanted

They wanted multi use areas that cater for the different abilities of their students. We had to take into consideration accessibility as well as creating an area that is safe for students with poor sight.

The space needed to be usable all year round and had elements which allowed the students to continue learning through activity and environment. 

Sport in the form of boccia courts was a key requirement as this allowed the students with all forms of disability to participate but when the area wasn't being used it created a large open space for other activities.

Thought needed to be given to sensory elements within the design.

What we did

We created a feature dry stone walling ramp as the access from the existing upper level outdoor area to the old car park, a building for relaxation that was fully lined and insulated with pergola extending from the building. A second building which had a small kitchenette, hatch and counter for the students to use on event days which has become the tuck shop. A third multi use building. 

We encompassed numerous areas of seating for spectators using pebble filled gabian cages, patio area for seating outside the tuck shop. Below the canopy of the existing tree we place bench seating, artificial grass and boulders which provide different zones for the students to relax in.

The horticultural area incorporated many raised beds, storage shed as well as a feature polytunnel. 

A water feature came up through the stone wall along the top of the stone wall so that students could hear and feel the water before going down and out the wall again. 

“This has been planned for a number of years, we wanted the outdoor area to be somewhere they could do sports and we also wanted a garden area so they could do more recreational skills, such as horticulture. We’re at the end of a journey, before the garden was opened we had a very limited outdoor space for the pupils but the difference has been fantastic."

Ros Way, Head Teacher