Revisiting a completed project after completion, especially when the space is in use, is a pleasurable part of the job. Whilst in Cambridge, Mat Hull decided to check in on the Clare College garden reinstatement following the construction teams leaving the Master’s Garden and Fellows’ Garden. Considering the extent of time that the Master’s and Fellows’ Gardens were used as site compound/access, the gardens have recovered tremendously.

The photograph below shows the impact of construction works through the Fellows’ Garden and an insightful video showing the extent of the construction access through the College Gardens can be found here:

We used our knowledge and experience to restore the gardens to their former glory and this can now be witnessed in the College grounds each side of the River Cam. The Fellows’ Garden has been reinstated to its previous condition, receiving soil improvement works, guided by Tim O’Hare Associates, a new lawn and new planting in the planting beds closest to the River Cam. Construction logistics were always mindful of the avoidance and limitation of damage, therefore many of the planting beds were retained and protected during construction works however, the ‘River Beds’ as they are known, had to be replanted after the temporary bridge was removed.

The Master’s Garden has also received soil improvement works and has been replanted with robust lawn and a herbaceous border that is beginning to get its vivacious character back. These Liz Lake Associates planting proposals were guided heavily by the planting prior to construction works and the image below shows planting establishment after circa 6 months, for which the Clare College Gardens Department deserve much recognition.

 The Clare College Head Gardener kindly gave a brief tour which allowed access to the newly constructed River Room. This extension to the Grade I-listed Clare College is the first substantial construction to occur here since the 1780’s. The River Room is a light and airy café which boasts views of the River Cam and features improved accessibility features. Planted lightwells punctuate the building extension to add light and life. 

The planted lightwells are extremely constricted spaces suitable for shade planting and although the limited space was a constraint, we saw this as an opportunity to incorporate lush, layered planting. Witherford Watson Mann Architects who designed the River Room have likened the building process to “making a ship in a bottle” and the lightwells were akin to planting in the space between the model ship’s hull and the bottle itself. Plant selection was key to success and the planting proposals that we created respond to the historic context and complement the architectural character. Our services also extended to the design of the lightwells themselves, ensuring adequate planting depths, drainage and maintenance access were provided. The lightwells were planted by Oakview Landscapes and are maintained diligently by Clare College Gardens Department.