THE LANDSCAPING SOLUTIONS BLOG


Welcome to our Blog. Inspiration, updates and industry trends from the team at Landscaping Solutions.

BATTLING URBAN AIR POLLUTION: THE HUMBLE HEDGE

The Humble Hedge

We know that maintaining a garden hedge can sometimes feel like a never ending battle, it’s one of the reasons we offer a long-term garden maintenance service.

However, a paper published recently in the journal ‘Atmospheric Environment’ suggests it might be worth the battle after all.

Your unassuming garden hedge could in fact be the unsung hero of your garden, trapping toxins and protecting you from harmful pollutants.

Lead author of the paper Prof Prashant Kumar and his international team of researchers have found that the majority of hedges serve as a highly effective natural filter for toxic air pollution, due in part to their short size and tight-knit foliage.

The study has found that while tall trees are good at absorbing pollution in wide open areas, hedges are in fact far more effective at trapping harmful pollutants at exhaust pipe level in our towns and cities.

The research comes after the level of toxic air in London hit an all time high back in January of this year. Only six days into the New Year and a number of boroughs within London had exceeded their EU pollution limit for the entire twelve months. Alarmingly air pollution in these areas hit such high densities that primary schools were forced to restrict the time children spent outdoors. These events culminated in the city being placed on the highest black alert for pollution.

Understandably Professor Prashant Kumar, who led the study, is now urging local councils to consider populating our busy pavements and streets with hedges. He advises that wherever the pavements are wide enough to accommodate, councils should try to plant low hedges between pedestrians and the main road allowing damaging particles to be absorbed before they disperse into the air.

Its interesting to note that previous studies have also gone along way to back up these findings. A study carried out in Guildford, Surrey found that planting hedges along a busy main road cut toxic fumes by more than a third.

Whilst Prof. Kumar’s study focused on hedges it is important to remember that that trees also play a vital part in battling pollution in our ever expanding towns and cities. The paper actually suggests many more trees should also be planted as part of a well planned, targeted planting campaign.

Professor Prashant Kumar admits that there are no hard and fast rules about the best planting for any given area rather that this will depend upon local conditions and circumstances, with each planting campaign tailored to meet a particular areas requirements.

His team are currently carrying out further tests to ascertain which species of hedge proves to be the most pollution absorbent. For the time being he advices authorities should plant hedges with the greatest leaf surface area.

As subject matter close to our hearts, we’ve covered a number of environmental issues over the past months. If you have found this article interesting you may also enjoy some of our previous articles - Urban Forests And Why We Need Them, Bees In Crisis and Front Gardens On The Decline.

HUNDREDS OF PUBLIC PARKS SET TO CLOSE

Park Closures

A recent report by the Association of Play Industries has revealed how local authorities nationwide, have slowly been closing children’s playgrounds and parks at an alarming rate.

Extensive research carried out as part of the API report shows that between 2014 and 2016 local authorities across England closed 214 children’s playgrounds and public parks, depriving local communities of access to these vital green spaces in the process.

When questioned about the park closures a number of the local authorities involved admitted that there are in fact another 234 more parks and playgrounds scheduled for closure.

It is no secret that in recent years, there has been a series of spending cuts to play areas and public spaces around the UK but these latest figures highlight just how serious the situation really is.

Childhood obesity and wellbeing have been high on the Government’s agenda for sometime now yet the report revealed that the majority of the recent playground closures were as a direct result of a 37% cut in Government funding to local authorities.

The Chairman of the Association of Play Industries Mark Hardy had this to say “With increasing childhood obesity and the health benefits of activity and play well known, now is not the time for community playgrounds to be closing. This action goes against the Government’s clear intention to get children more active and needs to be stopped as quickly as possible”.

The loss of so many playgrounds across the country is undoubtedly a travesty and a number of organised protests have already taken place but with so many parks already closed is it too late to reverse the damage?

According to the same report approximately £100 million of investment could not only reverse the closures but also increase the number of playgrounds available to children across the country.

However, with the recent cuts as a clear indication, the funding is obviously not going to be coming from the government. Local authorities will have to continue to make difficult decisions about which parks and playgrounds are to be closed, unless they look towards organisations like the Big Lottery to meet the investment requirements.

As adults it is easy to become complacent about the importance of our connection with nature and quickly lose touch with it, we covered this topic in more detail in one of our recent articles "Losing Touch With Nature" a subject matter all of us at Landscaping Solutions are very passionate about.

It is heart breaking to think that unless something can be done we are gradually going to witness playgrounds and green spaces up and down the country disappearing from our urban landscape and while campaigners battle tirelessly to defend our parks and playgrounds, the harsh reality is that for now the future of Englands parks is unknown.

For further information or to read the The full report 'Nowhere to play' visit the API website.

THAMES PROMENADE ON THE RIGHT TRACK

Thames Promenade

In August, last year, we wrote a short piece covering the ambitious Garden Bridge project, a proposed pedestrian bridge with landscaped gardens that will span the River Thames in central London.

Well it seems the idea has caught on but with considerably less controversy. Award winning, London based architects One-world design have recently released images of their proposed garden walkway, a project that will see the complete transformation of an otherwise unused section of a Grade II-listed Victorian railway bridge (Barnes Bridge) that spans the Thames between Barnes and Chiswick.

The One-world design team have been working closely with local residents on plans for this stunning promenade that would create a green link between the two neighbourhoods.

Designed by civil engineer, Joseph Locke, in the 19th Century the bridge itself is a central, two-track, railway bridge. It has a pedestrian and cycle crossing to the east and a separate and disused railway bridge to the west that shares the river piers.

The current proposed scheme seeks to take the crossing and transform it into a walkway that has been designed to attract wildlife and promote biodiversity – something many of our towns and cities currently lack.

To further enhance the view from the bridge, the existing riverside metal clad upstand would be removed and replaced with a glass balustrade. This would also have the added effect of making the bridge appear less prominent from the riverbank. LED lighting in the floor, balustrade and bollards would serve to illuminate the bridge with plans to have the light react to movement and change colour as desired.

The proposed planting scheme would see the use of trees and shrubs in areas immediately above the river piers (for structural reasons), as well as the creation of a living wall to prevent trespassers from gaining access to an adjoining section of live track.

Under the watchful eye of the Barnes Community Association (BCA) the planting of the trees and shrubbery would be carried out by a local group of residents lead by Peter Banks, who originally approached the BCA with the idea of transforming the bridge into a garden walkway. The proposal will also see the same group of residents responsible for maintaining the planting once the bridge is complete.

In a recent statement the BCA confirmed they have already secured support for the project from the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames and Hounslow councils, in addition to receiving an ‘in principle’ agreement from Network Rail.

With these integral agreements in place a full costing of the project can now been drawn up allowing the BCA to make applications to the Mayor of London and the National Lottery for funding.

As you would expect with a project of this nature there appears to be no shortage of public support, with the repurposing of an existing structure proving to be an appealing concept for many. By taking this unused railway bridge and transforming it into something beautiful, residents have something stunning to wake up to and visit every day and in a world that needs more green, it certainly seems like a step in the right direction.

LOSING TOUCH WITH NATURE

Landscaping Solutions - Nature Deficit Disorder

There has been a lot of talk in the media lately about Nature Deficit Disorder and while its not recognised as an official medical condition, a great deal of research has shown that Nature Deficit Disorder is something that can result in behavioural problems in a vast number of people, so it might be something that’s worth taking seriously.

The term itself was first coined in the novel ‘Last Child in the Woods’, by Richard Louv and refers to the fact that children (and human beings in general) are spending less and less time outside, resulting in a range of behavioural issues.

With strong links to Nature Knowledge Deficit, (a term describing the fact that we don’t know nearly as much about the natural world around us as we did in ages past) Nature Deficit Disorder is clearly a symptom of the modern lifestyle and a prime example of how we are drifting away from our natural habitat.

In the modern world, it is easy to lose touch with nature. We forget what an important part of our existence it is. There is a reason that people use to worship nature in the past, because it is essential to our survival as well as our well-being. A growing number of people are losing touch and forgetting to interact with nature on a regular basis.

A common cause for the onset of Nature Deficit Disorder is people’s growing fear of the danger the outside world presents, with many people choosing to spend more and more time indoors through fear, and passing this fear on to their children.

The gradual loss of natural surroundings is yet another contributing factor. As housing developments increase we lose fields, green parks and woodland as they are steadily replaced by brick and concrete structures. The lack of interaction with the great outdoors and being denied the opportunity to explore nature trails, woodlands and wildlife can be damaging. When you factor in the introduction of modern technology (video games, computers, mobile phones) it all contributes to a more insular and indoor lifestyle.

Ultimately the culmination of these factors can quickly result in a lack of respect for our natural surroundings, in children and adults. This in turn results in a decline in health for the Earth and the people that inhabit it.

Research has shown that the great outdoors has the power to make a person feel calm and tranquil, even something as simple as standing on the ground with bare feet can be enough to help you feel connected to nature again and feel its calming effect.

When it comes to tackling the effects of Nature Deficit Disorder something as simple as landscaping and maintaining your own garden can go along way to reconnecting with nature. Creating beautiful areas for you to sit and relax in, or even sections where you can regularly garden and plant flowers, are all parts of the process.

Something as simple as spending more time in your garden is enough to start reversing the effects of Nature Deficit Disorder. So when it comes to planing your garden and making it a more relaxing place to be, make sure you take landscape design into consideration or maybe let the professionals create something truly fantastic for you.

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