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Project name: Creswell Crags Visitor Centre

Client: Creswell Heritage Trust

Completed: 2009

Value: £3,600,000

Architect: OMI

Engineer: Buro Happold

QS: Harvey & Co

Creswell Crags is a unique natural gorge landscape on the border of Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire, where evidence of human occupation of the extensive cave network stretches back to pre-glacial times. Landscape Projects worked with the Creswell Heritage Trust to make a museum, linked to the gorge landscape, which opened in late 2009. Landscape Projects led the design of the landscape proposal for the site, working alongside architect OMI, and engineers Buro Happold.

The site lies in the centre of the Creswell Limestone Heritage Area and is designated as a site of Specific Scientific Interest for its geological and paleontological significance. The crags are also a Scheduled Ancient monument and a potential UK World Heritage site.

The site has a fascinating history; cave art and etched bones provide evidence which shows that caves in the cliff face were occupied by Neolithic man during the last interglacial period. Later it became part of Sherwood Forest and then in the 18th century, part of the Welbeck estate, where the gorge lake was formed and integrated into a picturesque landscaped parkland. The gorge fell into disrepair as the surrounding area was industrialised, only to be rescued the Creswell Heritage Trust, who are responsible for the restoration of the gorge landscape, and the interpretation of the fascinating story of the cliffs, caves, their wildlife and their unique human history.

Landscape Projects was commissioned by Creswell Heritage Trust to assist their team of consultants in planning a new museum and visitor centre along with access to the gorge. The project involved our practice in developing a thorough understanding of the significance of the site, its current condition, and where changes would impact the heritage value of the gorge. This process helped to inform the bid made to Heritage Lottery fund, which was ultimately successful.

The design for the new landscape associated with the museum, and the closure and transformation of a B road, which ran through the gorge, into a new habitat area, offering protection for the ancient woodlands on the cliffs above, within such an historic setting required great sensitivity and care. Through the design of a series of legible spaces, an exciting, yet easily managed educational landscape was created. This integrated the infrastructural requirements of the museum into the stunning and important gorge landscape.

Due to the sensitivity of the landscape and habitats Landscape Projects involved English Nature, The Environment Agency and Derbyshire Wildlife Trust within the design phase to ensure that all were able to influence the scheme. Landscape Projects prepared management and maintenance documents for the landscape for Creswell Heritage Trust. The woodland was enhanced by the insertion of a native tree and shrub species and the correct management practices enforced.