The first ‘pocket park’ at Wirral Waters has been completed. Situated on the North Bank, it is the first of a number of public parks that will be created at the dockland site between Wallasey and Birkenhead.
The park, designed by local landscaping firm BCA Landscape (BCAL), draws inspiration for its design from the local dockland environment and utilises materials such as railway lines and cobbles found buried on the site. Even in the children’s play area, the influence of the site’s industrial heritage can be seen.
birkenhead.news spoke to the team from BCA Landscape about the design process and how they envisage that the park will be used.
Shivani Gunawardana, Assistant Landscape Architect at BCAL told us, “From the get-go, there was quite a lot for us to work with because there’s a lot of historical information out there and there’s a lot of heritage tied to this site.
“There were grain warehouses, dock cranes and diesel trains [formerly on the site.] It started to come together like a story”, Shivani continued. The team referenced historical images for their design inspiration. For example, the park benches are painted with a yellow and black chevron pattern, inspired by the same pattern painted on the front of railway shunters that used to be seen working all over the site.
“We were quite lucky with all the materials we had on-site as well.”, Shivani said. The team managed to find some rail tracks that they were able to reuse and position them leading up to the shunter-inspired park benches giving the impression that they were on the tracks.
Craig Mitchell, Landscape Architect at BCAL said, “When we first came on the site, it was a blank slate. It previously had an industrial past to it, but due to remediation [preparation groundworks], it was a blank canvas. It was almost like trying to peel back the layers of history to try and explore what was here in the past as a part of the heritage.
“And then during the land remediation, that’s when we started to find what was buried here,” Craig continued. “The coping stones were part of an infilled dock. The rail links were on another part of the site.”
Shivani added that the cobbles that are used throughout the park were “all over the place! Piles of them everywhere! It was very handy when we ran out [of cobbles,] we just walked down a bit and got some more.”
Michael O’Connor is Director of BCAL said that the park wasn’t simply referencing the past, “This is a park for the 22nd century as well, because of the way we’ve done it with sustainable, found materials. There’s also quite a strong narrative about the water management and the ‘sustainable urban drainage system’ (SuDS) that you can’t really see, but it’s all there!” This water management system keeps rainwater on-site via a clever watering system for the planted out beds, meaning that none of the run-off rainwater will find its way into the normal drainage system network.
Reminding us that parks design isn’t just about repurposing existing materials and clever engineering, Michael goes on to say, “It’s a really bright, vibrant, modern, new park for the new community and neighbourhood and the fact that it’s complete before the houses is fantastic because quite often these things get left – promised at planning and then not delivered – but here’s one that has been delivered before the houses are even built!”
Another key driver for the landscaping team was accessibility for all. Craig explained, “We spent a lot of time researching accessible play. Play is obviously important for communities, families, and making sure that everyone is included. We have also included wheelchair accessible play, which is quite often missed out on in schemes such as this.”
Concluding, Michael said, “We always say we like to try and create spaces that are cherished.”
Work is currently progressing on a dockside public pathway. The pathway will lead from Tower Road, along the side of the East Float passing the pocket park and come out at Duke Street. It is easy to see that this public pocket park and pathway will be well-used by not only the future residents who will live at Wirral Waters, but also by the wider community from across Wirral.
Main image credit: Matt Goodfellow. BCAL team image: www.fotopiaimages.com