Clever landscaping and HS2

Sam Weaver is a Media and Communications intern at the National Trust. Over the next few months he will be following the politics of preserving our heritage.  

The plans for the controversial high speed rail link between London and Birmingham was given the green light by MP’s last month, which sparked concerns from many conservation and anti-HS2 groups.

However, MPs only voted on the ‘principle’ of the railway and construction does not begin for another three years. Therefore, the final method and route of the railway is still yet to play for.

The National Trust’s biggest concern is grade I listed Hartwell House in Buckinghamshire, as HS2’s planned route passes in close proximity to the property.

The concern

The railway does not plan to destroy any of this irreplaceable heritage property, however it does encroach on the surrounding estate.

It will cut through the corner of the estate removing the important ‘screen’ of trees which isolate the grounds from the busy settlement of Aylesbury. Having a gap in this screen would remove the seclusion that Hartwell has enjoyed since the 17th Century.

The railway would also run across the end of the ‘avenue’ of trees which stretches out in front of the house.


To see the impact of this, we only have to look at the spoilt avenues at Tredegar House in Newport.

Looking at the map below, the M4 strafes across the end of the estate, similar to that of Hartwell and HS2. The motorway is elevated to a significant degree, meaning visitors looking down past the gold-leaf gates and perfectly landscaped avenue will find themselves staring at a wall of concrete.

trdegar house best


The solution

It is worth noting this blog and especially the National Trust does not have a anti-HS2 stance, but if some clever landscaping is utilised, the historic and environment impacts of the railway can be significantly reduced.

The National Trust is currently working to push for a ‘land-bridge’. Essentially, it means that embankments would be built either side of the railway and then a lid placed on top which would be earthed over (click pictures for closer look at the designs).

This would not only hide the railway, but it would mean the visual impacts would be significantly reduced.  Trees and other plants can be placed on top of the land-bridge and would allow wildlife to pass over the line of the railway.

‘Land-bridges’ have been used in the past and quite successfully:

Scotney Castle Landbridge

A21 Lamberhurst June 06 8

National Trust has already succeeded in pushing for a ‘land-bridge’ at Scotney Castle. In the wake of a new dual-carriage by-pass around the village of Lamberhurst, the bridge ensured the integrity of the original west driveway which was incorporated into the estate in 1837-43.

Ecoduct De Woeste Hoeve, Netherlands

Ecoduct De Woeste Hoeve

Primarily for wildlife, this is another successful example of a land-bridge.

For more unusual wildlife bridges, click here.

Samuel Weaver is a Media and Communications intern at the National Trust.

He is a recent History graduate from the University of the West of England. When not selling sausages in a deli, he usually occupies himself by researching and blogging on our nation’s more overlooked heritage. Follow him on twitter @weaversamuel2


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