The Bee House at Milton Park Nears Completion!

By Kasia Hallett, Landscape Technician and Veronica Flemming, Associate Landscape Architect

The transformation of the landscape surrounding the Bee House; Oxfordshire’s largest collaborative workspace and the new headquarters for MEPC, is nearing completion and we are thrilled with the results!

From day one, sustainability has been at the heart of this development with the repurposing of the original building and some of the existing paving (substantially saving on embodied carbon) to create a biodiverse landscape which prioritises walking and cycling over car usage.

Greening the grey…

The former carpark around the Park Drive frontage has been replaced by a species-rich augmented wildflower meadow from Pictorial Meadows. This mixture of native and specifically selected non-native plants will provide an early source of pollen for various insects and seed-heads for birds to feed on in the autumn.

The newly installed meadow should start flowering soon, and we look forward to seeing it in full bloom later this year. The colour combinations will be changing almost weekly which will make for a spectacular show for occupants and visitors to enjoy throughout the year. To capture how it changes throughout the year, we will be posting regular updates, so do follow us on Instagram or Twitter

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… and the blue

A series of planted Bioretention Swales have been positioned at the entrance to the building. Working as part of a sustainable urban drainage system (SUDs); these engineered planting beds will capture rainwater runoff from hard surfaces and parts of the building roof, before discharging it into the adjacent water course. The bioretention swales help to provide a biodiverse and inviting space to the entrance and café area, whilst retaining and cleaning the water, assisting in reducing flooding downstream. These can provide serious gains for the environment, in the face of a changing climate.

Additionally, use of an innovative thick gravel mulch layer across the bioretention swales helps to retain moisture within the planting beds and therefore reduces the need for both watering and weeding. The plant palette itself has been chosen with sustainability in mind; working closely with Boningale Nursery and their Floratopia range; a variety of drought-resistant species have been selected to reduce the need for extensive watering while ensuring that they will support a wide range of our native wildlife.

To increase biodiversity, the existing watercourse, which was previously screened by parking, has now been visually opened up and made into an attractive feature enhanced with native marginal planting.

By studying the physiology of stress tolerant plant communities from around the world, we have selected a high-performance range of species that will thrive and develop in deep gravel substrate to minimise weed invasion.”

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The Bee House becomes a home for…

…. bees!

Designing a bespoke bee hibernacula or bug hotel, adjacent to the planted bioretention swales provides signage for humans and homes for our solitary bees, i.e. mason bees or mining bees, as well as lacewings and many other beneficial insects. Creating such habitats for pollinating insects is now more important than ever before and we are committed to benefiting wildlife by clever and innovative designs within our urban landscapes.

To find out more about the importance of pollinating insects and the different ways we can support them please visit The Wildlife Trusts and RSPB websites.

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…. and people!

We also wanted to make it a home away from home for occupiers, creating inviting outdoor spaces for everyone.

The bee theme continues, as expressed in the choice of the finish colour for the new street furniture; Honey Yellow! Supplied by Vestre, one of Scandinavia’ leading manufacturers of sustainable furniture. These contemporary seats are cheerful, inviting and perfectly compliment the modern look of the new headquarters of MEPC at Milton Park.