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Heritage Landscaping with Style

This garden was completed with all natural and locally sourced materials to honour the local heritage.

The Brief

Our project in Swanage presented a great opportunity to feature locally sourced materials in an area of outstanding historical beauty.

The garden had become overgrown and required drastic measures to address issues regarding levels, usable space and unmanaged planting. The side access to the garden was unusable and somewhat dangerous. The grassed land to the west of the site was mounded and was unusable as a lawn space.

Despite the various issues regarding the gardens existing layout, the site held a large amount of potential. Historical rooftops to the east of the site created a picturesque view looking outward. To the west, a large historical church towered above the village.

The Design

Our objectives during the design process were simple. Re-establish levels and reclaim usable space.

Work in progress

Our first major challenge was to reclaim the land to the west. A strategy was devised to invert the current layout and convert the planted space into lawn and the mounded lawn into a terraced planting area. By creating a retaining wall to secure a single level across the top of the garden, we reclaimed usable space in which we created a seating area looking out over the historical rooftops surrounding the property. The wall was constructed using Dorset oak sleepers and gave a very naturalistic feel to the garden.
Our second strategy was to convert the eastern part of the site from formal beds to a large lawn space. in creating the retaining wall, we maximized the lowest tiers usable space and completely transformed the garden. A seating platform was created designed to look west towards the historic church and connect with the local landmark.
To strengthen the connection to the surrounding context, we felt that it was important to mimic materials found within the surrounding context and source local materials to give a sense of place to the site. Purbeck stone was used within the designs seating platforms to connect with the materials used in the houses’ construction and neighbouring buildings. Existing Purbeck dry stone walls were restored to their former glory. Purbeck chippings were used to form pathways connecting the platforms and strengthening the material connection.
Having created to sun platforms, we decided to create a shaded seating area to the south of the site. We designed a naturalistic pergola created using hand picked Dorset Cedar. The pergola was designed to have climbing jasmine around the outside to add fragrance and flowers to a shaded seating area.
The last feature added to the garden was a bespoke water feature created using a large Purbeck boulder. This element was added to the lower eastern platform to give the tranquil sound of running water and act as a focal point on the site.


The sites planting was broken up into four zones. Sun, Shade, Woodland and Sweep.
The woodland planting was situated at the southern shaded area of the site. Atmospheric ferns, Liriope and Hellebors were among some of the planting introduced within this area, to bring colour into an area which preciously lacked colour and definition.
The sun planting was designed to give colour and height around the two respective sun platforms Culinary herbs were also introduced into the eastern border to be used by the client.
A sweep of grasses and flowing plants were added onto the central border that surrounds the lawn. This was designed to flow with the wind and formalise the edge of the space.
Shaded planting was added at the northern side of the site as the house blocked the majority of light in the garden.
Lastly, to connect with the sites local context, Virginia Creepers were added to flow down the sleeper wall and add a bit of atmosphere to the garden. A neighbouring pub has Virginia creepers completely covering the building, so we felt I would add to the design to mirror this gesture.

The end result

This project was challenging but rewarding in that our client now has a usable and safe garden that makes good use of previously unusable space and connects to its local surroundings.


Whilst designing, we like to give context to a garden and give a strong sense of place. Dorset is an incredibly beautiful part of the United Kingdom, and many of its local sites hold a lot of history. A good use of materials and design intentions can really unlock a gardens potential and link it to its setting.