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In our last blog we were excited to share with you that, following a terrific Tiny House project initiated by our Craft Revolution programme, students from the School of Art, Design and Architecture at the University of Plymouth would be designing and constructing a bird hide for people’s enjoyment in Queen’s Marsh. Now we’re even more excited to be able to share the winning design with you.

We set the students quite a challenging design brief for the project. They had to:

– Design a functional bird hide, involving a lot of specific criteria, which enhances everyone’s opportunities to enjoy wildlife on the estate
– Provide people with the very best view over the marsh, taking into account factors such as the way light reflects off the surface of the ponds and maintaining the right to privacy of nearby residents
– Propose a sustainable construction using local materials which aesthetically compliments the estate context and design heritage

Or as Martyn, our new development director put it: the top priority was functionality, followed by making something for Dartington which is ‘unique and extraordinary’.

When it came to picking the winning design it was an amazing experience for the Dartington team as we arrived at the University of Plymouth to find seventeen very different bird hides pinned up on the wall.  What was so touching wasn’t just the amount of work that had clearly been done, but the level of care and consideration to the needs of the project.

The winner was the Soundscape Bird Hide, which embraced not just the importance of a good view for a hide but also the opportunity to listen to the birds – incorporated into the design via a visual representataion of a kingfishers call.

Winning Soundscape bird hide design for Queens Marsh

The winning Soundscape bird hide design for Queens Marsh


Importantly, the design fulfilled all the criteria we’d set out in the brief. It functions well as a hide accessible to as many people as possible, it protects the privacy of nearby dwellings and they’d clearly paid attention to the species of timber available from the Dartington woods which could be incorporated into the structure.

Beyond that, it told a story of the place and experience in a simple but nonetheless well thought-out way.

In their presentation the team told us how, when talking to the group of volunteers, staff and residents, one little snippet had just captivated their imaginations. This came courtesy of Alan (whose fantastic pictures of kingfishers on the estate many of you may have seen). He shared what’s it’s like to sit on a quiet, cold, river bank until a moment of sound leads your eyes to that brilliant flash of colour – and suddenly you’re in a different world; a different experience.

They took this notion and developed a visual representation of the sound of a kingfisher, contouring the hide to match the sound shape of the call. They also designed the structure of the hide to capture sound from the surrounding environment. We just fell in love with that background story and the desire to bring that experience to more people.

The Soundscape Bird Hide design team

The Soundscape Bird Hide design team


We felt the design highlights one of Dartington’s greatest assets. The project already combined conservation with learning, but this design brings in the musicality of life at Dartington as well – and it’s having all these things, and more, together which makes Dartington special to so many people.  We didn’t think a bird hide could tell that story but we’re so glad we were wrong.

Harriet Bell (previously food & farming manager at Dartington Hall)

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