Food and Farming blog: New bird hide design is a winner!

Food and Farming blog: New bird hide design is a winner!

Harriet Bell

Harriet Bell is Community Resilience (Food & Farming) Manager, helping Dartington to explore new ways to feed ourselves sustainably.

Previously, she worked at West Town Farm, an organic mixed farm enterprise on the outskirts of Exeter, and 10:10, an organisation that encourages schools and businesses to cut carbon emissions. More blogs from Harriet

Find out more about our Queen’s Marsh restoration project here ⇒

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Your feedback

If you’d like to comment on the hide as part of the planning application process you can do so here on the South Hams website ⇒

Dartington’s own feedback window, in which we invited you to share your thoughts on the proposed new location of the bird hide (see below), has now closed – thanks to everyone who took part.

Final results:

No 17{79560583362c74f5fdd4dfc2a8c00f056dfa59ea50e6cb7c86d5030cf0398bdd}
No feelings either way 9{79560583362c74f5fdd4dfc2a8c00f056dfa59ea50e6cb7c86d5030cf0398bdd}
Yes 74{79560583362c74f5fdd4dfc2a8c00f056dfa59ea50e6cb7c86d5030cf0398bdd}


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

View the winning design in full (.pdf, 0.8MB) ⇓

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.

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.

The Soundscape Bird Hide design team

The Soundscape Bird Hide design team

There is one element we would like your input on however. In the original feasibility study and project plan the bird hide has always been shown as being adjacent to the bike path on the edge of the field.

In order to deliver on the brief, giving people the very best view and protecting the privacy of local properties, the new plan is to site the hide in Queen’s Marsh, across the Lower Drive from the existing board walk in Berryman’s Marsh.  This enables people to see the whole length of the field, taking in both ponds, the seven scrapes and the Dartington Hills woodland. It also means people aren’t looking directly at the Lodge House and newly developed Bloor Homes site, so it shows greater respect for their privacy.

We feel this is the best situation for it but we didn’t want to change the location without giving people the opportunity to feed back to us – so please, use the form below to tell us if you’re ok, or not, with this change of location – and any other comments you wish to make about the bird hide.


The bird hide location will be moving from the red dot (L) to the blue dot (R)
The bird hide’s proposed location will be the blue dot (R), instead of the red dot (L)

The feedback window has now closed

Thanks to everyone who took the time to share their thoughts.

Final results:

No 17{79560583362c74f5fdd4dfc2a8c00f056dfa59ea50e6cb7c86d5030cf0398bdd}
No feelings either way 9{79560583362c74f5fdd4dfc2a8c00f056dfa59ea50e6cb7c86d5030cf0398bdd}
Yes 74{79560583362c74f5fdd4dfc2a8c00f056dfa59ea50e6cb7c86d5030cf0398bdd}

If you’d like to comment on the hide as part of the planning application process you can do so here on the South Hams website ⇒


Posted on

October 3, 2017


  1. lily

    Is there any access routes a long the dartington estate that a mobility scooter could use? or even to access the hide. Many disabled people rely on a car to get their scooter c ar sooters that break down or manual wheelchair nearer to be able to set up to navigate to help them keep in touch with wildlife,

    • Harriet

      Hi Lily,

      There are routes yes, around our gardens and around our newly restored Deer Park Wall, you can even book a tramper. If you have any questions about this please call our visitor center on 01803 847514.

      It’s not currently possible to go in the hide in its current location as we were not given planning permission for its current site and hence were unable to take down a small segment of the curb as previously planned but when it’s relocated access will be addressed as the hide was designed to be wheelchair accessible.

      There is a small area for parking nearby. It’s not currently restricted but we are contemplating whether it needs to be specifically to ensure disabled parking provision adjacent to the bird hide, so we’d like to hear back from you if you do visit about whether you were able to park there.

      In the meantime there is an “Access for all” path which runs alongside the marsh, you can find more information here

      I hope that helps you plan your visit and you have an enjoyable time on the estate.

  2. Alan Mollet

    Yup I’m for plan B

  3. Harriet

    Thank you so much to everyone who has responded to the survey so far. Responses have pretty much been overwhelming positive about the new location but people have raised a few things which concern them and as the survey was anonymous, we didn’t take details to respond directly, we thought we’d just share are awareness or thinking about these issues here.

    – Several people were concerned about the impact of the new suggested location as being in the middle of an open view. This was very much something we were aware of when debating the location internally, and we didn’t necessarily all agree, so we do appreciate where you’re coming from. Ultimately we felt that putting the hide here would provide people with a better place to enjoy that view from than is currently on offer along the pavement of the lower drive. We would also highlight that the view will change as part of the overall Queen’s Marsh project. If you look at the project plan available on other pages ( as part of the restoration work we’ll be planting a new area of wet woodland between the suggested bird hide location and the Bidwell Brook. So for the first few years the hide may be quite prominent but hopefully it will be there for the next 15 to 20 years and the woodland will start to grow up around it (not in front of it) during that time.

    – There was concern about the safety of having access to the hide on a side of the road with no pavement. Before settling on this new location our Health and Safety Advisor visited the site and evaluated the proposed location. It was felt that the location provided sufficiently open views of the road on either side to enable people to cross safely, this is then supported by the 20mph speed limit along that road and we will look at whether additional road markings are necessary.

    – People wanted to know if the hide had been designed with wheel chair access in mind, yes it has, that was part of the original design brief, and also if it was going to be possible for provision of a disabled parking space to be made available nearby. We do think about the issue of parking in this location. It currently works on an informal basis but this can lead to parked vehicles blocking access along the lower drive. We don’t have existing plans to create set parking in this area but they may develop in future and obviously we would want to cater to disabled visitors so please do keep us updated if parking in that area is not feasible under current arrangements.

    – Concern was raised about the potential for the hide to be vandalised or occupied by rough sleepers. This is something that was considered in the design brief and students had the opportunity to meet and talk to the Dartington security team about some of the challenges we can face as part of their initial research. Ultimately there is only so much we can do and it may still be vandalised anyway but the open nature of this design and locating it immediately off the lower driveway make it very easy for our security team to check on it.

    – It was suggested that the hide ought to be located further away from the existing residential property. We’ve obviously been speaking regularly to those residents about the development of the Queen’s Marsh project and the hide; we didn’t want to proceed in anyway which might negatively impact them. We’re proposing the new location because, whilst it might mean the hide is physically nearer the existing property, the windows are facing away from it thereby protecting their privacy. The first hide location would have windows facing towards the property and we felt that was more problematic.


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