Retracing London’s Drovers Roads

Posted on Posted in Built environment, Work

We worked with the architect and landscape designer, Howard Miller, to develop the background research and community activities for the Landscape Institute, Mayor of London and Garden Museum’s ‘A High Line for London’ green infrastructure competition.

Our entry, ‘Retracing London’s Drovers Roads,’ included a pattern book of design components that could be used to retrace the capital’s ancient network of drover’s roads that were used to move livestock on foot from pasture to market in order to create:

Landscapes of living heritage: that playfully recall the route’s previous use and serve as a reminder that London’s food supply is as reliant on its networks now as it was then. Certain elements are inspired by drover folk-lore: Rowan trees were considered lucky.

Spaces for slow activities: drovers traveled slowly along their routes to keep their cattle healthy; people need slow places too; to read, explore, graze and play. We propose permeable paving with hoof shaped holes to allow soak-away drainage. The plodding footsteps set the pedestrian tone for this green route.

Green systems put to work: we propose to fuse hard and soft landscape elements that are traditionally separated: trees double as way-finding devices; paving is both a hard walking surface and a growing medium. Plant species are selected for biodiversity, trample resistance and to align with the concept; many of the plants have seeds that are transferred by animals.

The design was shortlisted, and has been exhibited at the Garden Museum and City Hall, and is featured on a specially commissioned website New London Landscape.

Shortwork also developed a community tour around the design concept, featuring seed bombing, historical readings and a visit to the Hackney City Farm at the Chelsea Fringe Festival and Open House London.