The site and its potential
In the mid-twentieth century Ralph Dutton reinstated Hinton Ampner’s Georgian mansion. He surrounded it with formal gardens, parkland and designed farmland extending over 600ha. It is one of the finest landscapes of its type and era and has been consistently underrated. Historical features include an Anglo-Saxon church, six acres of the ruins of an Elizabethan house, farmstead and gardens, veteran trees and the remains of open field cultivation.
Before the pandemic, the National Trust planned to improve car parking, access, circulation, catering and other visitor facilities, together with interpretation. Substantial increases in semi-natural habitats were also intended. We were asked to prepare a conservation plan and vision for the whole site, drawing on Dutton’s writings, photographs and planting (including experimental forestry).
- Making full use of the estate - At the time, the main visitor attractions and facilities were restricted to the land around the historical core at the northern edge of the site. There was poor access to most of the estate, but many well-screened sites and potential new routes. Through landscape analysis and an understanding of operational, nature conservation and heritage constraints, realistic and accessible new locations for aerial walkways, adventure play and other activities were identified, together with walking and cycling routes taking in most of the estate.
- Sustainable transport - The property is close to Winchester with good bus services and it was possible to develop a sustainable transport strategy.
- Car parking - A sieve analysis identified the ‘least bad‘ site for a new high-density car park which was screened by landform and vegetation.
- New facilities - Locations for new visitor reception, catering, retail, plant retail and pay barriers were found within the area of high landscape and historical significance around the mansion.
- New uses for estate buildings - New uses were proposed for redundant buildings at the estate centre. They were also found for outlying buildings, such as the conversion of field barns to shelters and bicycle hire points.
- Safeguarding heritage features - Cultivation damage to earthworks and barrow groups was investigated and the requirements for scrub control set out.
- Long-term conservation of the wider estate landscape - Replacement of short-lived species was required, together with thinning of copses to give the open structure originally intended. A programme for the development of new wood pasture that would respect the original design intentions and retain key views was also prepared.
- Sustainable gardens - Detailed advice was provided on maintaining the spirit and character of the gardens from the analysis of historical photographs. Improved access and management of pinch points were identified. Guidelines for the long-term replacement of ageing shrubs with taxa more resilient to climate change and disease were prepared.
1. The Georgian mansion that was reinstated in the mid-twentieth century is the final phase in a succession of estate centres that stretches back to the early medieval period
2. Large-scale planting in the 1920s – 1950s has created parkland landscape where elements of boundary banks, strip fields and commons and ancient woodlands can be traced
3-5. Clear basic guidelines for formal garden management were prepared