The Story of Gardening and Tree Top Walkway

  • ©
  • ©
  • ©
  • ©
  • ©
  • ©
  • ©
  • ©
  • ©
  • ©

Application Type

Civic Trust Awards

Level of Award

Highly Commended


South West

Local Authority Area

South Somerset

Information about this scheme

The Story of Gardening museum is located on the edge of a small woodland area within the wider visitor attraction at The Newt in Somerset. The museum is set underground with a long-glazed elevation opening onto the adjacent woodland. The roof is grassed and is inhabited by the estate deer herd. The museum has as low a visual impact as possible as one approaches it. The approach is dramatic.  The woodland floor descends from the museum forming a dell at a lower level. This topography provides the setting for a tree-top walkway “The Viper”, which starts its journey at the museum roof level and winds its way through the trees. Visitors approach it at the northern end of the museum and walk through the tree canopies towards the entrance. As one weaves through the trees, immersed in the flora and fauna of the woodland, views of the museum are glimpsed at canopy level. The drama of arrival at The Story of Gardening is set up by the juxtaposition of a civic public space which is located in a secluded woodland setting. On arrival at the entrance, the walkway splays out to form a terrace and the museum reveals itself.  Full height glazing to the front elevation is minimal and elegant. During the day-time the woodland is reflected in the glazing. 5m high glazed sliding doors open to present the visitor reception and cafe. The permanent exhibition offers the opportunity to engage in a deeper exploration of the central theme of the estate, the garden. All the while, whilst enjoying the exhibition and the museum, visitors can look back outside through the glazed elevation to the woodland right outside. The interior of the museum is a simple in-situ concrete shell. Bathrooms and cafe areas display a continental style civicness through the use of moulded ceramic tiles. This is complemented by a playfulness in metal coat pegs which are handcrafted by local blacksmiths in a natural waxed finish to the theme of garden tools, flowers and insects. The southern wall of the museum, and the base to the glazed elevation are expressed inside and outside by the use of local Hadspen stone aggregate concrete, used elsewhere on the Estate and grounds the museum in its context. The surprise on finding a civic building in a historic landscape on the edge of an established woodland is something all visitors can enjoy and delight in.


Quantity Surveyor


Structural Engineer

Hydrock Engineering

Services Engineer

E3 Consulting Engineers


Stonewood Design


The Newt in Somerset

Civil Engineers

Hydrock Engineering

Cost Consultant

Synergy Construction and Property Consultants

Main Contractor

Beard Construction

Viper Architect

Mark Thomas Architects

Viper Engineer

Henry Fagan and Partners, Consulting Structural and Civil Engineers

Planning Consultant

AZ Urban Studio, Planning and Development Consultants

Glazing Consultant

GL&SS Consulting Engineers

Exhibition Designer

Kossmann de Jong

Primary Use Class

Class D1e - Museums