The newly opened Brockholes Nature Reserve is located in a flooded gravel pit and has a series of beautiful floating buildings as its visitor centre. Designed by Adam Kahn Architects, it is a floating eco-village.
Since it's located just off a busy highway, there is even a green (!) gas station located at the entrance with lavatories flushed with lake water. What a great way to entice in a driver.
The 261-acre site includes an ancient woodland, a hay meadow, wetlands, two lakes and is located on a river. It was developed by the Wildlife Trust for Lancashire, Manchester and North Merseyside. In a brilliant stroke, the site was identified in 1992 by the Trust as a possible site when it was still a working quarry. "To start with, we were thinking in terms of a straightforward nature reserve to join the 45 or so which we administer," says the director, "but the fact that the motorway runs right past the site gave us the confidence to go for something much bigger."
Named after badger colonies historically associated with the soft, sandy soil, the Trust has been working almost ten years to regenerate the habitat and wetlands and grasslands which are a major breeding site for over 53 species of bird, and some of the best wildlife features in the area.
But its aim is to attract the human species which is housed in three big neighbouring cities (Manchester, Leeds and Liverpool) and make them come out to the great outdoors. Most fly by on the highway en route to the popular Lake District. There is a gift shop, local food store and a restaurant. There are walks by the river and walking trails of varying difficulty.
The series of floating buildings were designed by Adam Kahn Architects, The buildings and open spaces form a village-like cluster, floating on a large pontoon. The concrete raft is made buoyant by hollow chambers and held down to stop it drifting across the lake. The area is prone to flooding so it can rise up and down in the water as the levels change. "People have been in denial about flood risk," says the building's architect, Adam Khan.
The architect worked with natural materials. The high steep roofs are clad with rough tiles made out of tree stumps, which would otherwise be burned as waste. Gutters are in copper (long-life, recyclable), and the oak roofs change colour with the weather. Inside the cafe is insulated with newspaper and smells like a hay barn in the rain. The project has already achieved the new and highest rating of sustainability - BREAAM 'Outstanding' at the interim stage.