The origins of College gardens were as places for thinking and quiet reflection and the experience of lockdown has underlined once again the importance of outdoor urban spaces for our mental health and wellbeing. The gardens on the main site are a much valued resource for the whole College community as a place for quiet reflection and meetings with friends and colleagues but it is a long time since the other side of Trumpington Street had a garden to rival that of the Master’s Lodge as a place of calm and reflective thinking. With that in mind, we have invited garden designer Tom Hoblyn to work with us to transform the spaces around Cosin Court into a series of accessible, inviting gardens with a particular focus on health and wellbeing.
Our hope is that the garden will set a new benchmark of how College courtyards should be: accessible, sustainable with emphasis on providing a safe space that instils a sense of mental well-being. The thread of sustainability will run through the entire design process including construction techniques, water storage and low maintenance planting thereby setting a precedent for the long-term sustainability of college gardens. Pioneering techniques such as rainwater harvesting and natural filtration will make the scheme environmentally sustainable, future proofing it against further climatic instability. The visual impact of bike and bin storage will be minimised by ‘greening’ enclosures and storage areas with a variety of climbing plants while emergency and service vehicles will still have year round access. The plan also includes providing an alternative ‘step free’ entrance to the Master’s Lodge by means of a meandering path between shrubs and flowering trees.
The dominant feature at the heart of Cosin Court will be a water feature inspired by Hobson’s Conduit, the brainchild of Andrew Perne, which runs along the front of the College bringing fresh water into Cambridge since 1574. As well as providing a calming focus to the court, it will purify the captured rainwater and irrigate the planting. A pergola closes the fourth side of the court and creates a cloister-like feel, reminiscent of a traditional College garden and defines the threshold between the formality of the Cosin Courtyard Garden to a more organic glade - a space that aims to provide a contrast to inner city living. This garden will be an informal space where plants blend with paths, and bulbs, grasses, random trees and solitaire shrubs all help to create its special and intimate character. Lush vegetation, trees and shrubs, play an important role in mental health and wellbeing and will be a significant feature of the whole design, providing residents with a peaceful garden at the centre of their accommodation. The planting is designed to be highly attractive to wildlife. Being so close to Coe Fen and the Botanic Gardens, we hope that fauna will be drawn to Cosin Court whether by the fen-inspired reed beds and rainwater-fed water feature or by the habitat-friendly nature of the planting.
If you would like to support the development of the gardens around Cosin Court or any other project in the garden the Development Director will be delighted to put you in touch with the Garden Steward.