The Hanwell Park Project


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A key element in understanding the gardens at Hanwell is having an accurate set of plans recording all the main features which in the initial stages at least consist primarily of earthworks. An overall survey of the park was begun in January 2013 at a scale of 1: 400, a slightly awkward scale to work with but one which enables us to fit individual elements of the site onto a manageable sheet of A2 drawing film. The framework for the survey is a series of fixed points established by a combination of GPS and theodolite readings thanks to the good offices of a local company Msurv.

Fixed point

The fixed points start out as simple wooden pegs with a central nail to mark the exact point and hang tape measures onto. Eventually some of these may be converted to more permanent markers possibly set in concrete. Above is fixed point 1.


From then on we adopt a rather more low-tech solution which consists largely in manipulating tape measures. The most common technique is to stretch out a tape between two of the fixed points then measure at right angles to certain key points. This is known as off-setting and is largely done by eye although other methods are available (see below). Alternatively for greater precision or sometimes when awkward trees are in the way triangulation may also be used (see below again.)

planning  Planning
Methods for planning with tape measures (Wass 1992: 67 - 68)

The same planning conventions are used throughout and here is an explanation for anyone not familiar with the wonderful world of hachures....

key       hachure

The first area to be tackled was around the Lake. The environs are marked by a complex series of terraces, especially on the north side and there is also, of course, the great dam to the east. Much of the work was done in freezing temperatures with snow on the ground. We also had to be quite inventive in fixing the position of the island on account of the profusion of trees lining the Lake. Some areas, especially around the north-east corner will be subject to a more detailed plan at a much larger scale later in the project.
One question which is immediatley raised by this is why is the island not in the centre of the Lake? Could it possily have been lined up with some other feature in the garden perhaps to the south?

Lake plan

The natural next step was to examine the land between the rivers, or rather streams in this case, east of the great dam was an area known as Mesopotamia. It proved to be a much more complex undertaking than it first appeared.