Alex Coleman BA(Hons) DipArch (Kingston)
Roberto Scalzullo ARB RIBA

Wildlife Hide, RHS Garden Wisley, Woking (2009)

The proposed development is for the construction of a wildlife hide to commemorate the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch in its 30th year, an event that has in this time grown into the world’s biggest survey of garden birds.  The functional requirements of the hide are straightforward, it’s purpose being to offer observers closer views of wildlife than could be achieved in the open without causing disturbance whilst also offering protection from the weather in the process.

The site of the proposed development is located on the Wildlife Embankment at the Royal Horticultural Society’s garden at Wisley.  It occupies a plot with a frontage of about 6 metres to the eastern bank of the River Wey. The western bank of the River Wey forms the boundary with the ‘The Wisley’ private golf club.  To the rear of the site is the Royal Horticultural Society’s garden and to the north is Wisley Village, predominantly owned by the Royal Horticultural Society.  Meeting with a fundamental requirement of wildlife hide design, both levels will provide a wide angle of view, unobscured by the building structure or tall vegetation immediately in front of the hide, side windows and a reasonable vertical angle of view.  The hide is well orientated.  During the early hours when it is expected to be most heavily used, the sun will be rising in the east behind the structure so there will be no silhouetting of birds created by strong backlit conditions at this, the most important time of the day for birdwatchers.  As the sun sets and particularly in winter when the angle of the sun in the sky is low, we believe that the dense area of trees in front of the hide and on the opposite bank will help prevent this silhouetting from becoming more of a problem.

Wildlife Hide


Wildlife Hide

The wildlife hide is to be a two-storey structure which will be accessible from the bank at garden level.  The upper level will be used by groups and parties of school children on organised trips and will fully provide for disabled access while the lower level will be reserved for enthusiasts and societies.

Wildlife Hide

The structure is to be weatherproof and wind-firm and will be sited in a position safe from flooding.  The construction is to take the form of a timber frame clad in 6” horizontal feather-edge timber cladding on ½” plywood sheathing.  Adequate eaves and non-drip detailing will prevent rain blowing on to camera and binocular lenses. Access to the lower level will be via a straight flight of timber stairs constructed off the back wall of the structure. 

Throughout the interior, adequate headroom never less than 2.1m is provided for both standing and seated observers.  There is additional bench seating at the rear of the hide for waiting observers and an adequate circulation zone down the middle.  The floors are designed so as to provide as solid a platform as possible keeping vibration and shaking of tripods and other equipment to a minimum as people enter and circulate within the hide.  Regulating the light level and its effects within the interior will be critical. 

The internal wall surfaces are to have no lining but will be treated in such a way as to maintain a fairly dark interior, the primary concern being to prevent wildlife from being startled by any movement within.  That said, notice boards, species charts and maps on the walls will need to be adequately lit for reading.  The upper level will have viewing slots glazed with anti-glare low reflectivity glass whereas the viewing slots on the lower level will have no glazing. 

The interior layout and furniture has been designed so as to demonstrate well-considered ergonomics with the correct relationship between height of seating (where it is fixed), windows and shelf support.  This also allows for use by a range of users including children, elderly and ambulant disabled, both standing and seated.  On the upper level where the hide will be accessible for wheelchair users, suitable viewing points have been created.  The leaning shelf is at a suitable height and is also sufficiently deep to allow for extra knee room with adequate manoeuvring space for a wheelchair.  Gaps have been provided in the bench seating to allow for easy access and minimum disruption to other users.  Adequate lockable storage for CCTV equipment, folding additional chairs, etc. has been provided within the hide.  A fire exit on the lower level allows for escape to a place of safety in the event of an emergency.

Wildlife Hide

Wildlife Hide





We believe that the proposed scheme will receive adequate daylight and sunlight. Furthermore, the daylight and sunlight available to neighbouring properties is also totally unaffected.  The wildlife hide will be barely visible from the Wisley Golf Club on the opposite bank and only the upper level will be visible from the gardens.  While detailed design will be considered as part of an application for Building Regulations approval at a later stage, it is intended that the scheme will allow all potential users, no matter what their disability, age, race or sex, to be able to enter the site, move around the area and enter the building and use the facilities.  The spaces are logical and straightforward to use.  The development provides adequate access for the emergency services and there are sufficient escape routes provided.  The bank to the rear of the building provides adequate area for congregation and disabled refuge points in the event of an emergency.





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Alex Coleman Associates

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  • 40 Copse Edge Avenue
  • Epsom, Surrey
  • KT17 4HS
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Wildlife Hide - RHS Garden Wisley - Woking - Surrey - timber cladding - bird hide - Wey Embankment - Royal Horticultural Society - RSPB - architectural design Wisley - architectural design Woking