Garden site surveying for design development using no preconceived ideas as there is so much space for new original design.

The aim is to let the 'genius of place' speak to the designer as he/she surveys the site so that the new design looks as if it 'belongs' there.

Based on 20 years surveying gardens mostly on my own. All my gardens illustrated on were surveyed this way.

Garden size: All sizes, in the UK and Europe
Smaller gardens require a much more detailed plan.

Each garden size requires a different approach for plotting the survey to get the best information onto a A1 board to scale.

The work was done in all weather conditions including snow.

When starting design for the first time, the best way to learn to know garden sites is to survey them on one's own.

To illustrate this point I have permission to link garden world architect design on Copyright of the American Society of Landscape Architects. See the 54 photographs on the Oehme van Sweden page. For example "Darien, CT" Double click on the photograph to see the complete site. The design relates to the site using all its natural features. To achieve this the Landscape Architect has learnt to 'read' the site, so he can imagine it off the survey when he is designing in the drawing office studio. No amount of photographs can substitute the visual images gained whilst walking the site. Notice all the garden examples are different with no apparent style. Trying to devlope a style can be destructive to the imagination like painting by numbers.

There is no guarantee as to what the weather will do when the survey has started and sometimes the distance to the site is well over 150 miles. One can't pack up and return another day or so to complete in the dry. This requires water proofed drawing equipment and drawing paper, as tracing paper collapses in the rain.

Access to the site
On one occasion when I arrived to do the survey the clients were out, but I had permission to proceed without them. The problem was they had left a 3 year old 17 hand gelding horse in the field I was to survey, and when I set up the equipment including tapes and drawing board it started to get excited and rushed around. Not good for my concentration or my equipment.

As the site was bounded by a road on one side, and fields without stock. I climbed over the fence and completed the survey by using the fence and hedge lines with the use of range poles to set out angles off the fence into the adjacent fields, hedge, and road lines and back sights to measured points marked on plan as they became fixed. Plus I was able to take theodolite/dumpy levels around the fence line after I had completed the measurements. (From these levels on another day I later took Temporary Bench Mark T.B.M. level increments in the field without the horse in it).

Using the bound line is useful in many ways to avoid obstacles like clumps of dense impenetrable vegetation, and one is allowed by law to access the other fence side without the neighbouring owner's permission as the clients have right of access to the other side of their bound.

Range Poles
Good trade standard Range Poles with sharp points are invaluable for many uses whilst surveying. They can be used to set up triangulation points and off these define the bound positions with exact measured distances between poles. When setting out on plan the poles are numbered in place for future reference. Similar use for tree positions, and as two poles set a metre apart for the sight line similar to a rifle sight sighting the two poles as one to keep a straight line whilst walking backwards to maintain the overall straight line. 'Straight lines don't lie'. To be able to prove accuracy is useful. To get one triangulation point position from say a house wall corner, using the wall face angle to set the line run position will aid in this. Lines can be extended by triangulation from this base line with back sight measurements to fix the line end position (or part line section) in relationship to the proved existing measurements.

If the house has been used to line up distant objects the line can still be maintained on the same line course with two poles set 1m apart to mark the house position if obscured (by rising ground) to keep the straight line right out to the bound to determine the bound position on that line. The two poles replacing the actual view of the house. Once plotted on plan numbered poles can be moved to extend the site line for new ground line area.

Right angles off the drawn line on plan can be set up to determine tree positions etc using the Range Poles to extend the true measured site area.

When setting out the house show the ground floor windows and doors also the door open position. The height of the window off the ground to sill. Show DPC level 150mm off ground if the house has one.

Before plotting on the board always start the survey from the house and measure out to the bounds North, East, South, and West to fit the full site onto the board including the house dimension to an appropriate scale. Starting the survey all these measurements are taken again from different angles as required.

Two crossed Range Poles are used to hold the Theodolite/Dumpy staff with a 100mm rubber Grommet ring that allows sufficient room for the staff. Overhead electricity lines are a hazard, get into the habit of looking up to the sky when extending the staff. A 3m length staff is better than a 5m length as its lighter in weight to carry around.

Now I use professional surveyors but still walk the site.

There is much more to the subject as every site presents different problems. For this I have set up a second section available only for students.

Often on site I wished I could phone someone to ask how to solve a problem that seemed insurmountable at the time.

Many of the problems were caused by insufficient knowledge due to little design course survey practice. Even so I wonder how many tutors share my field experience.

In this section a former student Linsey Evans based in Berkshire and covers the Home Counties has learnt enough information on one of my courses for her to set up a successful design practice, and loves to do surveying of difficult sites has given me permission to use her name.

My course was set up using a "Site from Hell" to ensure she would probably not encounter more difficult conditions. It was the best way to learn as concentration is required to do the task with no time to think about difficulties that in reality don't occur. This she said has proved to be the case.

This section can also cover the development for design ideas, planting plans, specifications, JCLI contract, and Legal terms if required on a One to One basis for each student.

For their protection and anonymity students are listed internally on the site by name and number, that is their reference for me.