The timber-framed bridge takes visitors along a path through a newly-sown wildflower meadow at the bottom of the garden and is a new area for them to explore.
Over 70 people gathered for the ribbon cutting, speeches and refreshments on 11 May to enjoy a first stroll through the meadow and over the bridge.
It has been designed and constructed by engineering firm Ramboll along with people with learning disabilities and gardeners at Furzey Gardens. Ramboll supported the project through funding from the Ramboll Foundation and giving their staff time and support to get involved with the design and construction.
As well as marking the garden’s centenary, the bridge also commemorates the innovative engineering pioneered by Dr Edwin Gifford OBE and the company he founded nearby in 1951. Gifford is a pioneering engineering company that is now part of the Ramboll Group.
Furzey Gardens is a public garden in the heart of the New Forest and supports people with learning disabilities to maintain the grounds and raise plants in the nursery.
The gardens are owned by Minstead Trust, a charity that supports more than 220 people with learning disabilities across Hampshire.
Paul Brown, Associate at Ramboll: ‘We were very excited to be approached by Minstead Trust to support them in the design and construction of their new footbridge. Immediately we saw the project aligned with our values to promote sustainable and innovative development for the benefit of nature, society and people.
‘Our staff have been volunteering at Furzey Gardens for several years and have built sheds, playground equipment and now the bridge. The volunteering days bring our staff together in a new environment with countless benefits for team working, health and well being.
‘This year we leave our office in Netley Marsh to move into Southampton City Centre. Landmark projects around the world have been designed from our office so this bridge was an opportunity to leave a small legacy in the area where we have been based for over 50 years.’
Adam Dodd, Minstead Trust Chief Executive, said: ‘The new bridge is a beautiful addition to Furzey Gardens, and we’re enormously grateful to Ramboll and the Gifford family for their wholehearted and fulsome support for this project.
‘It is a touching and tasteful celebration of Gifford’s contribution to the local area over the last 50 years, and all the more heartwarming as 50 years from now, some of the people we support who collaborated on its construction will be able to return to the gardens and say “I made this”.’
2022 is Furzey Gardens’ centenary year and it is telling the pioneering story of the gardens – from the intrepid plant hunters who filled the gardens with rare species to its more modern history as a place of support and education for people with learning disabilities.
The gardens are running a ‘Special Years’ fundraising campaign to raise £500,000. Lovers of Furzey Gardens can donate to the appeal, take part in the raffle or sponsor one of 100 centenary oaks being planted in autumn.
To find out more about Furzey Garden’s centenary events and fundraising appeal visit www.minsteadtrust.org.uk/furzey-centenary
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