Babies Remembrance Garden, Watford

Project Description

 West Hertfordshire Crematorium
 Jan, 2014
Public Open Space

cHOROS Landscape Architects were commissioned to design and implement a new exit gate, car park and Babies Remembrance Garden at West Hertfordshire Crematorium.

Awarded a Special Award in 2005 from the Institute of Cemetery and Crematorium Management.

The local school donated a strip of land on the edge of the school playing fields.  The site was long and narrow and sloped downhill in one direction. The area was crossed by a public footpath which needed to be relocated on the new boundary.  It was also necessary to provide a footpath access over an area of existing cremated remains.

cHOROS created a long, linear garden with a winding path, stream and stone bridge and pond.

The Remembrance Garden is intended to be dedicated to those Babies who are not born and is not intended to contain cremated remains.

The design concept. . . . .

The garden is intended to have a subtle baby theme and is based on the foetus as it grows during the nine months pregnancy.  At each stage different aspects of the unborn child come together. These occur at different times and order and normally culminate in the birth of a baby. The garden represents the collection of these different facets but as yet in no real order.  In the case of the garden there is no culmination at the end.

The spatial design of the garden creates a feeling of ‘entering’ the hidden world of the garden.  A new wooden bridge carries visitors through the hedge and over the existing cremated remains to the Crematorium Chapel and main gardens.

The design and layout of the path and features are intended to encourage you to ‘enter the baby world.  The mix of different materials in a seemingly chaotic placement represents the facets of the baby floating in the womb.  In the case of the unborn child there is nothing tangible and the garden deliberately avoids any traditional representations/sculptures or statues.

The long linear character of the site meant that the garden had to be built literally from the bottom up.  The boulders were arranged on the car park before lifting in position.  The bridge was lifted into position at the start. The pond was excavated and edges constructed and capped with stone before the stream was started otherwise machinery would not be able to gain access.  The contractors gradually worked their way out of the site.

The boulders for the stream were selected at the quarry on a baby theme.  The garden was not intended to be funereal.  Very much the opposite.  The quarry was instructed to select stones that were varied in colour, using warm pinks, buffs, warm greys and contrasts of colours.  Anything with baby characteristics and shapes.  The men at the quarry entered into the spirit of the occasion and selected a range of boulders with white or pink ribbon bands, pink or white lace patterns, boulders containing a myriad of different rock patterns, smooth, ridged or stepped surfaces etc.

The Babies Remembrance garden is intended to be a place where someone can come and rest, deep in their own thoughts away from others and the noise and bustle of daily life.  The layout is deliberately designed to provide places to sit and enjoy the garden from different views and angles and at different times of day.  The boulders at the stream edge also act as places to perch to relax, watch and listen to the water at close quarters.

The planting was selected on a baby theme and to compliment the boulders at the stream edge.  Plants were chosen to have colour and interest throughout the year. The stream and weirs provide a bath time play space for the local birds.  The lily pond provides a quiet focus at the end of the path and an opportunity to sit at the far end of the garden beneath the pergola and look back across the garden.

The Babies Remembrance Garden was commissioned by the West Hertfordshire Crematorium Committee on behalf of West Hertfordshire Crematorium.

cHOROS Landscape Architects designed the new car park and Babies Remembrance Garden. The Engineering work was designed by Dinan Associates and the new car park and garden was constructed by Borras Construction. The boulders were supplied by CED.