Commercial Way, Woking
DescriptionWoking in Surrey, UK, originally was a small settlement built around the river Wey, which is recorded in the Domesday Book. This remained as the main community until the Basingstoke Canal and the railway station were constructed, when much of the community moved to the new town position. The original settlement was renamed Old Woking and some of the original tranquillity returned to the village.
Woking has become a popular commuter town as being only just over half an hour from Central London by rail, and is well served by the national rail network being less than five miles from the M25 Orbital Motorway. The town was laid out during the late part of the 19th Century with the town centre planned as a grid system of streets centred around the railway station. The main shopping street, Commercial Way follows almost exactly the original line, although almost none of the original buildings remain, having had numerous redevelopments over the past 150 years.
Since 1960, Commercial Way has become more retail orientated, being pedestrianised in the 1970s, and with the Peacocks and Wolseley Shopping Centres being constructed during the early 90’s. A major investment in the town centre commenced in 2010 and included a review of the pedestrianised area of Commercial Way where mature trees were causing extensive damage to the hard surfacing in addition to a major reconfiguration of the shopping centres and their access from the town centre.
Top Landscape Architects, Gillespies (Oxford) who previously transformed the towns Jubilee Square were instructed to redesign the thoroughfare, replacing the trees in such a way that they could grow to healthy maturity, but crucially, must allow the passage of emergency vehicles over the rooting zone. The GreenBlue Urban StrataCell 60 was selected as having world beating vertical load bearing capabilities, to provide excellent volume of high-quality uncompacted topsoil provision for these new trees whilst being able to accommodate the myriad below ground utility runs which are a part and parcel of an urban scheme. Other parts of the design included new paving, street furniture and lighting to lift the street.
The design has proved to be a resounding success. Only six years on, the trees are providing the many and multiple benefits that only healthy trees can; shade, cooling by evapo-transpiration, bio-diversity and just simple aesthetic balance to a hard paved environment. In addition to these benefits, the trees are helping manage stormwater runoff, both through their canopy interception and by ground infiltration down through the rooting zone.
Tree species choice was critical for this installation, as the trees are subjected to high levels of reflected light and heat. A variety of trees were planted including the Turkish Hazel, which is ideally suited to this environment as it thrives in all soils, tolerates hard paved areas and is not susceptible to disease.