based in hexham, northumberland, differentia designs interpretation for outdoor spaces including interpretation panels, interpretive structures, seats and signs.

Black to Green Interpretation

A miners wheel used as a template to carry the interpretation of the National Forest.

Black to Green is supported by the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund to conserve and enhance the industrial heritage and natural history within the Heart of the Forest. This is an area of roughly 10 square miles across North West Leicestershire and South Derbyshire. The Heart of the Forest has seen the most significant increase in tree coverage over the last 25 years, with woodland cover increasing from 1% to 27%. It is an exceptional story of rapid change from 19th century deep coal and open cast mining, clay extraction and associated industrial activity, to a 21st century sustainable landscape led by the creation of The National Forest.

Ornate steel structure containing the interpretive stories.

Black to Green focuses upon telling this story of the extraordinary landscape change, celebrating the areas rich industrial past, whilst providing opportunities to learn about and appreciate the local wildlife. Through a 3 year programme of volunteering, training, events and interpretation, the project seeks to reconnect with this new landscape whilst conserving its past.

25 years ago, large swathes of the Midland’s landscape had been left scarred by centuries of coal mining and other heavy industry. But a passionate group of people had a vision: a forest. The first forest to be created at scale in England for over 1000 years, it transformed and literally turned the landscape from black to green.

Original sketch for the concept of the interpretive hubs.

Sketching the story of people and the landscape

Our first response was to read and understand about the industry that dominated the landscape. Our view was that people were at the heart of this and indeed there are many locals who remember the scarred and damaged land - and this was a place that made stuff that travelled the world.

The design of the hubs were formed from the Golden Mean and are based on a pit wheel. But we didn’t want to be too obvious with this and wanted also to let the steel within the wheel to tell part of the story. The steelwork was formed and informed by the subjects that form part of the landscape - the birds and wildlife and the history and icons such as pit ponies, bats and barges. The hubs therefore become part of the landscape and help to create distinctive and iconic structures alongside the multi use paths that are used everyday for leisure and work.

The stories are fascinating and enthralling and these are told in more detail in the interpretation panels that are embedded within the hubs. Many don’t know the stories and so are learning new things about the places they have lived in for many years - who indeed has heard of Borra Knock?

The village of Borra Nock

Albert Village grew in the 1870s. People came here to dig the clay and work in Swad’s kilnyards. It looks like its name came from the Albert Brick & Tile Works - named in celebration of Prince Albert (Queen Victoria’s consort). Before that the community was called Mushroom Lane.

Life for the clay workers was tough, but people stood together. Albert Village was given the nickname ‘Borra Nock’ from the local custom of knocking on a neighbour’s door, to walk in and borrow anything they needed.

Black to Green interpretation stories as told in an interpretive structure.

And when it comes to the Tree Rabbit! Who knew that a tree rabbit could be living and breathing with a well populated area.

Coal bunny! Myth or magic?

The detail of the hubs were entrusted to Chris Brammall who is unmatched in steel work (in our opinion) and has created high quality work that will stand the test of time. At each stage of the process of building the stories and the hubs we tested the values we set out at the beginning - for instance we wanted the hubs to be environmentally friendly. For us this means that after the end of their life they could be repurposed into something else. So all of the elements of the hubs can be melted down and reused - from the Aluminium interpretation panels to the steel interpretation hubs and the spinning zinc etched interpretation discs.

Sketch a day - more walks with my dog

Sketch a day - more walks with my dog

Heritage and art in Darlington

Heritage and art in Darlington