Urban&Civic, the master developer behind Alconbury Weald, has released a new episode of its podcast in partnership with archaeologist and Channel 5 broadcaster Raksha Dave. The second episode of Alconbury Weald Stories will explore the area’s fascinating heritage, from the Bronze Age to the Cold War.
The new episode offers interesting insights from Malcolm, a former member of the Royal Air Force crew, and Anne Rigby, his wife, now residents at Alconbury Weald. Malcolm, who is now retired, talks about being temporarily stationed at RAF Alconbury back in 1985 and reflects on how the site has transformed since the 1980s. Today, it’s a thriving community, with carefully incorporated elements of the Cold War era, such as the listed Watch Office, which has been meticulously restored by Urban&Civic for the community’s benefit.
Joanne John from Bradley Murphy Design, the consultancy in charge of the landscaping strategy for Alconbury Weald, talks about how the site’s heritage had informed the landscape design of the scheme and what has been done to make it an integral part of the development.
Clemency Cooper from Oxford Archaeology East joins the podcast to draw the listeners’ attention to Alconbury Weald’s fascinating history. Through a series of archaeological studies and excavation works, her team has found evidence of people living at Alconbury Weald during the Bronze age, drawn to the area by its varied landscape. The team’s studies have helped highlight the role Alconbury Weald played during the Iron Age, the early Roman period and the medieval times, when the whole of Huntingdonshire was declared a Royal Forest because of its biodiversity and desirability.
Thanks to its advantageous location and strong connections, Alconbury Weald has been attracting settlers and merchants for hundreds of years. It is now on track to establish itself as Cambridgeshire’s major enterprise hub, sitting halfway between Cambridge and Peterborough, whilst being a key part of the Oxford/Cambridge arc. The development has been shaped by its rich heritage, which makes it ideal for family living, with abundant green spaces and state-of-the-art facilities, designed with the site’s history and future residents’ needs in mind.
Malcolm Rigby, resident at Alconbury Weald, said: “I knew Alconbury as an American airbase and landed my plane on the runway here many times in the six months of being based here, but I never thought Alconbury would become my home. It has flourished beyond belief, transforming into a real community, and we’re excited for what’s to come.”
Joanne John, Associate Landscape Architect at Bradley Murphy Design (BMD), said: “We’ve really enjoyed working on this project, which offered a unique opportunity to incorporate existing heritage features into a new development. As landscape designers, we look to the landscape and existing built form within the site and wider context to provide us with cues to the past to understand the history of the site, how it was used before and how it can help shape the future design. At Alconbury Weald, the heritage plays an important role in defining the place and has influenced the design layout of the new parks and public open spaces. The existing heritage features provide a tangible link with the past and help to contribute to the future sense of identity and character of Alconbury Weald.”
Rebecca Britton, head of partnerships and communities at Urban&Civic, said:“The heritage of Alconbury Weald has fundamentally shaped the vision for our green spaces, the layout and design of the new buildings coming forward, and how we protect, enhance and interpret important pieces of history – from the scheduled ancient monument in Prestley Wood, the listed Watch Office and parks created on old taxiways, to the hangars and bunker, which will form a future Cold War Heritage Area in later phases of the development. The echoes of history provide depth and soul to the new community, and we hope the podcast will be part of connecting our new community to the footsteps which went before them, helping set down roots in this very special place.”
Raksha Dave, archaeologist and broadcaster, who hosted the second episode of the podcast, said: “I love the fact that at Alconbury Weald you can see the physical remnants of historic moments: from ancient woodlands to a Medieval moated Manor House, runways used during the Second World War and Cold War structures peppering the landscape. This rich history is embedded in the community, and it’s this sense of time that gives people a deep connection to Alconbury Weald’s past.”
The episode is now live and available for download here: https://www.alconbury-weald.co.uk/podcast/