Christopher Heaton has been designing gardens for over thirty years. A keen plants person with qualifications in geology, a water colour artist and even probably his interest in Primitive African art have all moulded him into a landscape designer who has many tools to create imaginative design.

His planting knowledge helps him to create very natural green spaces albeit with ornamental plants. The stone and timber used with interesting textures is evolved through his artistic eye and knowledge of the materials.

[private] His creativity comes not only through many years with hands on experience but the need to try and ‘copy nature’ either as a geologically correct form or in an abstraction of nature. He takes no real inspirations from any designers nor trends, but likes to use the pallet of colour and textures, the fourth dimensional use of scent, atmosphere, and illusions of animate forms to help create a space that truly takes you into another dimension.

Christopher’s favourite aspect of work is the transformation of a garden, reclaiming all the sub soil, top soil, rubble and what would normally be waste by re-using and creating artificial contours, forcing the visitor to explore and walk around the garden and for some moments forget where they are! He thinks of himself as a garden sculptor more than a designer – yes a designer of space perhaps. The difference in landscape design compared to other disciplines is the fact that the designer is also the person who actually builds and creates on site.

His vision for the future is that the Majority of clients not the minority will love and understand this valuable space we have in our gardens, just like many people appreciate and are knowledgeable about their house space- furnishings, kitchens or even the actual buildings which has only happened in the last ten years.

Christopher has a show garden in ‘red brick mills’ in Batley and ‘Lapicida’ in Knaresborough. His latest public place is on Wetherby roundabout – the horse has certainly taken everyone by surprise. Christopher tells us how this unusual design came about:

“The initial idea to create a feature on a busy roundabout began on a boat on the Thames during the celebrations of winning a prestigious Gold Medal at Chelsea Flower Show. We won the Gold Medal in association and direct sponsorship with ‘Hesco Bastion’ designed by Leeds City Council.

We started with an idea that was brought about by the late Mr ‘Jimmy’ Heselden – director of Hesco Bastion and Frank Dane Bennett of ‘Natural Stone Leeds’ in discussion with a council representative. Jimmy Heselden toyed with the idea of creating a special roundabout in Leeds. The two Gold medal Chelsea flower show gardens helped evolve this idea of bringing ‘Gardens’ onto roundabouts around Leeds.”

Christopher decided to try and create a scheme with Wetherby as the design brief. After initial talks with various companies for sponsorship they decided to sponsor the scheme themselves.

He says “I tried to create a design that reflects the topography of the area countryside around Wetherby, which is interpreted as the undulating mounds of planting areas around the main wall feature. Wetherby is built upon a ridge of magnesium limestone, hence we have created this serpentine drystone wall that twists and turns across the roundabout like some animate form. I created this very sharp angled coping to depict a sharp spine of a backbone giving the wall a surreal animate feature. This limestone wall contrasts dramatically with the colourful planting. The wall emerges from nothing and slowly rises and twists and turns before it enters the earth again at the other side just as a geological outcrop would rise and fall.

This limestone ridge separates the Yorkshire Dales from the Vale of York.

Glacial deposits are strewn across Wetherby and surrounding areas, they overlay the limestone – more so in the north of the town hence we have created animate shapes of cobbles that intersect the planting and wall feature.

The limestone ridge’s rolling profile gives rise to the low landscape with rolling hills and valleys which are depicted by the contoured soil that encircles the feature. The various changes in contours allow visual vantage points that almost create a miniature landscape.

The landscapes around the town have given rise to fertile arable land that is best illustrated by the swathes of colourful planting and architectural grasses which sway on the wind.

My original concept design was to build five full size granite horses that are paced across the design. The idea was that they in an abstract way evolve from the earth. They were to gradually emerge from their granite boulders as though emerging from the earth itself. The horses were also to give a flow and animation to the design and help show the strong race horse connections with the immediate Wetherby Race Course hub that attracts lots of visitors. For the final design we decided to just go with the one horse, providing a striking image to people travelling past the roundabout.

This whole design through to build has been over two years in the making and we hope that the late Mr ‘Jimmy’ Heselden is watching down on us with a big smile on his face. We would like the roundabout to be known as the ‘Jimmy Heselden’ roundabout!”

Christopher Heaton has big ideas to create many more interestingly designed roundabouts across Leeds, so you never know what might appear on one near you in the future![/private]

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