In the future, due to shortages of land and restrictions in transport, food could be grown in skyscrapers. Often referred to as vertical farms, these buildings could become a prominent feature of the urban environment. For many city dwelling people, these vertical farms will offer the opportunity to go hiking. However, skyscrapers are not the only type of structure which can be used for growing vegetation.
When the A21 Lamberhurst bypass was constructed in Kent a unique green bridge was built to cross the carriageway. The green bridge carries the access road to the National Trust’s Scotney Castle. It was the National Trust which insisted that the bridge must have banks of vegetation right across its span. This might seem to be a strange design feature. The reason behind it was one of conservation. Whilst providing a fast route for traffic, the new A21 Lamberhurst bypass would effectively separate colonies of dormice and many other species of animals. The remaining dormice colonies on either side of the bypass, cut-off from each other and only remaining in small fragments, would quickly become too small and collapse. By creating a wide bridge with embankments planted with low growing trees and shrubs, dormice are able to cross over the Lamberhurst bypass and interact with other colonies. This will hopefully help to ensure survival of the dormice and other animals. So far at the Scotney Castle approach road bridge there has been evidence that foxes, rabbits, wood mice, common shrews, squirrels, badgers and even a mole have used the bridge. According to the People’s Trust for Endangered Species’ Mammals UK magazine, Spring 2010 issue, the vegetation will need to reach a more mature state before dormice would be tempted to use the green bridge.
The bridge was originally constructed to reduce the effect of habitat fragmentation, but it is very beneficial to people as well. It is a much more sensitive way to build new roads instead of just bulldozing swathes through the countryside and the wildlife that lives there. It shows that we can reconcile the need for new roads with the needs of wildlife and some consideration of landscape quality. Mammals UK, Spring 2010.
Hiking and Green Bridges
What does the green bridge have to do with the future of hiking? In the near future the addition of planted verges on bridges could improve the quality of walks where footpaths or roads cross dual carriageways or motorways. Instead of walking over a grotty concrete structure spanning an equally grotty bypass, the trail would take you seamlessly across the main road without spoiling your immersion in the countryside. Perhaps the success of the Lamberhurst green bridge will inspire more green bridges to be built in the UK. The green bridge design would fit in especially well in our National Parks.
In the more distant future perhaps the countryside and the urban environment will become ever more fused together. Vertical gardens have been created as show pieces in various cities. These could be fused together with green bridges, parks and other open spaces to create a swathe of greenery. Linked together with towpaths and disused railways the creation of long distance hiking opportunities within the urban environment would be possible. With a large increase in the amount of greenery on man-made structures the whole city could become a type of countryside environment in its own right!