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18 December 2010
Iron Age dwellers inspire new visitor centre in Somerset

At the foot of Glastonbury Tor (Somerset, England) stretching west towards the sea is the distinct landscape of the Avalon Marshes. The Iron Age inhabitants of this area might have thought prehistoric architects were at work if they could see designs for the striking thatched visitor centre proposed for their old homeland. The conical thatched buildings have been dubbed a 'flotilla of coracles' by the partnership, including Natural England, which is planning the scheme.
     The marshes are a network of wetlands of international importance for archaeology. The remains of Iron Age houses lie under bumps in fields near Glastonbury, while an ancient log boat, pelicans' bones and prehistoric wood and hurdle roads still lie in the peat.
     The area receives more than 70,000 visitors each year. The new centre will be built on a former cafe and garden centre site at Shapwick Road. Mark Richmond Architects has drawn up the scheme, and they are working with engineer Mark Lovell. The round, timber-framed buildings are linked together and rest as lightly as possible on the peat.
     Mark Watson, on behalf of the partners, said: "Our inspiration was to try to create a contemporary yet ancient shelter found in the marshlands of the Somerset Levels. The materials we are using are also sustainable, from the green oak frame to the lime plaster walls and ceilings. And from the sweet chestnut rain screen cladding to the water reed thatched roofs."

Edited from This is Somerset (15 December 2010)

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