Field of Mars
Field of Mars
Field of Mars

The City of Ryde operates an amazing environmental education centre within the Field of Mars reserve.

It caters for schools, nature lovers and the general public, and is a very popular destination. Unfortunately, the existing boardwalk that takes visitors through the reserve had never actually been completed.

The challenge was the limitation to materials that will function in an environmentally sensitive, swampy and dark natural reserve. You can’t simply roll in heavy machinery and get to work, the council required a solution that could be installed without damaging the sensitive surrounds. The existing timber boardwalk had decayed and rotted away in places and needed to be removed first.

DesignExecute2 Process at Field of Mars
01 Discover
02 Develop
03 Detail
04 Deliver

01 Discover

Brainstorming the challenge with our Design-Led Engineers and Structural Specialists, we discovered that our partners at the Council wanted a low maintenance solution that was grippy in the wet conditions.

The extraction of the existing boardwalk and the instillation of the new one had to have no long-term impact on the surrounding environmental and blend in with the existing wetland scenery.

Because the existing boardwalk had degenerated, it was decided that Council needed to replace the whole structure.


Fleetwood won a competitive tender process to design and construct a new walkway, as well as demolish the old one.

An important part of the brief was to design a low-key boardwalk using materials that would endure a constantly damp, sometimes underwater environment.


The finalised the design of the 800m elevated riparian access structure was made almost entirely from fibreglass. This included the supports, headstocks, joists and decking. The only non-fibreglass elements were the stainless steel fixings and galvanised handrails.


It was necessary to develop cost-effective systems to install the structure. These included specialist piling tools that eliminated the need for a piling rig, and an excavation machine to dig foundations.

Thanks to the careful design consideration from our team in the Design Engineering Hub, materials could be walked in and most works done by hand. This eliminated the need for heavy machinery and minimised the construction impact on the sensitive ecosystem.

Students and visitors can now walk the entire length of the reserve without harming the natural habitat. Built to withstand the elements, on several occasions the structure has already contended with intense flooding since installation.

The solution

With careful planning, we are happy to report that our solution had almost no ecological impact on the wetland and surrounding areas. In terms of looks, the design blends in beautifully to the environment. When it comes to function, it maintains its grip when wet. As for maintenance, it require almost none. The City of Ryde were so happy with the outcome and our delivery that they asked us to install five similar structures throughout other areas for Council

Narrow construction zone

Part of our works was to pull out an existing decaying structure and replace with a new very low maintenance structure. The whole project required a very light environmental footprint with the Council requiring as little of the surrounding area disturbed. Our team excelled and exceeded the Council’s expectations. You can even see here, how narrow the corridor is between the river and the rock, and the way the boardwalk has been cut around the rock to suit.

Naturally integrated walkways

The whole idea that Council wanted to achieve (more than an idea, it was really a visual and environmental neccesity) was to have the walkway, the means of transport around this delicate environmental area, so much part of the environment that wherever possible it almost ‘disappeared’ from view. You can see this in this shot. Unless you were actually on the boardwalk, you couldn’t really see it. Great outcome for Council!

Multi-purpose boardswalk

The boardwalk was built to cater for pedestrians and cyclists, as both use this popular path network

Fleetwood have delivered on every promise they’ve made. They are a very professional company who are excellent at delivering solutions. They have a very planned and professional approach to their projects. We are always confident of their projects being carried out correctly and on program because our relationship is so good.

Greg Norsa Coordinator of Urban Landscape Ryde City Council

Project Details


City of Ryde Council

Design Partners

Fleetwood Design