• Bridgette Macilwaine

Invigorating natural woodland play area


A natural play area for adults and children immersed within a beautiful woodland. This area is great for interaction with nature, educational activities and for stimulating the senses and our imagination, as well as having fun and releasing energy.

This hidden gem at Wakehurst Gardens was a wonderful unintentional find during our visit. Wakehurst gardens, located in the heart of Sussex includes 500 acres of gardens, wetlands, birdlife, forests to explore and the Millenium Seed Bank.


As a landscape Architect I thoroughly enjoy exploring natural play spaces which are integrated into designed gardens.


During our visit, our main interest was to wander around the beautiful gardens, look at the feature plants in season find a nice spot for a picnic, but while analysing the map we noticed in the far south corner amongst the trees, there was a little area noted at the "Treetop Walkway" and a children's play area.....this definitely sparked out interest!

"The playground, instead of telling the child what to do, becomes a place for endless exploration, of endless opportunity for changing play"

Isamu Noguchi.


After a quick lunch snack and coffee, off we went, into the forest to find this place. We came to a signpost with an arrow indicating the "Treetop walkway" with an interesting winding route through the trees, which included curving pathways of tree stumps and irregular shaped woven doorways between within the forest.

We did think that this was the area on the map indicated as the forest play area, until we turned a corner and happened upon very exciting and fun play space, the scale of the area was quite shocking, but very alluring at the same time.


This area with varying heights of timber platforms, tree stumps and climbing poles was full of parents having fun running around with their happy children. This was a very different play area compared to the fenced in, remote and intimidating modern play spaces found in most towns and neighbourhoods.

The range of spaces included::

  • varying heights of tree stumps

  • small stepping platforms with central supporting posts

  • large platforms for gatherings, picnics and games

  • staggered climbing wall

  • semi-circular post area with feet platforms for climbing along

  • large logs for climbing and jumping over

This is an inspirational play area which brings together planting, nature, play, exploration and creativity, we shouldn’t be separating these when thinking about creating future play spaces.


These areas feel welcoming, provide sensory input, support nature, promote biodiversity and contribute to being outdoor education zones.


Let us know what you think of these play areas?



 

Until next time,

Bridge x