Alnwick Gardens in Northumberland County is set become home to the largest play structure in the world. A full planning application for the Lilidorei Play Village has been submitted to the Northumberland County Council. In addition to this, the council has allocated an £8.5 million loan as part of its capital funding programme for 2017/18. The loan is set to be approved during a council meeting to be held on the 22nd of February.

The concept behind the play village is said to be that of a small settlement situated in a forest clearing. The fantasy play area is themed around elves and magic. A complex play structure will form the centre of the development surrounded by an earth embankment.

A World of Play

Around the central main structure will be smaller play areas for young children, as well as more complex playground equipment for older children. From the village square, small trails will lead to small wooden houses styled in the fashion of Arctic and Russian cabins. Facilities will also include a toilet block, Santa’s Grotto, a large events venue and a chapel which can host wedding ceremonies.

This new development is anticipated to stimulate tourism to the area, increasing the number of overnight visitors as opposed to the traditional day visitors. The facilities are intended to appeal to adults as much as they do to children and wheelchair access will make it attractive to disabled visitors.

A Collaborative Project

The project is a collaborative effort between the Duchess of Northumberland’s charitable trust and the local council, who have offered a loan of £8.5 million to fund the development of the project. The play village will generate funds for the charitable trust and boost growth in the local economy. Council officials have made it clear that servicing the loan will no impact on Northumberland ratepayers, as the loan will be repaid using funds generated from the play village project.

While the project is still in the planning phase and has yet to be finalised, there is great excitement within the local community. The play village will provide children from far and wide the opportunity for imaginative and fun play. The advantages of creative playgrounds are known to be as much in the educational experience as in the recreational. Children learn valuable skills whilst facing the challenges of the playground. The magical theme of the play village is bound to stimulate young minds and no doubt, their parent’s minds too.

Additional Opportunities

As well as providing stimulating and educational fun for children, the new play village will also place the area on the tourist map, providing jobs and business opportunities for local residents, both in the building phase and even more so once the park is operational. It is clear why the council and Northumberland residents are both excited and proud of this project. It will draw visitors to the area, fund charity, increase the potential of local businesses and above all, provide a magical wonderland for children and adults alike. I’m sure that the people of Northumberland look forward to seeing the plans being approved and the project going ahead.

Olympic gymnasts Becky and Ellie Downie from Hucknall have become the heroes for toddlers in Radcliffe-on-Trent, Nottinghamshire, when they took time off to inspire the children at the opening of a new playground.

The two sisters, who competed in the 2016 Rio Olympic Games and are currently preparing for the Gymnastics British Championships in March, have a tight schedule of training and workouts. However, this did not deter them from giving back to the community by introducing the 280 children who attend the Radcliffe-on-Trent Infant and Nursery School to the joy of outdoor play.

A Shared Passion

Becky, aged 25 said: “We are very passionate about getting youngsters active and moving and we were happy to come down and inspire some little ones. We’ve really enjoyed meeting them.” Apart from the upcoming British championship, Becky and her 17-year-old sister are also competing in the European Championship in April and the World Championship in October. Despite their challenging schedule, they were still able to make time for this event that has had such a positive impact on the lives of these excited youngsters.

The play equipment consisting of log structures are designed to stimulate the children and provide them with healthy exercise and develop their social and cognitive skills. At a cost of £10,000, the new playground equipment is considered a worthy investment for the school and will provide the children with healthy learning and play for many years to come.

A Crucial Facility

The school has expressed their gratitude to the local community for their generosity and efforts in raising the funding needed to build the playground. The joy felt by the youngsters was obvious on their laughing faces as they excitedly embarked on a voyage of discovery into the new playground with the helpful assistance of the two Olympic athletes.

Facilities like this one are crucial to healthy development in early childhood and are becoming increasingly popular in UK schools. Numerous scientific studies have emphasised the importance of playground equipment as part of a child’s development. As a result, there is a conscious effort by government and school bodies to provide these facilities at schools.

Encouraging children to play outdoors and overcome the fun challenges presented by playground equipment, not only promotes healthy physical development, but also promotes learning. Children who start learning through play at an early age perform better academically, socially and display better concentration. It is recommended that children up to the age of 16 should engage in at least one hour of outdoor exercise per day.

Providing these youngsters with the opportunity to better their skills in this manner displays that the school takes their children’s development seriously. This benefits not only the children, but their teachers and parents alike. Healthy, happy children perform better in all aspects of their lives. They sleep better, eat better and are less inclined to act out from boredom or frustration. It’s wonderful to see the school taking this interest and the young athletes who have encouraged the children to appreciate this opportunity deserve praise and recognition.

Horsley village in Gloucestershire will soon have a newly revamped playground. Work on the £56,000 play area started this month, thanks to a grant from the Veolia Environmental trust of £29,800 and a further £26,000 which has been provided by the Landfill Communities Fund.

The original park, where the new playground equipment is to be erected, was previously only suitable for younger children. This meant that older children and teenagers had very few outdoor activities available to them. The site is also prone to seasonal flooding and there wasn’t adequate seating areas. So parents and caregivers were not provided with a decent area to relax and socialise. Other problems facing the park are the fact that it’s exposed to the wind and the fence is in desperate need of repair.

A Welcome Solution

Fortunately for the village residents, all these problems are being addressed. In 2010 a steering committee was set up to determine the viability of upgrading the park’s facilities. Thanks to this effort, the park will soon become a social hub of the Horsley parish, with picnic facilities where the community can socialise while their children are provided with healthy amusement. The new playground equipment will provide fun and excitement for children of all ages and will include a zip line, snake swing, sandpit and climbing wall.

The Horsley Play Project at Priory Fields, which is supported by the Horsley Parish council, has been met with great enthusiasm. It provides local residents with a wonderful area to meet with family and friends in an open and social environment. Children will receive the immense benefit provided by play equipment that engages them and encourages them to spend time outdoors. The variety of playground equipment will stimulate them to exercise and provide for fun learning experiences.

A Community Hub

The great thing about a community playground is that children learn many valuable skills without even realising it. Apart from benefitting from healthy outdoor exercise, they engage with other children in a fun and relaxed environment, improving their social skills. Overcoming the challenges presented by playground equipment helps them with problem-solving and improves their cognitive abilities.

By investing in the upgraded playground, Horsley village has granted all of its residents a great opportunity that will bring them joy for many years. One can be sure that many fond memories will be made in the coming years, as people of all ages get to spend their leisure time in the open air and sunshine, sharing special moments with family and friends. There can be no doubt that it will strengthen the sense of community and sharing.

It’s a place where adults can come together and share common interests, while their children enjoy fun activities with one another. This is an example for other communities to follow, in a world where we often retreat to computer and TV screens, it’s refreshing to see new places where people can engage in the open, like in times gone by. We can only hope to see more projects like this in the future.

Wakehurst Place is a West Sussex gem that regularly brings hordes of families and tourists to come and enjoy its beautiful surroundings. The county estate is owned by the National Trust and managed by the Royal Botanical Gardens in Kew. Their internationally renowned botanical research centre and educational institution have recently opened a new non-slip playground for children, and it’s one of the first of its kind. The facility wanted to attract even more families to the site by creating a playground for children that would be safe and robust enough for wear and tear, with a design that complimented its natural woodland environment.

It was decided that JB CitiDeck would be the perfect material. The timber deck boards are extremely durable, with an external surface that has the ability to effectively minimise any risk of slipping, even in wet weather conditions. The material was also seen as ideal because it’s easy to clean and is well-suited for heavy usage by lots of children. Developers knew that JB CitiDeck would be a good material to work with. It can be easily cut into rounded edges to wrap around the shape of trees and create overhang structures for children’s play areas.

Iain Parkinson, who is the Conservation and Woodlands Manager at Kew, was pleased with the decision to go with the timber decking, and commented that “Contractor Cedarwood Joinery fitted the product quickly and easily and we were very happy with the service and help we received from Marley Eternit, which ensured the play area was completed to schedule”.

He talked about the importance of creating a play area that’s not only safe for children to use, but is also durable and has the ability to weather well. He purposely chose wood that would match with the natural surroundings and bring out the beauty of the woodland. The playground opened May 2016, just as full natural splendour the summer months was beginning to emerge.  Parkinson commented on how the play area complimented its surroundings straight away and said of the new timber decking that “the wood turns a lovely yellow colour in the sunshine, blending in with the oak trees”.

Matching playgrounds with their natural surroundings is not a new idea, but it’s a great way for children to experience the outside world as they enjoy the touch and feel of natural elements. Environments such as the forest can really help to stimulate youngsters’ imaginations, and play spaces that embrace this could turn in to a fairy garden, a bear cave, a pirate ship or a wild animal safari for the children using them.

JB CitiDeck was originally developed for use in the Olympic Park, where safety, inclusivity and accessibility were all major factors to be considered by the organisers of London 2012. The material has since been used for many urban applications and public spaces including schools, hospitals, housing developments and restaurants. We hope in future that more nature reserves and public spaces will follow the example of Kew Gardens and create safe spaces for children to play as they admire the beauty of nature. Here at Garden Play we have a variety of surfacing built for safe play.