January 2, 2024
As we shimmy into our 10th year we're looking back at 2023 to see what we created. It was a hugely significant year and one where we delivered some of our boldest and most fantastical projects to date.
To start the year, we completed the ambitious new adventure play space at Blenheim Palace, in the Kitchen Garden, just next to the historic 10-acre Walled Garden. Created around the story of the hidden rooms that were uncovered in the Grand Bridge, when the Grand lake, that had been created in 1760 was drained in 2018 for maintenance. A huge sandstone water play feature weaves down through the site to drain away under our own Grand Bridge. The play was created throughout the newly landscaped space and is accessed via a modest single doorway to create the impression of passing through a portal into another world.
The success of Blenheim Palace was swiftly followed by the new Adventure Play at Windsor Great Park. Nearly five years in the making and predominantly created from fallen trees from within the Windsor estate, there are two acres of play, made up of hand-crafted walkways, slides, sculptures and treehouses, interlinked and weaving around the established woodland within the Savill Garden.
There are two sides to the play. The Woodland play for older children (and adults) is set amongst the beautiful mixed woodland to the North. The treehouses, soar high into the trees and are linked by a series of awesome play structures and walkways.
The Courtyard for toddlers and younger children is a magical place for children and families to play, learn and discover together. Created as a quintessentially British miniature landscape of play amongst the local flora and fauna, the space is a gateway to the woodland and treetop walkways beyond.
On a totally different scale, but every bit as significant, was the completion of the first of a planned network of 'Discovery Hubs' throughout The Broads. Working alongside The Friends of Salhouse Broad a community organisation that helps to preserve and improve the broads the Hub at Salhouse Broad combines with a unique Dark Sky viewing platform.
Then, onto Burghley House in Stamford for the all-new Hide and Secrets adventure play. The whole scheme was designed around the history of the house and the 1st Baron Burghley, William Cecil, the country’s first Chief Spymaster. Even the entrance to the play is through a long-forgotten historic stone arch, where families who find it, are transported into a magical setting that will fire their imaginations and provide hours of outdoor fun together.
Following this, we were back into Norfolk for two more Discovery Hubs at both Beccles and on the seafront at Great Yarmouth. These two have been created to mark the entrance to, and promote the unique landscape and waterways of the Broads National Park. Alongside The Broads Trust, we've been very much part of the team working on the project. Each Hub provides information and wayfinding for visitors and locals, highlighting the best ways to explore the region – on foot, by bike and on the water.
On the same side of the country, but with a completely different brief, were the Play Silos at Rand Farm Park in Lincoln. These are an imposing impressive new centrepiece feature at the heart of the new entrance courtyard and have been created to look like large grain silos, that are common across the farms of the region. They're designed to deliver multiple levels and a variety of different ways to move between the silos and offering maximum play value throughout across the small footprint.
The standalone, second gate Hermits Hollow Adventure Play was opened at Coombe Abbey Park, after the completion of additional play close to the popular visitor centre we created earlier in the year. This new play within a new location deep in the woodland, was created with its own Shepherds Hut F&B unit and a separate accessible toilet block with wash facilities. With high-level walkways, bridges and slides, the whole site was created to encourage families to play and explore together.
The next project of the year took us to Oxfordshire and the fabulous Fairytale Farm. Developed with the Farms ethos of being accessible to everyone, The Fairy Dell Play was packed full of both physical and sensory play, set amongst a whimsical world of oversized mushrooms and giant leaves.
We loved this project and created the most magical play area ever we could conjure up, where visitors are shrunk to the size of fairies. It incorporates an accessible raised walkway, that weaves its way through the giant wooden mushrooms, and over bridges and through tunnels - it's a truly magical place to play.
Creating play for schools has always been an important part of our play space offering and giving children the chance to learn while they play is something we absolutely believe in. So, with this in mind the team next went to Recreation Road school in Norwich. They already had winding woodland pathways, a mud kitchen, a water channel, a mound and some willow planting. Our team created a whole new element to this, with high level walkways, slide and tons of ground play to clamber around.
Another job in Norwich for the excellent Georgian Townhouse. It's a bar and restaurant with 24 boutique bedrooms and has a lovely enclosed walled garden. Our brief was to replace the existing play, extend the area itself and create a new play area with a playful interpretation of the unique architectural influences of the City. It allows the children to have great fun and the parents to relax and enjoy the hospitality of the establishment.
Into October and down to Greenwich for the opening of The Cove at The National Maritime Museum. This involved a new approach for us. We spent more than 100 hours in consultation with over 200 individual stakeholders, from local SEND schools and groups to create the design for The Cove. The finished project is our most inclusive adventure play build, with 85% of the finished play accessible to wheelchair users and even more to those with additional needs.
In December, we were delighted to find out that the project had been recognised in the Blooloop Global Innovation Awards in the Inclusive category. These awards are on a global platform, so a huge pat on the back for everyone involved in its creation.
The third phase of the adventure play - 'Slynk' (Cornish for Slide) at Nansleden in Cornwall was completed towards the end of the year. Working across a significant slope, the play features slides that run down the rocky embankment, a roundwood clamber route and a lookout deck. It's all part of a grand masterplan to deliver play across the entire site and cater for all ages and abilities.
Two more school projects were completed towards the end of the year, at Barrow Hills School and Hanbury First School. All in all a big year for us and one we have enjoyed from start to finish. There are two more very exciting projects that are well underway in the UK and France, which we will be announcing as soon as we're able to in the new year. Rest assured, they are both very different in character and significant in scale.
Thank you to all of you we have worked with and those who have supported us throughout the year - none of this would be possible without you.
We hope you too had an amazing and well-earned break over the festive period and come back refreshed for an exciting 2024.