The Adventure Play at Windsor Great Park, located next to The Savill Garden opened on 12th July 2023. It's a project we started work on back in 2018 and is our most ambitious project to date, with two acres of play, made up of hand-crafted walkways, slides, sculptures and treehouses, interlinked and weaving around the established woodland.
The Savill Garden itself is an enclosed part of Windsor Great Park, created by Eric Savill in the 1930s. There are over 35 acres of gardens with rare plants and stunning seasonal displays. The Visitor Centre was added in 2006 and gave a new dimension to the Garden, with its rolling sinuous roof structure and green facade. This was the backdrop we were working with, to create the new Adventure Play.
You can see our initial thinking here.
The wider Windsor Estate is made up of approximately 6,400 hectares (15,800 acres) of undulating landscape with rolling hills and many acres of the oldest ancient woodlands in the country, with huge solitary ancient oak trees. It was the extent of this woodland and the significance of the Oak trees within them that became the inspiration for the whole design concept. Along with celebrating the flora and fauna of Windsor’s extraordinary woodland we wanted to celebrate the strength and quality of the timber as a building material and utilise it within the Adventure Play construction. Our brief was to create a quintessentially Windsor turnkey attraction.
We were working in and around some magnificent trees and it was vital they were central to the appeal of the play.
Here are the initial CGI's for the Courtyard Play
And this was extended into imagining how the Woodland Play would look
The majority of the timber used in the build was taken from fallen trees within the wider Estate and seasoned over a number of years. Having to pre-plan the amounts of almost all of materials required did take a lot of careful consideration and very tightly controlled designs to ensure we minimised the amount of timber needed to be used from outside the Estate.
To add another layer of local craft, we drew upon the skills and experience of the Windsor thatchers to create the roofs of a number of the fantastic treehouses and play structures. Our own team and other local sculptors created the oversized conkers, conker roof and carved owl, squirrel, badger, mice and red deer sculptures hidden throughout the play areas.
There are two aspects to the play. The Woodland play for older children (and adults) and the Courtyard for toddlers and younger children.
The Courtyard is a magical place for children and families to play, learn and discover together. Created as a miniature land of play amongst the local flora and fauna, the space is a gateway to the woodland and treetop walkways beyond. With undulating soft landscaping and natural pathways between, the play space is divided into a number of interconnected areas with a mixture of play houses and walkways of different heights and challenge. It's been designed to allow children to learn their own level of risk and discover the absolute joy to be found in natural play.
There are also a series of beautifully crafted buildings with local shops, complete with handmade wooden tills, all surrounded by climbs, ladders and slides and roly poly slopes. You can clamber in and out of giant acorns, and pump water up to create your own controlled waterfall over the newly created sandstone rockery.
The new play area for older, or more adventurous 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.
There are three levels of play, weaving in and around the huge mature trees, all connected with long rope bridges, wobbly walkways and a giant netted space on one of the inter-connecting decks. There are four enormous slides coming from the top of the different structures, one of which is an unusual roller slide.
Within the towers there are hidden play elements, secret passages, puzzles and things to discover. There is even a seasonal interactive projection of the flora, fauna and creatures of the woodland floor that reacts to your own movement through the space.
Accessibility was a key consideration from the outset and creating play where guests with mobility issues could play alongside those who don't was a key part of the brief.
The very first access to the play from the entrance area is an accessible ramp. It sets the tone for the plans and delivery of fully accessible play.
On the edge of the woodland play, there's our own design of what we call the Companion slide where a wheelchair user can whizz down a slide with their companion and a side bar at the base enables safe and easy access back into a wheelchair.
There's an accessible route throughout the woodland play that allows guests to explore high amongst the tree canopy and enjoy the wheelchair rope bridge, giant hammock nets and the sensory elements created along the route, as well as experiencing the flora and fauna living amongst the trees.
And there's a quiet space designed in too. Slightly tucked away at the bottom turret of the treehouse, so it's one step removed from the main play area. It's been specifically created for those visitors who may become over-sensitized by the noise and action of the play and need a bit of time away. It provides a space which can be curtained off and made dark so it's deliberately sensorily understimulating. There's a simple oak leaf light feature on the ceiling, which is backlit with calming, colour-changing LED lights. Whilst it's a simple space, it could be the difference between a great day for all and one that you'd rather forget.