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Wisbech, Cambridgeshire, Adventure Playground

Client: Cambridgeshire County Council

Cost: £1 million

Date: 01/04/2011

Genre: Landscape, Community, Youth

£1 million Adventure Playground in Cambridgeshire

In April 2008, The Department for Children Schools and Families (DCSF) awarded Cambridgeshire a capital fund of £800,000 to build an adventure play area at a designated site. The play space had to encourage children from all ages and abilities to play together in a unique and innovative environment.

Cambridgeshire County Council wanted an adventure playground that responded to community requirements, involving local children and residents in various stages of the design and build process. It was vital that children be supported during the decision making process, helping them develop analytical and evaluation skills.

Sutcliffe Play worked with the local community and council to ensure they delivered a dynamic playground that meets their needs. This involved a lengthy consultation process including workshops within schools, community panels, on-site events and creating a website. The consultation process proved invaluable and influenced the design of the new adventure playground, making it a true community project.

The play area had to be environmentally sustainable, incorporating natural features, landscaping and purpose built equipment. Particular attention had to be given to disadvantaged and vulnerable children who would not normally access play facilities.

Using unique design features and bespoke play elements, developed by Sutcliffe Play’s in-house landscape architect, the play area site on The Spinney, Wisbech, was designed to provide a completely individual play area to service the needs of the local community.

Features incorporated into the design included bespoke, life size timber barges for facilitating indoor activities such as a playroom, hygiene room, toilets and an office.

A unique self build system allows children to recreate their own structures using reinforced mesh panels, velcro fastenings, ropes and caribinas. This dynamic and unique self build system encourages children to explore, create and interact – essential elements of adventure playgrounds.

Children can create and build their own structures on a daily basis, every day bringing a new opportunity to change and transform their play environment. Whether a den for two, a giant spider’s web or tree world city, the only limit is a child’s imagination.

A ‘grow your own’ area of raised beds was included to encourage older community members to get involved teaching the younger generation how to plant and grow produce. As the site was fairly flat the design also included landscaping with stone filled gabions to create different levels, a beachscape, ampitheatre, ravine swing, racing cableway, meeting and performance spaces. The consultation process proved invaluable in influencing the design of the playground and made it a true community project.

Rachel Marshall, Project Manager at Cambridgeshire County Council comments: “The Wisbech Adventure Playground is a very popular place. Children and young people love the challenge and the wide variety of exciting play opportunities. It is a very creative and innovative design that caters for a wide range of ages and abilities.”

Playground Equipment:

Barge Buildings: The playground is situated in the old port area of Wisbech so two barges were introduced to reflect the surrounding Fenland. They form the hub to facilitate indoor activities, cooking, crafts etc and act as a base for playworkers. One barge, part funded by Aiming High for Disabled Children, was fitted out as a play room with a kitchen and craft storage. A decking area connects to a second barge to be used as a hygiene room, toilets and an office.  Portholes, tillers and the poop deck features were retained.

Barrier Free Wheelchair Accessible Roundabout: enables children in wheelchair’s to experience the sensation of spinning, alongside the  more able bodied.

Water Play Area: Water’s tactile qualities, warm or cool, soft or forceful, are irresistible to children, holding their attention longer than any other play medium and encouraging cooperative play. Ever changing, water can be dammed, squirted, pooled or diverted into a myriad of channels, pipes and rills. Mixed with earth or sand, water transforms into puddles, mud pies and sand castles.

Sand Play: Exciting sand play gives children the opportunity to excavate and create, encouraging creative and social play.

Ravine Swing: The ravine swing is an over-sized triangular shape with hanging ropes that allow two users, young or old, to fly through the air up to approximately 3 meters high. The swing encourages calculable risky play, and children are fascinated with the extreme swings they can achieve.

Performance Area with Sail shades:

Spring Board: The spring board is a great fun element to add into any play area. It is ideal just for jumping or practising more adventurous snowboarding and skateboarding moves, and helps improve balance and co-ordination.

Slingshot: One of Sutcliffe Play’s most dynamic items, the slingshot is fun and fast with two different activities: a rope swing for sitting or standing and overhead handles for users to hang and spin around.

Grow Your Own Raised Beds: An area of raised beds created with willow retainers enables children to plant and grow produce. This is intended to encourage older members of the community to get involved with teaching the younger generation.

Cutter Swing: An exhilarating free form, double swing children on which can sit or stand. It can be used as a very dynamic inclusive play for those less able. This item is also suitable for use by adults.

Dutch Disc: A 2.5m large roundabout is very popular with older children and challenges complex combinations of skills – running, balancing and timing. Set at an angle, the Dutch Disc is also odeal for greater inclusion, as used more slowly, it has an excellent gentle rotating and rocking motion. No restrictor is required, as it can only go as fast as the children on it can walk or run.

‘Easy’ Self Build: True to the central premise of adventure play, a system was developed that allows children to recreate their own structures on a daily basis.

The system keeps the principles of self build at the heart of its design – bespoke; transforms over time; can be built and rebuilt by children (not playworkers) and it is flexible to meet the needs of children, the space and the environment. The end result is a bespoke creation, led by children and facilitated by playworkers. The system centres around a grid of 5m high natural robinia posts, which form an informal triangular grid.  Within this is an interchangeable system of 16 decks and slides onto which elements can be attached. Reinforced mesh fabric floors and sides incorporate a Velcro loop system, which enable quick and instinctive construction within a few minutes.

Dalben Tower: Large Towers add extra excitement for children and provide a great focal point for an adventure playground or large park. Risks are minimal, as the towers are totally enclosed and designed so that children can never fall more than 1 metre while climbing.

Double Cableway: Cable rides are dynamic fun play items great for open access play spaces. Our design is available in four lengths and is available with a starting ramp for level sites. Noise and friction is reduced by a trolley mechanism with polyamide rollers and a spring system at the finish ensures a safe, controlled ride to the end. An integral brake prevents the seat moving on the cable when not in use.

Fire Pit: In a controlled environment we believe learning about fire has value in terms of perception and learning to manage. Using items from our natural stone range, a firepit can be constructed in an inert bowl of gravel. In this form fires can be lit in a designated area carefully considered to minimise risk in contrast to adhoc experimentation. With facilitation from youth workers or rangers a fire pit can be established as a focal point for organised activity.

Dish Roundabout: One of Sutcliffe Play’s most inclusive items, this rotating dish can be used for very fast, dynamic play. The rocking and rotating motion combined with the body support and security given by the dish shape make this dish accessible to all.

Oyster Roundabout: The oyster can be a fast dynamic activity for older children or used as a social meeting point. With its rocking bearing it can provide a supportive environment for younger and less able children where a more gentle motion can be introduced. The flat platform is also advantageous to aiding access in and out of the dish.

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