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Wisbech, Cambridgeshire

Client: Cambridge Council

Cost: £1,000,000

Date: 01/04/2011

Genre: Landscape, Community, Youth

Unique Self Build System Offers Endless Play Opportunities


Play experts Sutcliffe Play have developed a dynamic and unique self build system that encourages children to explore, create and interact – essential elements of adventure playgrounds. The concept of self build is to allow children the ability to build and change the environment around them as an integral part of play. Children should be able to adapt and change structures, evolving aspects to reflect their patterns of play.

In practice, many self build structures aren’t transformed over time and the value of ‘rebuilding’ for children is often limited to repainting and repairs. A new generation of children often inherit the previous structure without the engagement and understanding of why it was built that way in the first place.


The innovative system has been installed in Cambridgeshire’s new £1 million Wisbech Adventure Playground. The playground was designed and built by Sutcliffe Play and is one of the 30 adventure playgrounds installed across the country as part of the previous government’s Play Pathfinder scheme.

Design and Build

The new system developed by Sutcliffe Play has kept 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.

Dave Brady, Design Director at Sutcliffe Play comments: “Children can create and build their own structures on a daily basis, everyday 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. It changes constantly, engaging children time and time again. “The size and complexity of the grid can be determined by the customer and can be added onto at a later date. The joy of self build is that each unit is bespoke to meet the needs of the customer and the children that play with it.”

Playground Equipment:

A kit of ropes, ladders and scramble nets can also be attached with caribinas to connect and access the various elements allowing children the freedom to create a myriad of play settings. The robinia posts themselves are also carved with foot and hand holds allowing hammock like floors and roofs to be built at heights of 3m.

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.”

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