The Royal Parks is about to begin building a natural playground in the historic landscape of Greenwich Park. The Greenwich Park Playground will build on the themes of exploration and discovery, offering creative play opportunities for children of all abilities in a natural green setting.
Work to build the final phase of a bespoke £350,000 playground will begin in March 2019 with completion expected in early June 2019, thanks to a generous £315,000 donation from The London Marathon Charitable Trust. The Trust is also funding a Play Co-ordinator for three years, to help children who are not able to get outdoors and play, in partnership with play organisation, London Play. The remaining cost is being funded by The Royal Parks, the charity which manages Greenwich Park.
There has been a playground located in the North East corner of Greenwich Park since the Second World War, but following decades of play from thousands of children, the much-loved facility needs modernising.
The Royal Parks has worked closely with a number of parent groups including Greenwich Parent Voice, a group of parents who all have children with special educational needs or a disability, in order to ensure the playground layout is as inclusive as possible for children of all ages and abilities.
The playground follows a maritime theme, reflecting the nautical roots of the World Heritage Site. The design incorporates structures that encourage collaborative and imaginative play through exploration and discovery.
Features include a basket swing, roundabout, and plenty of sand and water play. Play elements are positioned both at ground level and in raised channels of varying height, in order to allow disabled and able-bodied children to play together.
Loose, textured and natural materials such as logs, rope and bark will be used in a nature-inspired setting that blends with the park’s historic landscape. The design also incorporates planting schemes chosen for scent and colour, to create a sensory experience for youngsters.
Vivien Davies is a community group organiser, dog lover and full-time carer. She lives in Greenwich with her husband, her teenage son, her young daughter who has complex needs, and a very lively Labrador.
She says: “Greenwich Park is such a big part of our lives. We explore it together as a family, discovering its history, nature-watching and going for walks. It’s a great escape from our pressurised, urban lives.
“Being able to use a play space that is accessible is essential. It means our daughter can enjoy all the exciting opportunities there and play with other children rather than just watching them having fun from the sidelines. She has difficulties with her co-ordination but the design of this playground means she can push her boundaries safely, practise her movement skills, take risks and enjoy the sensory opportunities of sand and water, trees and plants. Above all she can join in creative and imaginative play with other children, and make new friends. All this would be difficult in a less inclusive space.”
The playground is just one of a series of major improvements scheduled for the park through ‘Greenwich Park Revealed’ – a multi-million-pound project to protect and enhance Greenwich Park’s heritage and natural landscape for future generations. The project will restore the park’s landscape heritage, improve biodiversity, generate opportunities for local communities through volunteering, events and a new Learning Centre; and improve visitor facilities through a mobility scheme, better play spaces, cafes and toilets.
Graham Dear, Manager of Greenwich Park, said: “We’re working closely with the community and local partners to transform Greenwich Park for everyone to enjoy. This exciting new play space will give all children a chance to have fun with their friends, while exploring and discovering nature, in a historical setting. We’ve worked with local parents to hear what they’d like to see in their children’s play areas, and we’ve responded by incorporating those views into designs that are inclusive and engaging for all youngsters.“
The Royal Parks is additionally working closely with the community to develop a bid for a £4.8m National Lottery grant from The National Lottery Heritage Fund and The National Lottery Community Fund to deliver Greenwich Park Revealed. The bid will be submitted in August 2019.
Graham Dear, added: “We’re also hosting a series of broader public engagement events where we’re inviting all locals and regular park visitors to come and share their views on our proposals, to help us shape the park’s future. People can find out more on our website, royalparks.org.uk/gpr.”