The local community was out in force today (Thursday 23 September) to celebrate the transformation of the natural and inclusive Gloucester Gate Playground in The Regent’s Park.
There was much to celebrate at the event, including the playground’s recent win at the BALI National Landscape Awards 2021. Since the revamp, visits have risen by 50%*, and over 80%** of children now spend 40 minutes or more in the space.
The landscaped playground, rich with planting and made from natural materials such as bark and willow, is in stark contrast to the metal and flat feel of the previous playground. Highlights include a 50-metre zip wire, water pumps and dams, a generous sandpit and an accessible bridge that leads to an exhilarating tunnel slide. Post-refurbishment, it is also double the size, and fully wheelchair-accessible.
The transformation has been funded by The London Marathon Charitable Trust (LMCT), and a mix of private and public donations. LMCT has also co-funded a three-year programme in The Regent’s and Greenwich Parks to encourage more children to play outdoors.
At the celebration event, children participated in a number of activities run by The Royal Parks’ Play Programme team. The programme is designed to be child-led and aims to break down some of the barriers associated with play. Since 2019, these free sessions have engaged almost 4,000 people and have been held in The Regent’s Park and in Greenwich Park, as well as in locations in the wider community, including The Regent’s Park Estate.
Playgrounds of this quality do not come cheap, and as a charity, Gloucester Gate Playground would simply not have been possible without the generosity of The London Marathon Charitable Trust and other donors. We are incredibly grateful to everyone involved in making this vision a reality. Since the playground opened to the public last autumn, we have received over a quarter of a million visits. Most of those visits will have included imaginative role play, forging connections, the mastering of a skill, and the release of endorphins from physical exercise. Play is not just a nice to have, we believe it’s essential to every facet of a child’s mental, social and physical wellbeing.”Andrew Scattergood, Chief Executive of The Royal Parks charity, said
Gloucester Gate Playground was initially built in the 1930s, and its appearance seems to coincide with the opening of a children’s ward in the nearby hospital at St Katherine’s Lodge. The lodge was obliterated by a bomb in the Second World War, and rubble was used to create the mounds that characterise the area. Drawing on the history of the site, mounds were planted to create a transition to the wider park. This new playground was designed to facilitate social and imaginative play, as well as the physical element. Initial feedback from parents suggests that the new design is encouraging more collaborative and self-directed play.