The Outwoods Country Park

Commissioned by Charnwood Borough Council and inspired by the ancient woodland location which is part of The National Forest , we have just started on site in January 2019 constructing a play and events space. The new play space at The Outwoods Country Park is designed to support the development of tourism in the area and integrate with the existing environment. Providing play in a woodland setting is a great way to encourage families to visit and explore the wider woodland.

Our aim is to build playgrounds that inspire happy, healthy and curious children. Research shows that limiting children’s outdoor play experience risks damaging their physical, mental and emotional development, leaving them less well prepared for the adult world and also less interested in the environment. Linkages have also been made between the lack of nature in children’s lives and the rise in obesity, attention disorders and depression giving rise to the concept of nature deficit disorder.

Opportunities for children to engage directly with nature have been reduced, a cycle of disconnection, apathy towards environmental concerns and progressive environmental depletion. The evidence suggests that the earlier that children are introduced to the natural environment, the more likely they are to return and access this space in later life.

Natural Play Area This is the main aspect of the proposal designed with bespoke play elements offering a wide range of play opportunities for different ages and abilities. The choice of materials and the layout ensures the space will be welcoming for both children and adults and compliment the woodland setting. Set between the trees will be towers, walkways, net bridge and balance beams connecting the decks. Boulders and large oak logs provide a playful boundary and retaining wall for the wood chip surface and can act as informal seating for parents and carers.

Using natural materials and non prescriptive play elements we are creating a play and events space that work with nature rather than against it. For younger children we have designed a den called The Dwelling which has a spiral staircase to access the top floor and a wide slide. The Dwelling Den is set within eco mulch surface to providing wheelchair access. A large stone dust picnic area providing an accessible route to the eco mulch area and picnic bench seating for parents and carers.

Attaching coppiced chestnut lathes to the walls of the Dwelling Den

As well as a playground we have designed a covered events space. Similar to the aims of the natural play space, we see the events area as a space that utilises and compliments its woodland setting. Inspired by the history of the site and complementing the structures within the play space, the main feature of the space is an impressive timber framed cruck barn and will be used for a variety of events and functions. Providing a focal point within this area ties the woodland space together and allows for activities to spill out and take place throughout the trees, connecting people to the natural setting.

Timber for the cruck barn roof leaving our Bristol workshop