A Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT) site, Martin Mere Wetland Centre had an existing play area that was in need of significant updating. Equipment was run down and the WWT were keen to boost the number of family visitors they attracted. They wanted a new play area that re-energised the site, encouraged lapsed visitors to come again and attracted new families.
Great efforts were made to preserve the trees during the construction of the play areas. Timberplay developed their designs to include the trees as much as possible, as they contribute to creating a more pleasant environment, providing shade and shelter from the elements.
One of the main draws of the play area is the waterplay zone. Incorporating a circular water channel, playground pump, seesaw pump linked to a spray jet and a long-handled pump to operate the forest fountain, this area provides a great deal of stimulation. The spray jet is hidden in a boulder: the magic of the piece will only be realised when children work together, one to pump the water while the other plays with it as it comes out. Children can also play with the water as it goes around the channel, damming it or controlling how it enters the system. The water is then collected and reused for irrigation, including watering the green roof.
Next to the water area, the sand area is particularly popular with younger children, but older children also enjoy playing with the building site play unit (complete with slide).
Central to the play area is big tree house with 4m high stainless steel tunnel slide. This bespoke play feature accessed by a rope tunnel and has been designed to suggest a bird watching hide. Peep holes are included to provide glimpses of the magnificent views across the Mere.
Older children naturally gravitate toward the climbing forest and climbing structure, making their way from one end to the other via a series of generous timbers and rope bridges and nets. This piece of kit provides a variety of challenges, so children can work at their own level. A wide slide at one end of this product combination provides a sociable and exciting way to exit the piece. A cableway complements this product combination, providing high energy play value over a 25metre cable.
The play area can be negotiated via a central timber curvy walkway, this increases the accessibility of the play area for wheelchairs and buggies. There is also a central raised seated area, from which parents and carers can observe activity throughout the plat area.
Other pieces of kit are used around the site, including a toddler see-saw, playhouse on stilts, nest swing and wooden duck family.
This site was only opened in June 2012, but the first summer saw record visitor numbers. August alone attracted almost 28,000 visitors, representing a 6,000 visitor increase compared to the same period the year before.
Stephen Harvey, Centre Developments Officer for the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust comments:
“The design for this play area capitalised exceptionally well on the available space, to create a play area that appeals to children of all ages. We now have a challenging and beautiful setting to complement our site. It has been enormously rewarding working with Timberplay, a company which we believe shares many of WWT’s core values in the way we approach the world and negotiate through it.”