Howard Park & Gardens

 Howard Park and Gardens is sited within the centre of Letchworth Garden City. The inclusion of Howard Park and Gardens on the English Heritage Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest (Grade II), is a measure of its historical importance. It also falls within a Conservation Area and contains one listed building (Grade II) – Mrs Howard Hall which was the garden city’s first public building. Howard Park and Gardens is managed by North Hertfordshire District Council, is free to use and is open every day of the year. The Park was in need of re-development, with the play area looking very tired and in need of investment. In addition, central to the improvement programme was the restoration of the paddling pool to include water jets and a unique decorative pool surface.  The scheme has been largely financed thanks to a £1.84 million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and the Big Lottery Fund’s (BIG) joint Parks for People programme. The timescale for this work was considerable, work commenced in November 2010 and the process is not expected to finish until Spring 2012.

Cllr Ian Knighton, North Herts District Council’s portfolio holder for Leisure said: “The renovation of Howard Park and Gardens is a major and complex project. The overall scheme will conserve the historic importance of the Park and Gardens while bringing its facilities up-to-date, preserving its vital role in the community.”

Entry Charge:     Free

The Playscape: The siting of the original play area had never formally been planned as it developed

from the installation of a single memorial swings in the early 50’s to a large fenced play area which obscured key historic features and key views. As part of the redevelopment program, North Hertfordshire District Council and Landscape Architects, LDA Design identified a new site for the play area which is sited closer to Mrs Howard Hall (community building with children play club) new Kiosk building and public toilets and paddling pool.


The landscape design was of critical importance to this project and the design was developed to ensure that the new playground fitted in seamlessly with the surroundings. Landscape Architect, Stephanie Bassford from LDA Design comments:-

“We wanted to design a play area and source equipment which would fit well with the sensitive setting (mature trees, listed building and conservation area context) and install features that blend in with and enhance the local environment. For inspiration we visited Coombe Country Park to see how the play area had been installed on a site with similar site constraints/characteristics. The Climbing Forest suited the client/general public’s needs well, the complex network of vertical beams harmonises with the treed setting perfectly, and provides plenty of play value, particularly for older children. The other larger vertical structures such as the timber tower and swings have been selected so that they are visually permeable and open instead of closed/confined in an attempt to avoid anti- social behaviour. This means the key views on the approach to the Park are not obscured by bright coloured structures instead the playground has elegant vertical structures which from a distance look like trees.

The design had to be particularly considerate towards the historic and listed landscape setting and the installation of the play equipment had to be carefully undertaken to take account of the tree root protection areas.  Timberplay’s approved contractors worked with the Main Contractor and Council’s Tree Officer to ensure the installation work was carried out with minimum disruption to the surrounding trees and wider landscape.

When it came to fencing and the segregation of the older and younger playgrounds we had considerable debate and review of the site conditions/potential hazards with the Council. The decision whether to enclose the play area with a fence took into account the approaches set out in Play England’s – Design for Play: A guide to creating successful play space and the Play Builder Scheme to integrate play into the wider environment.

We worked with RoSPA and other specialists to carefully locate fencing to boundaries which may be hazardous if not formally enclosed (near roadways/car park). The fences were then screened with native hedges and the rest of the play area left open to the Park. The reduced amount of fencing means that children can move freely amongst the equipment, finding the area and the pieces that best suit their capabilities. In other areas of the play area where we wanted to create semi enclosed spaces or direct movement we used a combination of recycled felled trees from site (which can be used as seating or stepping stones), hedges and planting, The configuration of these items effectively distinguishes the equipped play area from the rest of the park and allows the children to see the whole Park as the play area not just the fenced area”.

Central to the new playground is the construction of a kiosk which houses public toilets, a small refreshment kiosk and pump room for the refurbished paddling pool.

Together with the surrounding listed building and nearby museum the development of this area will become a key draw for Howard Park and Gardens and Letchworth Garden City.”

LDA Design with the support of Timberplay selected an exciting range of equipment. The Climbing Forest is one of the most striking pieces of equipment in the Timberplay range, bringing together many vertical beams to connect a complex structure of ropes and nets. This provides exceptional stimulation for children from 7 and above. In addition, the inclined wall builds upper body strength as children clamber up using the rope to support them. Amongst other pieces, a Sand Snake, Wobble Dish and Bouncing Flowers, have been included specifically for younger children. A  Nest Swing, and Tractor Swing, together with a slide and see saw complete the design.

  • Howard Park & Gardens
    • Howard Park
    • Letchworth Garden City
    • United Kingdom
    • SG6 1NY