National Trust Gibside PlaygroundNewcastle-Upon-Tyne, England
As a National Trust site, Gibside were looking for very natural play experiences that complement the historic landscape. The sand and water play space that Timberplay created for them offered unrivalled rich play opportunities within a simple pebble play stream. Set within the sand, a number of large boulders were placed to indicate the path of the river, with a playground pump at the highest point acting as the water source.
Pebbles embedded in concrete help imply boundaries and a water switch and a dam enable children to control or stop the path of the water. The addition of sand means that children can sculpt the banks of the stream to continue the flow of the water, or can mix the sand and water together to create satisfying mud play. Water play, particularly when coupled with sand play, is one of the best forms of social play around, as children naturally work together to master the materials.
Gibside has also been engaged in a restoration process for several years, recapturing the former glory of the Georgian estate. Looking through the records of the management of the estate, The National Trust found reference to a Strawberry Castle within the documents relating to the gardeners and the stone masons – however could find no details, images or maps relating to the building. So this became the theme for the play area and, using designs and ideas from local children and working with Timberplay, they set about reimagining the structure – this time as inspiration for play.
The new Strawberry Castle is undoubtedly a far more playable structure than the original, with climbing walls, rope bridges, platform huts, ladders and chain paths.
Strawberry Castle is accompanied by a Climbing Structure, which utilises hefty timbers and provides varied and challenging play opportunities. A small tractor and trailer and platform huts are also perfect for toddler play, and the Standing Sheep ad interest to the play area.