Chester Zoo complete third play area with Timberplay


With Summer fast approaching, zoos will be analysing their performance, taking notes on how they can improve their attraction for 2019 and looking for inspiration from other operators on how they can build visitor numbers and increase visitor satisfaction. Since established in 2000, outdoor play specialists, Timberplay, have worked with several zoos to help them develop their play offering.

Over the past three years Timberplay have been working with Chester Zoo to enhance their play facilities. The Islands installation in 2015 represented a huge investment for Chester, £40million was spent on re-creating the exotic islands of South-East Asia. With a huge biosphere, boat ride, amazing animal habitats and street food outlets, Chester Zoo were looking to boost play value of the Islands, supporting exploration of the area for younger visitors. The carefully chosen selection of play equipment, together with its positioning within the landscape, creates hiding places and vantage points to enhance interaction with the space. All the equipment selected; Climbing Structure Cradle Nest Swing, Platforms and Climbing Nets provide graduated levels of challenge, key for keeping children’s interest as they grow in skill, confidence and ability. They can all accommodate large groups of children at once, ideal for keeping up with demand at peak periods. The play site is also located next to a food outlet, encouraging visitors to spend time in this area.

Next Chester Zoo worked with BCA Landscapes to create a design for the Madagascar play area, again located close to a food outlet, with bespoke play towers acting as a focal point. The variety of play experiences includes climbing structures, slides and a pebble play stream complete with waterpumps, Archimedes screw, and dams. Much of the equipment for this space was provided by Timberplay.

Ben Harbottle, Sales Director at Timberplay comments:-
“Waterplay is an excellent addition to any play space, providing unbeatable play value and supporting social and physical development and understanding of scientific and mathematical concepts. If you can combine this waterplay with sand, even better as children can experiment with how the two materials work together and how water can impact on the stability of sand as a building substance.”

Most recently Timberplay worked with Chester Zoo last year on the creation of Wildlife Wood, an impressive combination of equipment designed to unleash the inner adventurer. The main hefty structure features generous timbers and comprises many elements, including a Climbing Forest combined with a three tier triangular net configuration. This in turn, connects via a net tunnel to a special single footed tree house, net tunnels and huge steel tunnel slide. Presented as a comprehensive unit, children can tackle the piece as a whole, plotting their way from one end to the other, or cherry pick the elements they want to conquer. With several levels of challenge within each element, children of all ages can find the appropriate element for their own physical ability. Wildlife Woods also includes several wheelchair accessible products, including a slide designed to be easily accessed by a wheelchair user, and also, the thrilling wheelchair see-saw, which has been uniquely incorporated as a bridge element. The wooded play area uses wood chip as its safety surface, offering a very natural feel, perfect for the wider zoo environment.

Ben concludes:-
“Across all of these sites Chester Zoo have boldly embraced designs and products that offer some level of risk. This is one of the key factors in presenting play opportunities that encourage longer dwell time, have a wider appeal and also encourage repeat visits. If everything is regulated and straight forward there is no impetus to spend any time mastering the skills needed to complete sections of the equipment. That said it is important to offer multiple levels of challenge so any child, regardless of age or ability can select the appropriate activity for themselves.”


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