Landscape & Amenity Awards 2009: Best Playscheme

WINNER: Groundwork London -- King George's Field Playscape

"It's wicked," yells one of the young tearaways let loose on the new King George's Field Playscape in Hanwell, in the London Borough of Ealing. The old play area was neither wicked nor worth the time, let alone playtime, of day. Rusty railings, tarmac, islands of wet-pour surfacing and stillness were all that remained of a play zone all-but obsolete.

The revolution that replaced all that is a concept that first made headlines two years ago when it scooped an RHS Gold Medal. Adam White and Andree Davies worked with kids from the local St Mark's Primary School to pioneer Playscape.

"Playscape rejects preconceived notions of a playground in favour of a more natural approach to play," says the team's entry. "Remember how a fallen tree trunk could provide hours of fun? Playscape returns to these simple pleasures, encouraging engagement with natural surroundings."

This translates to undulating land dotted with a hotch-potch of recycled materials. Here, old drainage pipelines find new life as tunnels while wood from sea groins resurfaces as play frames. Soil from a building site was used to sculpt mounds, thus keeping the earth out of landfill.

Logs from fallen trees, boulders, grassy mounds, shrubs and trees are the naturalistic language of Playscape. But conventional play kit also takes its place among the natural elements and Playscape includes the swings and slides that have always proved popular with children.

"Rather than tokenistic consultation, designers worked with young people, encouraging the painting of construction hoardings, offering design workshops and visits to tree nurseries and boulder quarries," says Groundwork London of how White and Davies arrived at Playscape.

The £260,000 project has won more than a loyal following of children. The BBC, the Landscape Institute and Play England have all been won over by the concept and jumped onto the bandwagon - as well as onto the swings and climbing frames of Playscape - to echo the kids' view: "It's wicked".

HIGHLY COMMENDED

Archer Landscapes - Webb Estate Play Group Garden

Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council - Romano Park, Ingleby Barwick

Bristol Zoo Gardens - The Darwinian Maze

City of Edinburgh Council - Craigmillar Castle Park Play Area

Nottingham City Council Parks and

Open Spaces Service - Forest Recreation Ground

Timberplay - Castle Howard Playground

West Lothian Council, NETS and Land Services - Miners' Play Area, Polkemmet Country Park, Whitburn.


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