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20 Oct 2023

Nature's Playground at The Eden Project

Nature's Playground at The Eden Project

As a specialist playground and adventure park company that is based locally, we were awarded a prestigious project to design and build a new adventure play area for the Eden Project in Cornwall.

The background

Nature's Playground is one of the largest outdoor play areas in the South West, including large bespoke slides, swings, water play, suspended nets and a miniature clay quarry. The centrepiece is a 9-metre-high Tree of Life tower where children can crawl and climb to the viewing nest before travelling back down in a corkscrew tube slide.

The 500-square-metre area also provides sensory and accessible play, immersing Eden's visitors in a woodland world made from natural and sustainable materials.

The brief and our response to the brief

Eden's brief was immediately interesting both in how it matched our core values, and how it offered invitations to explore how a play area can educate, entertain and foster enduring positive memories of a great day out. Our response explored the various ways that our concept, the materials we use and the activities we promote, encourage visitors to connect to Nature and to Play and ideas around regenerative sustainability. We designed for all ages, all abilities and for a highly challenging steeply sloped site.

Eden's chief marketing officer, Emma Evans said “When TouchWood presented their design it was obvious that their instincts and passion for natural and sustainable play are perfectly aligned to our own and we were delighted with their creative approach. Eden is all about connecting with the natural world and we know that being active in the fresh air is a brilliant way for children to develop mentally, physically and emotionally, while having fun and creating rich memories.”

Touchwood's Founder, Joe Cooper, says: “This is an incredible project and the whole team are all extremely proud to have been a part of it. In particular it resonates with our passion to bring outstanding design and natural play to more and more children in the UK and beyond, where unsustainably manufactured playgrounds are too often the norm”.

The build

Building this play area involved a series of traditional craft skills. It involved the creation of a bespoke granite built water cascade. Interspersed with pools to allow children and adults alike to interact with water in all its states- from turbulent to still. It involved the planting and weaving of countless green willow withies which will grow and transform with the passing of every season. It involved the hand selection and repurposing of tree stems and branches in the mighty tree of life structure. And true to the spirit of the project and Eden's mission, it involved active participation of local communities wherever possible, see below.

In order to engage the local community we integrated our designing for real process, first exploring the design with the local stakeholders using our collaborative construction of the play landscape in temporary form, and then actually building one of the features with a local school group using our mobile traditional craft workshop.

The play

We were asked to respond to the question: “why would a family journey to this play area both during the height of Summer and the depths of winter?”. Our design intention was to create a playscape that was rich in opportunities for both adults and children to play together in an environment that is inspired by the Natural world. Our research over the years has informed us that the combination of freely accessed play opportunities and a setting that simulates the natural world creates enduring positive play memories. Much like you would find in a forest, or in a place where a cascading stream meets the beach, this play landscape encourages the use of loose parts and multi sensory engagement with materials and elements.

Whether you are damming the stream, floating found leaves across a pond, listening to birdsong or building a den, the invitation of this play area is to adventure, and explore with friends and family. It is a truly inclusive play area, with opportunities for wheelchair users and children of mixed abilities to engage with deep play experiences. On our recommendation Eden is installing a F and B outlet right there in the heart of the play area to further support this newly created place for fun, relaxation, connection and play.

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