17 Dec 2008

Call for Nature Playgrounds

Here is my letter today to The Citizen re Nature Playgrounds - an issue I've covered several times before - my hope is that some of this £1m money planned for the county play areas over the next years will be put to this use....Update: see latest post on this topic here

Photo: Den making in Standish woods

Parmjit Dhanda in his 'view from Westminster' calls for thoughts about how to spend the £1m allocated for play areas in Gloucestershire up to 2010.

Interestingly studies suggest that our 'safe playgrounds' and safety-orientated society have led to children being less able to cope with uncertainty. Some argue that standardised play equipment is actually dangerous. When the distance between all the rungs on the climbing net or the ladder is exactly the same, children have no need to concentrate on where to put their feet. This lesson cannot be carried over into all the knobbly and asymmetrical forms with which one is confronted throughout life.

It may be unrealistic to think that we can restore children to the ‘free-range childhoods’ enjoyed by earlier generations, but we can take steps to lessen the constraints. Too often our playgrounds are devoid of any greenery or free-spirited, playful engagement with nature. Let us call a halt to these more sterile playgrounds with tubular steel, rubber surfacing and primary coloured plastics galore.

Freiburg, a German city, has done just that for over a decade. At a fraction of the cost they have built over 40 ‘nature playgrounds’ designed with a lifetime in mind. The results are diverse spaces with mounds, ditches, logs, boulders, wild flowers, secret corners and shady spots. The construction materials are a model of sustainability compared to the raw materials and processes used to make conventional playgrounds. Not surprisingly research shows more children staying away from television. So how about Gloucestershire leading the way in creating nature playgrounds?

Cllr. Philip Booth, Stroud District Green Party.

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