Update 29/12/08: I've now also had a reply from Officer at Stroud District who is also keen to see more natural playgrounds and will be pushing that also for the planned staffed destination play area for the County.
As regular blog readers will know this is a subject I've covered a few times but only in the last week have I come across this excellent blog about play grounds: http://playgrounddesigns.blogspot.com/
It pointed me to images and quotes from Helle Nebelong's website - some of which are enclosed below (and pic above taken from another blog entry):
Helle Nebelong writes: "...different surfaces, e.g. asphalt for cycling, roller-skating and other forms of self-transport, for ball games and as a king of block for drawing or hopscotch. There should also be sand, tiles, paths and steps and different uneven stones, soft forest floor, wood chips and gravel. Bridges would also be good, both bridges over canals and hanging bridges over ditches. For once the majority of employees could agree that they would like water in the playground. The general consensus is often otherwise, that water is far too dangerous because you can drown in it. In the ”perfect” playground, however, there should be water steps, paddling pools, canals and an outdoor shower spray, where the muddy children could be rinsed off.....The largest area of the playground is for the use of all the children, but it is possible to close off a little area for the nursery children."
"At the beginning there were many reservations about the playground. Parents said that the playground was dangerous with all the big stones. The employees of the institution said it was just too boring. The playground has now been in existence for almost ten years. The parents now say, that the children are happier now when they come home. The leader of the institution says that there are fewer conflicts in the playground. They are really happy with the playground, especially with the water. A constructive debate has arisen between parents and employees in the institution about how far one can protect a child and try to prevent him from coming to harm. "
Here are some more photos of Helle's work:
Landscape Architect Helle Nebelong worked together with four students from Denmark's design school. They designed six towers for the playground of which five were constructed. The towers are placed as precise points on the circular bridge. Each tower has its own theme: The light's tower, The wind's tower, The green tower, The bird tower and The tower of change. The ambition is that the playground should become a good alternative to the many commercial amusement parks, which are appearing everywhere.
Another good example from Helle is The Garden of Senses..."The Garden of Senses is designed like a maze with winding paths, leading the visitor past many different experiences: Several Wonder Spaces with Tangible Sculptures - one sculpture to each of our senses. Crossings, a Riverside Scenery with rocks and a Lake Scenery without water, a Lavender Island, a Maze of stakes. A Bamboo shrub, a small Garden of Fragrance with a fountain, prickly evergreens, shrubbery with old, crumbling sculptures, a Pavilion Garden, a grove of ginkgoes, a Butterfly Garden and a lot of other elements to discover. Ro und stones of granite are placed outside the garden and make a sort of connection between the garden and the park. The stones are also varied: rough and smooth; round and angular; small stones that rattle in your hand; big rocks for climbing."
Another interesting article that the playground blog pointed to was about the Geelsgaard School garden for special needs children. Indeed the blog is full of fascinating ideas from rock climbing up the side of walls to this company Plantware’s vision is to turn living trees into a new building material.
Anybody new to this topic should perhaps start with the work of Tim Gill at: http://www.rethinkingchildhood.com/
And his good article here which sets out the arguments and thoughts re natural play:
Let us hope that although there is little time the likes of the guy who contacted me will be able to help sway those making decisions and we will see that £1m planned for Gloucestershire spent more on natural playgrounds.