Apr 24, 2017 Last Updated 12:59 PM, Apr 20, 2017

Playing in rich history: Ebbsfleet Valley's new community

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By completion of the Eastern Quarry project in Ebbsfleet Valley, there will be 6250 new homes, and this significant new community need good shared community spaces. Camland Developments used the services of Timberplay to create the design for Castle Hill Park Play Area, creating outstanding play provision for the housing development.

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Eastern Quarry is one of the largest development sites within the Thames Gateway. Managed by Land Securities Ebbsfleet Valley landholdings and developed by Camland Developments, the site has seen the development of over 250 hectares of former quarry. The site's new play area has been constructed as part of the new Castle Hill development, but is also accessible by neighbouring existing communities. Camland Developments was keen to create a standout play area that would engage children over a wider age range, offering different levels of challenge. It was also important that the new play area made reference to the pre-historic landscape of the site.

Timberplay created a design for an imaginative playspace for toddlers through to juniors, with consideration for those with physical limitations. The space has used a landscape led approach in its design to create a more organic, textural playspace that reflects the wider setting and the history of the site, with rugged materials such as sand, timber and stone. In 2003 the construction of the HS1 link unearthed evidence that early humans hunted in packs, with bones and flint pieces showing that groups were able to successfully hunt and butcher an elephant for its meat – making the Ebbsfleet elephant a key local story.

To reflect the behaviour of the hominins that frequented what is now known as Castle Hill, the choice of equipment and natural play features draw inspiration from hominin activity, their survival skills and movement. All combined, this play space is designed to provide entertainment for children and parents, a place to relax and look out upon the whole play space that fits in seamlessly with the Country Park.

The Ebbsfleet elephant has been honoured within the Muddy Mire, with small elephant slide and baby elephant, with a lion and rhino to provide a bit of company.

The Forest Swamp is the site of a Climbing Forest – an exciting and challenging equipment combination. Children’s imaginations can run wild as they get in touch with their inner hominin, experiencing tree-climbing, branch-swinging, the experience of height and vantage points – trying not to fall into the ‘swamp’ (woodfibre impact absorbent surface) below! The See-Saw Carousel swing and Rotating Disc also provide lots of high energy, thrilling fun. Both pieces can accommodate several children at any one time.

The Clay Bank Archaeological Dig plays on the site’s rich archaeological history, with extensive sand area and a big Building Site piece of equipment, with pulleys and chutes to encourage digging and transporting. A Small Excavator, Turning Crane and Sand Tipper offer even more varied play experiences. The landscaping has created play pockets, with well-placed boulders serving as the perfect spot to perch.

The Marshy Valley area has lots of stimulating equipment perfect for smaller children; Small See-Saw, Jumping Discs, Wobble Dish and Dwarf Hill, Twin Swing and Nest Swing. A Climbing Structure is also included to nurture the development of children’s physical skills, homing the negotiation, balance and courage they need to take on the Climbing Forest as their confidence grows.

Adam Owen, Project Manager at Camland Developments comments: “As the playground is effectively the gateway to the site we wanted it to be very impressive, heralding the start of such an important development. I am thrilled that we have achieved this. The playground is nothing short of awe-inspiring, it makes me wish I was a kid again.

“I have worked on many playgrounds across the UK throughout my career and this is the most impressive I have ever seen. Working with Timberplay has been a pleasure, from developing the design with their Landscape Architects through to installation and after-care. I look forward to working with them again on the next project.”

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