May 28, 2017 Last Updated 9:00 AM, May 26, 2017

Council creates playground haven

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Situated on the edge of Loughborough, Beacon Hill country park is the perfect place to take in panoramic views of the surrounding Leicestershire countryside. The park is maintained by Leicestershire County Council and is very popular with dog walkers, ramblers, cyclists, runners and horse riders.

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The addition of a well-thought-out play space from Timberplay has been a key factor in widening the appeal of the country park.

Back in 2013, a play area was created close to the lower car park to ensure that little legs did not have too far to go. This play area has lots of equipment selected specifically for toddlers and younger children, with a hut combination, rocker and small see-saw.

The play huts featured within the Beacon Hill site are one of archetypal designs created by Hilde Richter Spielgeräte in 1966 when she first started the Bavarian play company which Timberplay is proud to represent within the UK. Created to perfectly fit the dimensions of a 3/4 year old, so they can touch the ceiling and the walls, the play hut remains one of the most enduring products within the Richter range.

In addition, to give stimulating play opportunities for older children, a climbing structure was also utilised, offering challenging and risky play. To increase dwell time the play area was also situated alongside a picnic area which is busy throughout the summer months.

Beacon Hill is the second highest point in Leicestershire, so the next play development set to exploit this, positioned close to the upper car park. The choice of equipment also offers improved elevation, affording magnificent views across open countryside.

Child's play

A triangular platform combination has been coupled with wobbly bridges, climbing nets and rope crossings, so children can clamber across their own hill top whilst parents rest and admire the view from the adjacent seating area. A cradle nest swing, jumping discs, double see-saw and dwarf hill complement this focal product combination to present a wide range of play experiences.

Parks are increasingly needing to look at methods of increasing their revenue in order to address the shortfall in funding, common across the vast majority of public authorities. The inclusion of a stand-out play area increases the use of the park, and also the amount of time people choose to spend on the site. As they spend longer at a venue, they are more likely to invest in the other facilities, and parking costs are also becoming a key component in the council’s business plan. The Beacon Hill project benefitted from a grant from the National Forest.

The equipment is nestled within a birch copse, providing shade from the sun and protection from the wind. As well as Timberplay play equipment, the Beacon Hill site also has bespoke wooden carvings created by local Artist Peter Leadbeater who serves as the park’s Artist in Residence. A number of figures are displayed around the park, adding interest as families make their way across the expansive site. Many of these are figures, for example, an axe man and wizard, but the play areas are also complemented by cute animal sculptures including a rabbit, frog, mole, fox and raven. These attractive features add character and personality to the site.

A spokesman for Leicestershire County Council said: “The setting is so important to Beacon Hill country park as people who come to the park want to see the many different vistas and terrains it presents. It is this wildness that makes it so popular for many activities, from bird watching and rambling to orienteering and rock climbing.

“We were focused on ensuring that any play addition was not to the detriment of this rich country environment – so naturalistic equipment that respected the setting was of utmost importance to us. We think the final play areas achieve our objectives perfectly, the equipment, its positioning and the wider landscaping fits exceptionally well within the rural country park.

“We are already enjoying increased numbers from families, with many visiting for the day at the weekend with picnics. We are expecting this to increase further throughout the summer holidays and we are currently looking at how we can further enhance the visitor experience.”

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