Bedgebury Pinetum and Forest

Forestry commission


March 2019

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A pinecone inspired playspace in the forest

The National Pinetum is home to a world-leading collection of conifers and provides a beautiful setting for woodland play. The play area and its structures have been inspired by the landscape of the Pinetum, where 70 percent of the trees are conifers. We therefore chose to form a key part of our design on the pine cone; an essential element of conifer reproduction. We were also briefed to provide a clear link to the Bedgebury mission, objectives and the Forestry Commission’s ‘plant hunters’ theme.
The finished product

A similar project to this would cost £20,000

1. The Pine Cone

‘The Pine Cone’ forms the centrepiece of the play space and takes inspiration from the pine cone from the UK’s native Scot Pine Tree. Its likeness is increased further through the addition of the climbing grip ‘scales’ which allow users to clamber and traverse around the outside of the structure. Within the pine cone, a suspended ‘spiderweb’ net provides children with a surface on which to clamber and look down at the children who have entered the structure through the secret tunnel below. ‘The Pine Cone’ itself can be accessed via a wobbly ladder, or by rope walks linking it to ‘The Pine Needles’ and ‘The Seed Lab.’

2. The Pine Needles

Mimicking the spreading form of pine needles, our balance beams provide a stimulating climbing route linked to the main pine cone structure by multiple rope walks. The beams which make up the individual pine needles are set at a variety of different heights and angles to cater for users of mixed ability and confidence levels.

3. The Seed Lab

Children play and explore in many different ways and ‘The Seed Lab’ is all about initiating explorative play through the idea of a woodland laboratory. Many of the interactive elements are accessible from ground level, encouraging inclusive play, suitable for all ages and abilities. ‘The Seed Lab’ play elements are there to encourage a different type of play than that of the rest of the play area. It is all about investigative play, which involves finding, collecting and sorting of natural found materials. The lab also enables children to process elements of the forest flora and fauna, utilising the pestle and mortar for mixing and processing and the pulley for transportation of materials. Carved pine cones have been included on two of the posts to enhance the theme of the area.

4. Pine Hunters Game

We designed a series of laser etched pinecone carvings on wooden discs representing different varieties of pine cones found at Bedgebury Pinetum. The discs were placed throughout the play area, some hidden and some in plain view, for children to discover and ‘hunt’ for. This ‘Pine Hunters’ activity links to the Forestry Commission’s plant hunters theme and is explained on an additional wooden plaque within the play area, creating a memorable play experience whilst educating and inspiring visitors.

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