Essex County Council
Belhus Woods Country Park
A unique combination of music, rhythm, performance and play in an urban country park
In order to support the Council’s corporate objectives, Essex County Council (ECC) sought to increase footfall to the park through attracting visitors from further afield, increasing regularity of visits to the park and increasing visitors’ length of stay. Following successful investments in adventurous and innovative play for families at several country parks, ECC set aside £300,000 to invest in the creation of a unique play offer at Belhus Woods Country Park. Taking into consideration the parks location next to a motorway and it’s link with local theatre groups and the Royal Opera House; ECC released a brief that required bidders to design a bespoke play area that was themed around music, rhythm and performance, whilst remaining strongly linked to more traditional play themes.
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Our bespoke designs for Belhus Woods Country Park responded to the music, rhythm and performance theme through the incorporation of a range of musical instruments, performance and spectator spaces. These elements were combined with traditional play themes that enable opportunities to experience physical challenge, appropriate risk, and sensory and imaginative play. Our open-ended approach to design enables us to create inspiring playscapes that facilitate collaborative play between children of different ages and abilities.
Our designs included:
- A robinia archway with a bell to ring when entering the park
- A traditional bandstand with babel drums
- A deck walkway sweeping through the playscape with instruments placed throughout, including chimes arranged to play ‘Teddy Bear’s Picnic’, giant emperor chimes and handpipes
- Cajon drums on a small stage with a timber roof to protect from the elements
- A large stage with lighting rig posts and musical instruments surrounded by three towers and a sweeping curved walkway
- Three oversized climbing chairs and balance beam network for seating in front of stage
- A large sandpit with jetty, fish carousel, wobbly whale and a Punch and Judy stage with carved crocodile seating
- A challenging older children’s climbing area with nets and tower
- A pebble area with platforms, pulleys, shoots and carved mixing bowls
- A spinning zone with infinity bowl, spinning disc and witches hat roundabout
To ensure the design was in keeping with the country park setting, we used our trademark natural materials such as robinia, larch and eucalyptus timbers and combined them with carefully selected stainless steel play equipment and outdoor musical instruments. The result is an inspiring playscape that provides memorable play experiences for children, young people and their families.
Accommodating between three hundred to five hundred children playing at once, the finished product at Belhus Woods Country Park has been successful in increasing footfall and encouraging existing visitors to extend both the length of their visits to the site and the regularity with which they visit.
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