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TIMBERPLAY - Highfields Climbs To The Top!

Children are inherently adventurous, with an almost inbuilt ‘program’ to climb! Highfields Adventure Playground in Leicester recognised that if children from their local area were to do this then they would need to satisfy parents and the community that they could do this in a safe environment.

Highfields Adventure Playground has been open since 1972 and in those days the children of the area could spend their free time climbing in the many trees, monkeying around and generally finding their own level of risk, and learning the consequences when they got this wrong! Located within the inner city of one of the UK’s main cities, Highfields Adventure Playground was, and remains a vital lifeline for children seeking the rich freeflow environment provided by the great outdoors.

It was this carefree, relaxed attitude to play that almost 40 years later Highfields still strives to achieve with remarkable success. The adventure playground is run by a voluntary group that is overseen by a management committee that includes local parents, many of whom were the original children playing in the park back in the 1970’s. It is through their tenacity and that of the play workers who work at the adventure playground that has resulted in new funding streams and some dramatic changes to the playscape.

With £50,000 funding from Playbuilder and £50,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund it meant the adventure playground could invest in some new self built pieces of play equipment as well as improve groundworks. However, the biggest gamble and the one that presented the biggest obstacle was the installation of the Timberplay Climbing Structure. At £25,000 this represented the largest investment that had ever been made on a piece of play equipment and the biggest risk to the organisation running the park if it failed to impress! The parents from the local area where also amongst the first to raise their concerns about having such a challenging piece of play equipment available to the children expressing their fears that it would lead to multiple injuries and accidents on a grand scale. So it was with much trepidation that the Climbing Structure was ordered and installed from Timberplay.

Working with their expert installation team, Timberplay were able to work efficiently in a very self-contained way, causing minimum disruption. Set against the backdrop of many trees the Climbing Structure, embedded naturally into its surrounding environment and was now ready to use.

Commenting upon how well the Climbing Structure has been received Kevin Sheriff, Playworker at Highfields Adventure Playground says, “Deciding upon installing the Climbing Structure was a huge risk for us but thankfully it has paid off. We have seen the numbers of children and families increase significantly as a result of all the work we have done here and the Climbing Structure is key to that. It is great that we have been able to recapture for today’s children some of that sense of freedom that I had growing up, of being able to climb in the trees. We see that children from ages 6 – 15 years are able to challenge themselves about how high they will go or how they will climb across the equipment, assessing the risk as they do so. We have even had smaller children aged 4 and 5 on the Climbing Structure in managed play sessions through school. We have been able to prove to the adults that the Climbing Structure is not too dangerous and that children need to learn for themselves how to negotiate the challenge. We have had a small number of falls that you might expect on any piece of play equipment but certainly nothing major or anything that makes us think we made the wrong choice. In fact the response from parents has been that we have been able to instil a sense of pride that this is their local play area and that families from outside the local community want to come and visit.

I think what we have been able to demonstrate is that with a well thought out plan that included parents and children we were able to introduce a risky but worthwhile piece of play equipment into the adventure play area that will a lasting legacy for our children, demonstrating the fun and freedom that can be achieved through the simple act of climbing.”

For general enquiries contact the Timberplay office by email below:

E-mail Timberplay


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