- DATE: December 2008
The Rye play area provides opportunities for open access play in High Wycombe.
This play provision is an example of:
- Free / unstructured play
- Natural play
- Open access
The Rye play area opened in August 2008 and has become a popular site for local children in High Wycombe. Neil Coleman of Wycombe District council used the design-led approach described in the government and Play England guidance Design For Play when developing the playground to ensure that the features heightened play value and enhanced the wider setting.
The play area’s centrepiece is a large camouflaged structure with various ropes, poles, ladders and bridges. The structure is always changing with parts being added or moved. There is wheelchair access subtly built into the main structure and natural materials such as bark or grass are used as surfacing beneath the main structure.
Next to the main structure there are swings and monkey bars, hammocks and group play features, which range in their degree of challenge. There is also a football/basket ball court and trampolines built into two small hills formed from the spoil dug out for the bark pits. Across the park is a smaller area designed for younger children. There is a cycle path leading to earth mounds in the woods, which young people have converted into BMX tracks.
In using a design-led approach, Wycombe District Council and The Children’s Playground Co. Ltd, designed the play area as an extension of the park landscape, rather than a separate boxed off area. This means that children are free to use the open space for games and creative play and visit the nearby half-mile long lake.
The surrounding trees offer shady areas and sunny glades suited to the different seasons and there is seating at a sensible distance for adult supervision and places for children to hang out. There are plans to improve the park’s café facilities to make the playground and surrounding parkland area more user-friendly and accessible for the community.
The whole nature of the site illustrates the benefits of having a bespoke design. The site is close to nature (trees, water, grass, mud, sunshine) and offers a wide range of play choices for all children including disabled users.
Adults and children aged from three to eighteen years can all play together at the same time, bringing together people from various backgrounds. The site is challenging to children of various abilities and the equipment and setting allows them to stretch their capabilities and be inventive in their play. The playground is sustainable in the design and is already evolving as new uses and needs are discovered and addressed.
Following the advice contained in Design for Play, The Rye is carefully maintained, rather than being installed and forgotten about. New features are constantly being added or adapted so children have something new to explore. There are varying levels of challenge within the complex, so there is something for children of all abilities. Spare, dead sections of tree branches have been left out for children to play with as they wish.
Children and community involvement
Children from the local community selected the design of the playground through two stages of discussion and the children were then surveyed after completion to ensure that they had been given what they wanted. In addition, the council carries out surveys across the community every two years, which includes information regarding the development of the adventure playground. When consulting about play, the council also speak to parents and children regularly at the play areas to get their views on the provision.
Staff, policies and funding
The funding for the area is split into two parts. Projects (capital, one-off design installations) are managed by the Green Space Improvements team. Maintenance is managed by the Green Space Contracts team, both of which are in the Community Services Department. The playground is unsupervised and does not require any full-time members of staff. Mobile park wardens and rangers, and maintenance teams visit daily to carry out inspections and keep the area clean.
The Rye project is a fundamental part of the play strategy. The play partnership, led by the play champion, selected the project as being one of the two best solutions to address the needs of local children as identified in the consultation for the play strategy.
The number of people using the facilities is monitored on a regular basis. During the weekends the playground attracts 250 children plus and over 50 adults. It is estimated that between 50,000 to 100,000 people will use the playground over the course of a year, at least twice the number who used the previous play area.
The Rye has been designed for children and young people aged between 8 and 14 years old, but children as young as 3 and as old as 18 are using it regularly, and there is a separate space for younger children which reduces the opportunity and likelihood of bullying. As the playground is open access in a public space, it is open all day everyday.
Greenspace Improvements Team Leader
Wycombe District Council
Queen Victoria Rd
Tel: 0149 442 1823
Page updated December 2008