New Inclusive Playground
Greenwich Parent Voice helped launch the new inclusive playground in Royal Greenwich Park this week. We have worked closely with Royal Parks architects and landscape designers to make the new playground accessible to all young people and it was a joy to see it filled with happy children of all abilities.
The launch event on 23rd July was a lovely party attended by friends, families and children from every corner of the borough.
Helping design a new playground
We were approached by The Royal Parks to attend a number of indoor consultation sessions where we discussed the experiences and challenges faced by parents of children with disabilities. We met the landscape architects and talked about what makes a play space fully inclusive. We went on tours of the playground area to look at the equipment and share ideas on how to add to or develop them further.
We were pleased that every member of the team delivering this project seems really committed to making it inclusive. Some spoke of their own family’s experience of disability and that empathy is really valuable. We could see at each stage how suggestions we made had come through directly into the design.
Playing in Greenwich Park
The playground has a great location in a scenic corner of the park surrounded by trees and the view of the Observatory and One Point Hill. There’s a lot of space and it's very busy, always new children to meet and games to join in with. There’s a nice sense of community among the parents and the facilities, such as the loos and kiosk, are good. It has a lot of lovely play equipment and enough variety to keep an able-bodied child very entertained.
But generally the sight lines meant that in the ‘old’ playground it was hard to track a child who might run off, which is common with autism. Some of the features didn’t accommodate a child who needs a carer to help them with their mobility, and some were inaccessible to a child who can’t easily climb, crawl or manage steps.
Small adaptations go a long way. For example, a slide that is just a little wider enables a carer to support a more dependent young child to go down. Being careful with paths and heights of play features prevents a child in a wheelchair from being excluded from any part of the space so they don’t have to watch their friends run off without them. Elements such as sand and water are really important for young people with sensory difficulties or who have restricted mobility. Placing this as a central feature gives them the space they need.
Key pieces such as a level-access roundabout which accommodates a wheelchair, basket swings and ramps throughout make it possible for children using wheelchairs or with balance and coordination difficulties.
Care was taken with planting, to make it as enjoyable and sensory as possible which is also very important for children for whom this is the sole point of access to a playful experience.
A better experience for all children
What has made the difference is that the designers have listened to the views of parents of young people and incorporated these insights directly into the design of the new playground. In doing so they’ve made a playground which is a better experience for all children.
The playground was built thanks to generous support from The London Marathon Charitable Trust. The Trust is also co-funding a three-year play programme with The Royal Parks to help children spend more time outdoors and actively play in nature, in partnership with local charity, London Play.
Find out more about the GPV Greenwich Park Playground consultation here