Children’s Wild Play Area, Brookburn Primary School, Chorlton.
“I cannot tell you how satisfying it has been to work on this project, thank you so very much for all your help. I really enjoyed the time that I have put in on the days at work with you … The kids are really enjoying it.”
– Firouz Thompson, Co-chair of Brookburn PTA
Working with Pathways Consultancy and the Brookburn Primary School PTA to create ‘BrookDen’: a new Wild Play area that will be available to this and other schools in the area. I led a variety of enthusiastic volunteers including: parents; school children; members of the local community; and staff from MCC Southern Cemetary. Over three months we cleared the area of waste and rubble; installed an extensive network of wood-chip paths and steps, post and rail fencing, two sandpits, a mud kitchen, bird boxes, bird table, a dry stream bed with bridges; and planted a mixed native edible hedge and fruiting trees and shrubs. Volunteers also worked with a professional willow weaver, Joe Gregory, to create living willow structures and decor.
The project begins!
Making the play trees safe.
Digging a new network of paths.
Filling the paths with wood chip.
Most of the wood chip used in the paths was donated by the MCC Southern Cemetary team.
Woohoo! The end of a successful and satisfying morning.
The afternoon shift begin preparing the bed for the new edible hedge.
Preparing the bed for the edible hedge.
Topsoil excavated during pathwork was used to build up the bed for the hedge, as the ground here was extremely hard and stony, and partially affected by the footings of the adjacent playground.
Planting the edible hedge: hawthorn, dog rose, eldar, crab apple, wild pear, hazel and field maple.
The edible hedge will provide food and shelter for wildlife, whilst also providing educational opportunities for the school children.
Wood chip is barrowed across to the hedge to provide a mulch.
The end of another great day.
More paths ready for the next delivery of wood chip.
This path will lead to some steps leading safely to the top of the hill.
One of two sets of steps are installed.
The lads from Southern Cemetary volunteer with us for the day, bringing several loads of woodchip along with these birdboxes they make on site.
Up go the birdboxes, which are soon utilised by local nesting birds.
The Southern Cemetary lads with some of our parent volunteers.
With the paths filled with wood chip, work begins on edging them using logs.
Installing the log edging along the paths.
The school is lucky enough to have its own wood, which yielded a good number of logs whilst benefitting it with a bit of woodland management.
The trees are cut down into suitibly sized logs.
An extra large log is used here to act as a revetment.
The large log is secured using greenwood stakes cut to size and sharpened using a bill hook.
More paths created.
Woodchip for the paths, along with some other useful bits of wood donated by the locals following the heavy winds that brought down a good number of trees.
In goes the woodchip.
A beautiful log edged path.
Linking up tot he rest of the path network, which links together all the play trees and other features of BrookDen.
Part our new path network, allowing safer access for the children across the site.
Joe Gregory, an expert willow weaver, comes to work with some of the volunteers to create new play and decorative feratures to BrookDen.
More paths are dug as work begins with the willow weaving.
Willow weaving, whilst the guys in the background dig the bed for another living willow teepee.
The first of two living willow teepees completed.
The last stretch of path being worked on.
Yet another barrow of topsoil is shifted.
This mound helps to define a fork in the path, whilst adding an interesting play feature for the kids.
Through one of the arches we cut into the hedge.
More wood chip!
More wood chip!
And more log edging!
The guys doing a great job.
The paths tranform the area, and this mature hedge now looks like it sits along a series of islands.
A new post and rail fence is installed to demarcate the boundary of BrookDen.
Post and rail fencing works best when done with skill and accuracy.
Work begins on a new dry stream bed.
How to create a river, the human way…
In go the river stones.
A variety of bridges are added. This bridge uses some old sleepers that were recovered from the site at the start of the project, and help to finish of the end of the river which disappears beneath it.
Sleeper bridge is secured into place using stakes.
Meanwhile, upstream the guys work on the other end.
Another of the bridge, this time a log left over from the tree felling we carried out.
Another log bridge in the foreground. The stone in the background was recovered when digging one of the sand pits. Here it is repurposed as the ‘exit’ of a drain from the which the stream emerges from beneath the paving.
With the seconds sleeper in place, you can see how the stream now disappears beneath the bridge.
The finished stream provides some exciting balancing challenges and opportunities for adventure…
The stream as it ’emerges’ from beneath the path.
The stream disappearing beneath sleeper bridge.
The view from sleeper bridge.
The Southern Cemetery lads return to help dig one of the sand pits.
Digging one of the sand pits.
The walls are lined with posts.
The sand pit takes shape.
The completed sandpits.
This sand pit is known at the ‘sand stream’ due to its wavy shape.
Work begins on sand pit number two, which is situated in the shade beneath the trees.
This sand pit is known as the ‘sand pool’
Lining the walls of the sand pool.
Drainage is installed in both sand pits using a sump drain, and then the whole bottom lined with a layer of gravel.
Next, a permeable geotextile is added to separate the gravel from the sand, whilst allowing water to drain through.
It’s a bit like lining a cake tin!
Finally, in goes the sand.
More sand on the way.
Yet more sand.
Soil is backfilled and ramped up around the edges of the sand pool.
The rest of the sand was filled later that week.
Installing a mud kitchen
Working on the mud kitchen.
Small fruiting shrubs and trees are planted whilst the mud kitchen takes shape.
This mud kitchen comes complete with a kitchen sink!
Our new fully fitted kitchen!
With BrookDen completed, this is what the kids as they descend the steps from school!
This is how this area looked before…
And this is how it looks now – a completely different place!
The path running across the top of the hill, with a small seating area made from logs.
Looking down one of our sets of steps toward one of the play trees.
Looking across the hill towards another of the play trees.
Another set of steps leading up the hill.
There’s an extensive network of paths now, allowing so many different ways to run around and find adventure.
The boundary of BrookDen.
Joe’s living willow teepees look beaitiful now that they have burst into life.
Beautiful decor behind what will one day be a lush hedge, hiding the playground and enclosing BrookDen.
Imagine what this will look like in 10 years’ time!
The dry stream bed winds it’s way through BrookDen.
The dry stream bed winds its way through BrookDen.
All images except Facebook and Twitter logos © 2014 Andrew Sheridan.