Low Dalby Visitor Centre, Low Dalby, Pickering, North Yorkshire, YO18 7LT
The plan was to create an exciting new play facility in Low Dalby, which sat alongside the Visitor Centre, where families could explore the soul of the forest through play. The theme of the scheme was ‘Life in the Forest’ and would be represented by a range of characters that specifically highlighted Forestry and the uses of trees.
“Grandfather Oak” was to be the protagonist, perched in his “Curious Forest” and he would be joined by various species of trees, all of which would have a character that, together, created a working forest family. “Cedric Atlantis” lives in a maze made of cedar pencils. “Witch Hazel” specialises in den building in the secret woods. “Douglas Fir” and “Scot Pine” are the highly efficient workers of the forest. They construct gates and fence posts, plant trees and stack felled trees. “Willow Salix” makes sculptures from her off-shoots and tunnels for visitors. “Granny Rosalie” looks after the fruit trees and around the Visitor Centre she teaches the children in the play area about foraging in the forest. Three brothers “Logan Berry”, “Merton Berry” and “Bliss Berry” make jam and rangers “Woody” and “Silvia” are the caretakers of the trees and plants.
As the recent Official Opening on Sunday 4th May proved, the park is already a huge success. Marrying fun and adventure with environmental learning, Dalby Forest provides an attractive location for families to explore, imagine, engage and laugh.
The innovative naming and charming characters ensure younger children are entertained and exercised, whilst the robust, challenging nature of eibe's play equipment means that older kids can roam freely and safely among inventive products for hours on end.
Cutting the red tape on the big day was none other than CBeebies character Tree Fu Tom and it marked the completion of works on the play area and also the concluding re-development of Dalby Forest’s Visitor Centre. Confidence is now high in terms of increasing Discovery Pass membership and adding to visitor numbers, especially in respect of return visits.
Situated on the southern slopes of the North York Moors National Park, a brand new adventure playground has been built. The theme of the new Dalby Forest - 'Life in the Forest' - is explored through stories surrounding Grandfather Oak and a range of tree characters that highlight forestry, as well as the use and importance of trees.
Working in close liaison with the Forestry Commission, eibe hopes that everyone who comes to the Dalby Visitor Centre will connect with the region’s trees and forests so that they understand their importance and the role of the Forestry Commission in their management; and as a result, act positively to safeguard forests for the future.
Over the last 10 years the Forestry Commission and partners have invested heavily in Dalby Forest to develop the site into a regionally significant visitor attraction, which provides recreation facilities for a wide range of audiences.
The courtyard and cycle trails network cater for the active cyclist and the visitor centre caters for more for family activities. There are also plans for a multi-user trail, specifically targeting disabled visitors. Yorventure has already kindly contributed to these facilities.
Although those facilities have proven to be very popular and attracted large numbers of visitors, these developments have meant that our existing facilities for our main audience – families, have not received the same attention. eibe’s bespoke playspace addressed this issue head on!
The whole project was also an opportunity to increase involvement with those people who use the facilities frequently – the local children and their families. As such, community involvement became a core part of the development, after the initial tender process back in the autumn of 2013. Both primary and secondary schools were involved in creating and designing characters, along with neighbourhood groups who discussed matters such as planting, installation and any future maintenance works. Some young people got involved in creating a memorable feature which linked the new site along the footpath from the visitor centre. Wooden and clay leaves were made and these were then used by the artist to enhance the footpath. Other kids attended workshops held by local artists to come up with ideas for decorative carvings and sculptures that pull the play area together.
The £110,000 project was again funded by Yorventure Challenge Fund 2013 and eibe designed a bespoke centre piece in keeping with the “Grandfather Oak and Curious Forest” theme. The ‘Grandfather Oak’ face was carved and fitted in time for the grand opening in May 2014.
Already one of the county’s leading tourist attractions, the new playspace sits perfectly alongside the existing Go Ape and other outdoor recreation facilities. The whole area is crammed with lots of natural play offering including towers, swings, slides and climbing gear, all enhanced by complementary landscaping. Dalby Forest will be extremely busy this summer and beyond according to the Forestry Commission’s Petra Young, Funding & Development at Yorkshire Forest District,
“The feedback from parents and children has been great! During the Easter break the children were queuing for the slide and they kept climbing up over and over again. It's great to see so many more children enjoying the place!”
In the actual visitor centre itself, the main focus will be on trees and shrubs with edible fruits; in the play area, a wider range of timber uses will be explained. Indeed, the messages and benefits of biodiversity will be incorporated throughout.
Paul Redden, managing director of eibe Play says:
“The Dalby Forest project is specifically aimed at children of all ages and their families to encourage them to be active in the woods, to explore their senses, develop their imaginations and expand their understanding of the woodlands around them. The whole story writing and drawing competition ethos has given the local community a sense of ownership for the site. It has been a pleasure working alongside so many like-minded people when it comes to sustainability. This is a real ‘best practice’ case study that future projects can learn from. The inclusive nature of utilising so many parties has been hugely beneficial.”
The Forestry Commission plants millions of trees every year. New woodland is continuously created in order to replace the trees that we harvest. Urban areas, a part of the community that eibe has vast experience of working with, often benefit from the regeneration aspect, converting wasteland, closed down estates and coalfields in to blossoming, verdant landscapes. Such an ethos is at the core of our own Corporate Social Responsibility pledge; thus working with the organisation at Dalby was both inspiring and rewarding. All of the wooden equipment used at Dalby is, as always, FSC certified and eibe always considers matters of sustainability in relation to the production and processing of materials,
“The amount of timber harvested never exceeds the amount of timber re-grown,” says Redden, “It’s all about recycling management, so the issue of sustainable forestry is strictly supervised. As we strive for continuous improvement, we conduct regular environmental audits, use environmentally friendly design and recyclable packaging for our products, all in line with the RESY regulations.”