Kew Gardens, Surrey

Right On Kew

Known globally for its historic and horticultural attractions, Kew Gardens’ ambition was to install a fresh and exciting play area known as TreeHouse Towers – a playspace that could be enjoyed by children and adults alike and sit in harmony with its Climbers and Creepers botanical feature opened in 2004. Climbers and Creepers engages children in the pleasures of learning about plants and their relationship with animals and insects; it is visited by over 350,000 children each year. 

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Treehouse Towers would be located right next door, replacing the old play equipment, which was limited in scope and had outlived its useful life. Built in association with sponsors Velvet Soft and constructed from sustainably sourced trees, the new play area allows up to 300 children to climb up ladders, clamber across rope bridges and slide their way down three towers; the three towers reflect Velvet’s own philosophy of planting three new trees for everyone used. Kids can also discover more about trees and nature through imaginative interpretation boards and games.

The ‘Importance of Trees’ theme was conceived in 2009 and after a year of conceptual planning and visual designs with Professor Angela McFarlane Director of Content and Learning at Kew, the £110,000 attraction opened officially on April 6th 2010. With sustainability a design imperative, it was crucial that Kew found a partner that could fulfil their ambitions and provide an exciting adventure arena with natural, environmentally friendly products.

eibe was delighted to be appointed and play an integral part of the new ‘generationless’ feature playground, developing an appropriate addition to the famous World Heritage site. The design brief focussed on bespoke designs based on a unique combination of tried and tested play elements and suitable for children between the ages of 5-11. The play space needed to be sympathetic to the site and the objectives and ethos of Kew Gardens.

Following eibe’s free consultation service offering, contracts were drawn up for the installation to take place. Using safe, robust, recyclable and low maintenance equipment, eibe’s timber based play products (FSC graded) are known for quality and of course environmental strengths; they merged perfectly with Kew Gardens’ own essential values and the park’s desire for the provision of play equipment built from a sustainable source and natural materials.

Treehouse Towers is more than just your standard play area. It also works towards educating children about why trees matter and how we use trees in order to develop and expand Kew’s educational offering for schools and families leading up to its 250th Anniversary. There is a myriad of great play things including the freedom of the tree canopy, the thrill of giant swings, challenging zip wires, scramble nets, a variety of slides and a mountaineering ramp – most of which will have the whole family playing on, let alone excited youngsters. On top of this, eibe have created a play space that is accessible for those who are less able - a unique trail of play points and treasure trails make the innovative feature diversified and appealing to all members of society.

“The place is an absolute HIT!” enthused Stephen Ruddy, Head of Kew’s Garden Development Unit, “And the artificial grass is a real winner.”

The attraction has already benefitted not only those in the local community, but visitors from afar. Through education and awareness, it is hoped that we are nurturing some of Kew’s future patrons; children who will bring their children and their grandchildren to see everything that Kew has to offer, for many years to come.

In future, eibe hopes to host seminar type events for architects to showcase the Kew Gardens venture, portraying the harmonious relationship between botany, natural play equipment and imaginative landscaping. The whole Treehouse Towers project ran smoothly and within budget. What’s more, while digging and excavating were taking place, we even uncovered the lost wonder of Kew Farm!

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