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Winner of ‘Best Community Garden’ at Professional Landscapers Awards

Project Overview

Kings Hedges Educational Federation, located in the North of Cambridge City comprises of a nursery setting that feeds into a large primary school.

In order to fulfil their objectives to achieve excellence in creativity and challenging play, Kings Hedges enlisted our expertise to design and evolve their outdoor space into an engaging, inspiring and stimulating playground for their early years’ intake, with a forward plan to extend the space to incorporate reception.

The brief for this project was to design age-appropriate early years play garden within the existing outdoor space of the nursery school, observing the EYFS guidelines.

The Outcome

The design was required to make consideration for the future development of the adjoining reception playground within the primary school, ensuring that the complete outdoor space was aesthetically balanced between the settings.

We worked closely with the school to establish their aims and aspirations for their setting and were entrusted to develop the creative direction of the brief.

The existing space, comprised of a large area of unused and overgrown woodland, a raised bank, some climbing equipment and a storage shed – it was necessary for the design to utilise the existing features, with the objective of creating defined, all-weather functional areas providing a combination Natural, Physical, Educational and Construction play and practical storage solutions.

The whole garden is linked via a paved role play track, allowing the children to cycle and move around the setting; travelling seamlessly between the defined areas, and all-weather surfacing sanctions physical play the whole year-round.

• Natural Woodland Area – the design scheme proposed the preservation of the natural woodland area; taming the existing space to make it usable for young children to explore the environment and enjoy role play activities – the new barked woodland area includes a bug hotel, nature viewing retreat & outdoor cooking equipment.

• Rustic Scramble Bank – the existing raised area has been re-developed into a rustic stone-built scramble bank, under which a cave has been formed to promote role play.

• Cobbled Stream Bed – a cobbled stream bed with water interruption gates allows the children to understand the impact that they can create on the natural flow of the water, enjoying the tactile sensory experience that it brings.

• Construction Dig Pit – a rustic timber canopy provides shade over a construction dig pit, comprising of a gravel crane and 2 pulleys and buckets – this play item challenges the children’s gross motor skills by digging and transporting the materials around the area.

• Outdoor Education Workshop – the existing out-building has been transformed into an outdoor, all-weather educational workshop and learning area with coloured window panes.

• Outdoor Classroom – the former playframe has been incorporated into a raised walkway with a tunnel that links to an outdoor classroom set on the bank.

• Buggy Storage – a bespoke timber canopy was developed, in keeping with the design of the scheme to house pushchairs, when unoccupied this area could also be used as an alternative covered play area.

Client Feedback

Client Quote – Laura Knights, Nursery Manager.

“The children, and staff, at King’s Hedges Nursery, are absolutely delighted with the new Nursery Playground – it provides an engaging and challenging environment for the children to explore their physical capabilities, challenge their thinking and problem-solving skills and develop their personal, social and emotional understanding.

Through careful planning and considerate resourcing, the practitioners are able to extend classroom learning to outside exploration. The combination of a high quality outside provision with high-quality adult interaction enables the children to demonstrate and develop effective characteristics of learning, these include; active learning, creating and thinking critically and playing and exploring. These characteristics of learning are particularly significant for school readiness.”

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