Natural Playgrounds

Natural Play

Russell Play can work with you to create engaging natural play spaces.


Successful creative landscaping is the key to developing a natural play environment. The challenge is to create a safe balance between the provision of fixed play equipment and natural elements where children can be challenged, stimulated and able to experience risk. Good creative play spaces should encourage a sense of adventure and allow children to engage with their natural surroundings. Russell Play can design and supply these play spaces with a balance of natural elements and fixed play equipment. Russell Play use various types of loose fill and fixed surfacing ranging from sand, bark, grass mats and bonded rubber. Most play units can be modified to suit raised or sunken pits, all play units conform to EN1176 and are compatible for installation with any safety surfaces. Grass surfaces can be used as safety surfacing up to a fall height of 1000mm in accordance to EN1176. Safety surfacing should be used in areas exceeding this fall height requirement.


Intelligent mounding for that creative edge. The simple addition of a grass mound can provide an important element in the design of a successful play area. Giving the feeling of a landscaped environment increases the sense of fun and adventure. All children love to climb, roll or run up and down mounds. Using any existing natural slopes, ditches, hollows or mounds can greatly enhance the play value of an open space. Mounding can also be combined with hard landscaping items such as rope bridges running between two mounds or slides built onto a mound or slope. Boulders can be positioned creatively to increase challenge and encourage climbing and provide alternative routes.

Stone Elements

Stone products are an ideal addition to a play environment and they can provide stunning impact when included in a creative playground design. The pieces can promote increased imaginary play and encourage active free play such as hide and seek. Combined with creative design and open space, children and young people can exercise imagination, experience risk and undertake challenges. Stones can be supplied in installed heights of between 0.5 metres and 4 metres. Stone types available are Preseli Blue, Sarsen Stone, Cornish Glacial Granite, Slate River Limestone, Sandstone and Irish Quartzite. The stones and boulders can also be supplied with engravings or carved symbols to increase sensory development. Stones can be supplied with holes of a minimum diameter of 400mm.


Mixing the types of vegetation within and around an open space can greatly help the feel of a natural area, especially in built up locations. Utilizing dense bushes and shrubs instead of fences will create a sectioned area while keeping the impression of free space. Trees not only provide shade and cover but can also help to create interaction by creating hiding spaces etc. Evergreens and ferns will add a sense of warmth and more mature trees for a sense of adventure and depth. Areas of long grass (eg Stipa tenuifolia - Pheasant Grass) planted alongside short grass creates interesting walkways and secret passageways when trimmed creatively. All should create movement in the wind, seasonal colour changes, smells and touching sensations. Using various species of plants intelligently will create stunning adventure spaces while introducing an element of risk. Grass or hedge mazes carefully positioned are excellent low cost additions.

Wooden Elements

Bespoke wooden products are one of the strongest elements of a natural play area. They can be produced to almost any specification using a variety of hard and soft wood. Once they are made and installed, these wooden elements create an impression of an open and rural environment, even on the smallest of sites and are ideal for providing natural seating, sleeper climbing walls and meeting places.

Russell Play’s Policy on Natural Play

Working with you to create a natural and stimulating play space

- All sites designed and constructed to EN 1176 and EN 1177 standards.

- Post installation inspections by trained in-house RPII inspectors.

- Careful selection of materials and natural elements to ensure safe, sustainable and great play value sites.

- Over 30 years' experience designing play areas, with professional in-house expertise to manage entire project from concept to completion.

- Large range of unique natural play products with standards compliance.

- Bespoke products which can be designed for any specific site e.g. rope items can be specially adapted to fit an existing feature or product.

- Design knowledge to enhance landscape architects' design and consultation process.

- Sites designed and constructed to be DDA compliant and accredited by leading DDA advisory organization.

- Full construction capability, assisted by special partnership with leading specialist contractor, to ensure completion of multiple sites on time.

- Specialist dedicated Contract Managers to oversee and manage every installation in the UK.

- Proven track record in managing large multiple site construction programmes.

Our guidelines for natural play

- Prepare an audit and site survey to achieve the maximum potential from the existing landscape.

- Ensure that both the area and selected play equipment are sustainable and can be maintained correctly.

- Incorporate existing natural features such as slopes and mounds into the overall design.

- Consider whether natural vegetation can be left in place and whether this could be enhanced with further planting.

- Introduce tactile elements such as boulders, wood, sand or water for children to experiment with.

- Ensure accessibility for disabled and able-bodied children.

- Design in as many opportunities as possible for children to experience risk and challenge while keeping safety in mind.