‘Flamingo Bay’ play area WWT Llanelli Wetland Centre, South Wales, 4.12.17

‘Flamingo Bay’ is the fabulous flamingo themed play area at the Wildfowl & Wetland Trust’s Llanelli Wetland Centre. The play area was specially designed by Russell Play to encourage people to visit the centre and learn about the amazing flock of seventy Caribbean flamingos they have on site. As well as sliding, climbing and balancing on the bespoke timber play structures young visitors can also play in the ‘sandy bay’. There they can uncover the buried flamingo eggs, ride on the flamingo springers and mess around with the sand play equipment.

Llanelli Wetland Centre, 'Flamingo Bay' play area.

Russell Play was invited to design the play area at the wildlife attraction following the success of a wildlife themed timber play area they had designed for the WWT’s London Wetland Centre. Russell Play takes into consideration all aspects when creating their unique playground designs to make them as fun and effective as possible wherever the location and whatever the theme. In this case the play area had to fit the large open space next to the visitor centre that has views overlooking the ‘top pond’ of ducks and geese. The choice of natural materials, timber for the play units and sand for the safety surface, works perfectly in the Wetland setting. The sand surface lightens the area while also enhancing the theme.

Versatile and robust timber themed play equipment

From an early stage, the theme was to be based around flamingos with the intention of highlighting Llanelli’s resident flock. Two carved flamingo springers, one in pink and one in white sit centrally in ‘Flamingo Bay’. All the timber play structures are bespoke and are purpose built for their situation. Selective parts of the mostly natural coloured play equipment have been coloured in white and a deep fuchsia pink, in keeping with the flamingo theme. This adds a bold and inviting visual impact. A basket swing is placed just behind the springers and is also rendered in fuchsia.

Two main play structures are placed on either side of the swing. The first is a rope and timber climbing frame that allows for many children of different ages to play together and to their own ability. The other large timber unit has various activities with the appeal of younger children in mind. It includes an access ramp, slide and a sand play area with items including a pulley and two play surfaces. A vibrantly coloured timber carved flamingo is perched on top of one of the main posts.

Carved timber flamingo springers in Llanelli Wetland Centre play area.
Sand play equipment at Flamingo Bay play area.

A unique play area popular with visiting families
A key consideration in the design was sympathetically separating the space from the adjacent pond to prevent wildlife getting in. Russell Play chose stone filled groins as a boundary rather than fencing as not only would this effectively contain the sand but would allow for the addition of bench tops providing a perimeter of seating all around Flamingo Bay. This way, the natural colours continue through the large pebble stones in the groins ¬¬and in the wooden bench tops.

Timber climber with carved flamingo.

Rope and timber climber in sand play area at Llanelli Wetland Centre.

Basket swing in Flamingo Bay theme colours.

Looking over sand play area with carved flamingo springers, rope climber and buried flamingo eggs.

As with all family visitor attractions, an imaginative and appealing play area helps make a family visit more fun and memorable, especially for children. This is even more so if it is a themed play area as it reinforces the distinctiveness and uniqueness of the attraction in the memories of the visitors. Flamingo Bay play area is a perfect example of this. It also helps in bringing in more visitors as talk of a fun play park features in recommendations to other families as well as encouraging return visits. Play areas are very often situated near a café, visitor centre or picnic area and so serves as a break for all the family to lunch together in a seated area while the children can play nearby.

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