Russell Play were entrusted by The National Memorial Arboretum to conceive a new play garden, befitting of a national site of remembrance, as part of their new planned Remembrance Centre development. The National Memorial Arboretum opened in 2001 and covers an area of 150 acres at Alrewas, near Lichfield in Staffordshire. It is intended as a permanent place of remembrance and a living, growing tribute to service men and women for future generations.
The sympathetic approach Russell Play took in their design concept of the play area resulted in us being successfully awarded the tender. As well as offering play value, our design had to be environmentally sensitive, educational, ‘inclusive’ to all and above all, to symbolically represent elements of life, renewal, freedom and remembrance.
The landscaping and placing of the play items was as important as the items themselves. Much of the sculptural play took its influence from existing memorials within the Arboretum, in particular the boulders of the Normandy veterans, the tree walkway of the BLESMA Garden and the multiple engravings around the site. At the entrance is a holed feature stone with engravings, and looking beyond and through this, a 4m high 3D spatial net within a globe-shaped timber frame can be seen. This climbing frame, known as the Globe, was chosen to visually represent the earth and the idea of the world coming together. Over to one side, a large helix climbing pole stands in the centre of a raised grass circle forming a sundial clock. Its oak sleeper perimeter makes a time circle that commemorates Armistice Day and has a sleeper inscribed with 11.11.11 signifying the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. On the other side, there is a memorial walkway with engraved oak sleepers depicting a poem. There is a sensory pathway, a willow tunnel and a 1.5m high mound with a stainless steel cascade slide.