Elk Mill Retail Park Play Area, Oldham, Greater Manchester
When a new play area was planned for Elk Mill Retail Park in Oldham, Russell Play acted as Play area designer entrusted to realise the historical themed concept. Russell Play was approached because of its ability to create imaginative bespoke play equipment and play areas to suit any kind of theme.
The result is a unique and fun play area that pays homage to the industrial heritage of its town.
The visiting public of Elk Mill Retail Park were asked in a survey what improvements they would like to see to make their visit more enjoyable. As well as perhaps the more rudimentary requests such as, improved parking, seating areas, walkways and landscaping a new children’s play area was suggested.
Themed Play Equipment
The centrepiece is a 4 metre high play tower in the form of a cotton mill chimney with a fully enclosed viewing platform accessible by an internal climbing net, rock wall climbing ramp and scramble net. From the tower platform kids can slide down using the tubular slide and fireman’s pole as well as using the rope nets and ramp for a less speedy descent. The tower has the lettering ‘ELK’ at the top similar as to how it would have appeared on the original mill chimney.
Nearby there is also a bespoke playhouse with a sign saying ‘Cotton Shop’. This is intended to represent a place of work like a town shop or even a workers cottage. Even though it has a specific sign a child’s imagination, once they are inside, will make it any one of these things and more.
The landscaped play area surfacing is a colourful wetpour design to represent Oldham’s surrounding rolling green hills and includes a play tunnel. A ‘Sunrise’ from the Russell Play Silhouette range is situated at the far end of the play area. The sculptural stainless steel arches represents the structural engineering of Oldham’s industrial past and is a great piece of play equipment on which children can climb and slide in various ways.
The designers at Russell Play worked with a local artist whose cotton drum sculptures were to be incorporated within the design. Their varied design motifs and vibrant colours are another unique element to the play area. Making use of cotton creates another overt reference to Oldham’s mills.
The finished result has given the retail park a colourful, exciting and adventurous place for visiting children to have some fun when out shopping with their families.
Historical Design Concept
The concept behind the play area was to have a connection with the history of Oldham. The retail park is named after the cotton mill that once stood there before being demolished in the late 1990s. The town was once described as the "most prodigious" mill town in Lancashire and at its peak was the largest cotton-spinning town in the world. Oldham’s historical cotton industry was the clear main theme in the play areas design with its structural engineering past and the towns surrounding countryside also taken into account.