Woking Park Play Area, Woking Borough Council
The newly redesigned Woking Park play area was officially opened on 6th December 2014 by the Mayor and Mayoress of Woking Borough Council. It was a sunny, clear Saturday morning and many local residents turned out to see the unveiling of their exciting new jungle themed play park. A crowd of running and cheering children were first through the gate when the ribbon was cut to experience the fun of their new playground equipment for the first time.
Some of the elements of the new park may not have been entirely unfamiliar to the opening day visitors though. This was because the local people themselves – especially the children - had been invited to contribute to the content and theme of the park. This added to the excitement and anticipation of the visitors on the day, as they were eager to see the results of their work.
Woking Park play area is a natural, visually pleasing space which compliments the surround green parkland. This is not achieved by accident: Woking Park was carefully planned and designed and its success is down to two main factors. The first is the large input from consultation involving the community of Woking and secondly, the park is a culmination of Russell Play working in a partnership framework with Woking Borough Council for many years.
Full public consultation was carried out by Russell Play for a period of over two years either face to face at events or via the internet. The only stipulation that Woking Council made, pre consultation, was that the overall design of the park and the equipment should blend with the existing green space and not interfere with views of the surrounding area. They wanted a design for the site where the plants, landscape and play equipment were integral and unobtrusive so as not to obscure the view of the park beyond the play area from the surrounding buildings.
The first phase of the consultation took place at an event called ‘Party in the Park’ which was held in Woking Park itself. At the event Russell Play erected ‘mood boards’ demonstrating all kinds of play activities and suggested themes. The display had different kinds of play activities such as rolling, sliding, climbing, swinging, trampolining, and water and sand play. The children attending were invited to give comments on the visuals displayed and indicating what they liked best. There was also a roll of paper on a table where the children were invited to draw their own ideas for play equipment.
The results of this event were collated and a start was made on the first design draft. An Amazon Jungle theme for the site was selected by the children and the sketches made by the children and the play activities that the children had chosen were incorporated into the design of the site. Once Russell Play had presented and amended the first visuals they then presented a more complete design to the public at another ‘Party in the Park’ event the following year. The public were asked to give feedback on the designs and despite a good response, only a few small changes were required and the final design was approved.
To execute the theme, style and designs the main play features were made from Robinia timber by Spielart. The versatility of the timber allowed for themed structures like an Amazonian steamboat and green jungle play towers which are unique to the park. In addition to that, exotic animals, native to the Amazon, were carved and placed throughout the park to give even more life to the jungle theme.
As well as the themed play towers a whole range of equipment and activities were included. A cable ride, a large climbing rope structure, tunnels, bridges, a roundabout, a water and sand area, two parallel slides built into the contours of a hill, a swing area. All ideas came from the public and not a wish list devised by Woking Council. Among other suggestions the long slides and jungle climbing tower came from the children themselves.
The activities are well spaced throughout the site with wide paths that allow good access to all visitors. Another important aspect of the look and feel of the park is the extensive planting throughout of a large variety of selected exotic shrubs and bulbs. The placing of the animal sculptures among the equipment and plants adds not just a themed finishing touch but is also a fun ‘spot the jungle animal’ game.
The new park is a great success and has been well received. It is already proving to be a well-used and popular play facility for local residents.