When you see a sign like this you know you’re in for a treat – and we were not disappointed!
Nestling in a corner of the massive Chatsworth Estate is its impressive Adventure Playground, accessed via its equally idyllic Farmyard.
As a self-confessed-best-practice-play-area-geek it was certainly ticking lots of boxes for me: inclusive, sense of place, natural features, bespoke… Granted they have a gorgeous setting, but using the natural incline of the site to create more climbing routes and the stream that runs through it for water play was inspired. The kids loved the massive 3-tiered climbing fort, with bridges, inset trampoline, huge chutes and slides. But as I’ve often found it was the extensive natural features that they played with most, namely the sand and water.
Archimedes screws, dams, buckets, sand, rocks = kiddy heaven.
It wasn’t always like this…
The Adventure Playground’s inception has an interesting story. A few years ago the old play-area was coming to the end of it’s life and the managers concluded there were four options open to them: To remove it (which would be true to the estate’s history), do nothing (but would incur around £18k a year maintenance), replace with similar (£100k), or replace with something substantially better (200k + 50k to make structural and access changes to farmyard).
Of the four options they recommended to either do nothing, or go for a big leap forward: putting in something better than competitors that would be great publicity and increase visitor numbers. During the tender process, one company came forward with a complete idea based on the theme of water – using the stream that flowed through the site. They worked in partnership with a German company who make all the big pieces of equipment.
As hindsight will tell you, the trustees voted to go for the big leap forward. Initially they had a conservative estimate that they’d make back the money in 7 years, although they now know the new play area has increased visitors to 85,000 a year and recouped their investment in just 3 years. Clearly, good play facilities are valued highly by many!
Something for the parents
As a parent you want your kids to play outside and are delighted when you find a fantastic play space, either man-made or natural, but sometimes you find yourself just hanging around waiting for them which is not always so fun. However, here there were picnic tables galore and a cabin selling very good coffee. Plus, a lot of parents were taking the welcome sign literally and challenging themselves on the big trim trail/rope obstacle course. I had lots of fun on this and the climbing wall and have vowed to play more when in Rome!
So if you’re ever in the area, I would highly recommend making a visit to Chatsworth Farm and Adventure Playground. Prices are comparable to National Trust admission fees at £22 for a family ticket (2 adults & up to 3 children). Plus their chickens really do run free everywhere!
You may know of the fab two paddling pools and playground at Cherry Hinton Hall Park, but have you tried dipping your toes in the there river too? On the site of an old Mill, they’ve used the old mill stones as stepping stones that guide little ones on a mini-adventure under the bridge and down the river. There’s also a great sand area there with lots of balancing logs, you know, for parents who might need entertaining too whilst they’re waiting!
If you park in the car park, head into the park, but bear right (away from the paddling pools) past the Hall and there you’ll find the river and ponds.