South Gloucestershire Council has introduced an innovative new scheme using old trees as natural climbing frames.
Across the district old and dead trees, otherwise destined to be chopped up for firewood, have been felled and transported to playgrounds and open space for children to play on.
A great example of this new approach is located at Hanham Hall Park at Gover Road. In 2008 a large oak tree standing in Winterbourne had died and, due to its proximity to houses, had to be felled. The tree was removed in one piece by two 40 tonne cranes and transported to council-owned land in Hanham. Once in position, the council employed a local chainsaw sculptor to round off sharp edges, cut steps into the tree and carve branches into animal shapes.
The council’s aboricultural officer, Phil Dye, said: “The resulting natural climbing frame has been a huge hit with children and local residents. Natural play trees allow children to explore nature and develop a sense of risk without putting themselves in danger of falling from a great height. At the same time the tree blends in with the landscape better that conventional play equipment.
This novel approach to play equipment also saves money. The full costs for the Hanham tree, including felling, transportation and on-site preparation was £3,000 – a similar sized conventional climbing frame would have cost the council at least £6,000.”
After the success of the Hanham natural play tree, the idea has been extended to other areas of the district, including Patchway and Pomphrey Hill – each time proving very popular with local children.
Cllr Heather Goddard, executive member for communities, said: “I am extremely impressed by this exciting and innovative initiative to recycle old trees as natural climbing frames. When I talk to the young people in Hanham Hall Park I am struck by how popular ‘The Tree’ has become. It has really caught their imaginations and whenever I pass there always seems to be lots of children clambering over the tree and thoroughly enjoying it.
“I’m looking forward to seeing more of these innovative examples of natural play popping up across South Gloucestershire’s parks and open spaces.”
Source: South Gloucestershire Council