Primary School Outdoor Teaching Area, manchester

Manchester Primary School Playground

This playground in Manchester has recently been completed for Manchester City Council. It is for key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2 age groups. It incorporates natural play items within the playground design and has transformed the outside environment for the children.

Area can be used for sitting, climbing, den making.  Encourages natural inventive play and

Area can be used for sitting, climbing, den making. Encourages natural inventive play


Climbing Logs Emulate Climbing Trees that most kids no longer get opportunities to do.

Climbing Logs Emulate Climbing Trees that most kids no longer get opportunities to do.


Climbing Wall

Climbing Wall


Space2Place_06_06_14_NM_041 2

A Garden Retreat with a Japanese Twist in The High Peak, Derbyshire

I visited this garden a few weeks ago to see how it had developed.  It was constructed in 2011 and the planting has now filled in well and looking lush and gorgeous.

It is in the High Peak Derbyshire.

Space2Place_06_06_14_NM_075 2

The main objective was to create a garden design that the client could easily maintain and enjoy.  The client loved Japanese gardens after holidaying in Japan and requested that the design had a Japanese twist.

A terrace close to the house was created using Yorkstone paving.  Comfortable steps lead up onto the second level that leads to a second seating area under the pergola. The pergola is also a focal point from the house and terrace. A water feature is also on this second level that can be heard on the terrace as well as under the pergola. Lighting was also incorporated so can be enjoyed at night.

Space2Place_06_06_14_NM_045 2

The design, planting and materials reflected the Japanese theme, using granite Japanese lanterns and water feature. The pergola was also in the Japanese style.  The garden is a shady garden so plants such as Acers, Bamboo, Pines, Aquilegia, Crocosmia, Carex, Euonymus, Fatsia were used, which have all worked well providing a lush relaxing haven to relax and unwind at the end of a busy day.  (All photographs by Meg Hodson Photography)

Space2Place_06_06_14_NM_029 2Space2Place_06_06_14_NM_078 2













Creating a soothing view from patio doors

Incorporating children’s play into a family garden

There are huge benefits to encouraging our children to play outside and connect with nature, so to be able to do this within a garden setting is important and will lead to much happier children to those sitting inside in front of the TV or computer.  Children engage in more creative forms of play when outside, they play more cooperatively, it reduces stress.  Their social, psychological, academic and physical health are all is improved when they are connecting with nature outside.

Incorporating children’s play, (particularly natural play) into the family garden doesn’t have to be an eyesore and can be easy to do. No more bright red plastic swings or climbing frame which is prescriptive.  Encourage your children to use their creativity and create opportunities for more exciting play!

Top Ten Ideas for Building Children’s Play into your Garden.

  1. Sink a trampoline so it is less intrusive in the garden as well as safer.
  2. Set aside an area of the garden just for play and screen the edges with ornamental grasses, bamboo, pleached trees or trellis to allow you still to see through.
  3. Incorporate hooks for swings on pergolas or arches.
  4. Provide an embankment slide of you have a change in level.
  5. Incorporate a sandpit into a deck area with a cover, so when not in use it can appear just as a deck.
  6. Climbing walls can be incorporated against play houses, sheds or even the side of the house!
  7. Attach a rope swing from a tree
  8. Create areas for dens and play houses. It encourages kids to use their imagination, engage in role play, etc
  9. Fill a gorgeous bowl with water to provide hours of fun (supervision required)
  10. Use natural materials which blend into the garden setting










What Makes a Great Key Stage 2 Playground?

It is now well documented that being outside exercising, having fun and learning through play is really beneficial for children. It improves concentration for learning in the classroom, as well as encouraging children to be creative, stimulating their senses and improving behaviour and social interaction.

Risk is important! It encourages the children to take managed risks and to explore and discover their limits. Below is an example of three climbing walls I recently installed in a Key Stage 2 playground in Manchester. This challenges the children as it is 2.4m high, so high enough to be exciting.

photo 17


Areas away form the watchful eye of grown ups is good and encourages independence and creative play. This can be done with natural elements such as planting, dens etc. See an example below of a natural playground design in Liverpool.





Formal and informal seating areas are good for communal sitting and socialising, as well as providing opportunities for outside teaching. See the example below, which is a covered outdoor teaching area in Manchester and overlooks the large 1-100 playground markings which can be used creatively for outdoor lessons.


Quiet areas, where children can have time out and sit and watch are also important. See the example below of boulders, which can be used as seating as well as other games the children invent.




Physical activities that include balancing, climbing, scambling and sliding are also good.

Please take a look at our website for further information on play areas and playground design at or give Becky a ring for an informal chat about your project.


Winter Interest in the Newly Planted Walled Garden, Derbyshire

Lowther 4Structure is very important, providing the ‘bones’ of the garden. Box and Yew balls, Yew pyramids and standard Holly topiary, as well as box hedging, provide the skeleton to the garden throughout the winter. During the rest of the year, their clipped forms contrast against the ‘fluffy’ perennials, herbs and vegetables.
Cotoneaster horizontalis, seen above in full berry in December against the far stone wall, also looks stunning.


Cornus alba Elegantissima and Cornus sericea ‘Flaviramea’, seen below being newly planted just before Christmas, look fantastic with their bright red and yellow stems. I am looking forward to the rest of the planting going in after Christmas and seeing it establish over the next few years.


Grass’s, such as Stipa and Miscanthus seen in these pictures below, taken in November and December look great and provide excellent winter interest, even the deciduous varieties.



St Matthews Church Community Garden, Hayfield

St Matthews Church Community Garden, Hayfield, High Peak, Derbyshire

Space 2 place is assisting Kinder Kids Pre-School and St Mathews Church with their outside space. The space, once built, will be used by Kinder Kids during the mornings for outside play and the other times it will be used as a community garden.
A consultation evening took place this week and was met with great enthusiasm from a variety of user groups such as Sustainable Hayfield, parents, church warden, local Councillors etc. The area will be multifunctional. kept very natural incorporating fruit and veg growing areas, sensory beds, seating and areas where play, reflection, relaxation and exercise can take place. Craft Workshops could take place, coppicing plants such as Cornus and Hazel. Sculpture and art work from children and local artists could also be incorporated. A faculty application needs to be made to the Dioceses and local planning approval is required.
Pledged funding from David Mellor’s council community initiative fund and funds from a legacy from Dr Crosby have already been approved. Kinder Kids Pre-School group are looking to seek funding from other sources such as awards for all.
Outline plans can be viewed in the foyer at St Matthew’s Church.

Top Pool and Terrace

Late Summer in the Walled Garden in Derbyshire

Considering the plants are in their first season and they have had to endure extremes of cold during the long winter and hot dry weather this summer, the garden is looking lovely. I cant wait to see it next year.

Edge planting to the Vegetable Areas

Herb Garden

Phase 2 of planting is expected over this Autumn…


The Forest Garden at Whitefield Primary School in Liverpool

We visited this school again last week to see how this recently completed forest garden is looking and being used. The children love the area, particularly the sandpit and water, as well as rolling down the mounds. I look forward to visiting again and seeing the area mature.

Outside Teaching Area


Raised pond focal point

Work Continues in The Walled Kitchen Garden in Derbyshire

The hard landscape work is complete and we are now concentrating on the planting. The cut flower area looks fantastic and as the tulips go over they are being replaced with cosmos and other annuals and perennials.

Cut Flower Garden in the Kitchen Garden, Derbyshire




Whitefield Primary School, Liverpool, Forest Garden

The forest Garden is almost complete and looking good.

Opportunities for natural play are provided with posts that can be used to make dens etc.

Small mounds add interest and height as well as encouraging children to develop their motor skills and physical fitness.

There is a large sandpit with a water pump and basins for digging and water play. There are many benefits from this sort of play – as well as being fun and helping with creativity and imagination, children learn a wide range of skills. Motor skills and hand-eye coordination are learnt from pouring water and marking in the sand. They start to learn science from the behaviour of water when it is poured from one container to another and from floating and sinking objects. Sand play can help with counting and measurement skills, shape comparison, and “less” and “more” concepts.

There are two large areas for outside teaching, which are surrounded by posts to attach bright coloured canopies to provide shade and shelter. (The canopies and picnic benches are being installed in the next few weeks).

There is a growing area for fruit and vegetables and plants are grown such as Cornus and Hazel that are to be coppiced for craft work shops and den building. There are also sensory plants such as grasses, bamboo, Lavender and Buddleja. There is also a trundle track with differnet textured paving and raised performance space.



The woodland planting to the rear of the site will be the next phase, hopefully the next planting season.