Angel Ridge play area is situated on the site of the first NHS hospital, Princess Margaret Hospital, which has now been redeveloped as a residential housing site. Swindon Council had the task of creating a challenging and exciting play area that referenced the rich heritage of the site, keeping the local residents on side and also improving links with the surrounding communities. They worked with Timberplay, selecting the best products to suit the site and its heritage.
Angel Ridge is a linear development, situated along a ridge, hence the name. When embarking on research for the site, Swindon Council Landscape Architect, Andrew Norris found that the bones of an Ichthyosaur (marine dinosaur) were discovered nearby, which then went on to find fame on Blue Peter. This pre-historic relic inspired the use of fossils throughout the site, with hidden replica fossils secreted in the sand area and a giant ammonite heralding the start of the play site.
As Swindon Borough Council had previously not had any public park schemes that used extensive sand and water play there was some apprehension to the inclusion of these features. Fortunately these were overcome and the beautifully landscaped site now has extensive sand and a meandering play stream, with a Mushroom Spring Pump at its head, Horizontal Mill Wheel and Dam, Wedge and Water Flap.
Dry stone walling around the site utilises locally sourced stone to create a country walk feel to the site. This is also achieved by the use of three Wobbly Sheep near the entrance and modified stock fencing, used particularly around the Platform House combination, creating a play paddock. Different compartments of play have been thoughtfully designed, creating distinct areas which children can move between using various playful elements, for example, play gates and a Suspension Bridge.
A renovation of the adjacent footpath and improved access links, opened up the site to the wider community, making it a route popular with locals, joggers and dog walkers. As the site is landscape- led it has rapidly become very popular with all members of the local community, not just those with children.
Angel Ridge has been so sensitively developed, with the site’s natural treasures being used effectively throughout the design, for example, the stones unearthed during the development, which included a Jurassic era fossilised oyster bed. These stones were placed carefully at the termination point of the interactive play stream, serving as an important connection to the theme.
Alongside the sand and the water, play gravel has also been used, providing another great playable safety surface particularly when combined with transportation elements, shovel and chain.
One of the key features of the site is the weighty Turning Stone, a huge 5 tonne boulder which even small children can easily rotate. This is personalised with an inscription, a poem by Jane Evans that summed up the overarching themes of the scheme:-
Nudging the sky,
You’re no more
Than a pinprick
On the timeline
By lynchet and tumulus
And the tremendous
Secrets of the rock
Time out of mind
Under turf and furz”
Engraved elements along the pathway of the site chart the history of Angel Ridge, from dinosaurs through to the current day.
Andrew Norris comments on this outstanding scheme:-
“I first came across Richter products when I worked in Germany as a teenager and even then they stood out to me as some of the most attractive play equipment I had ever seen. Working so closely with the residents and taking note of their concerns, I felt it was very important to create something that harmonised with the natural surroundings and was delighted to work with Timberplay to pull together the perfect combination of equipment. The scheme has been a great success and is very well used at all times of the day. Young children bring their own buckets and spades to make the most of the sand and the gravel play and after school the site is hugely enjoyed by older children. Working with Timberplay has been brilliant, they have been the perfect partner to understand the aspirations of the scheme and help me meet and exceed expectations”
The Angel Ridge scheme was installed by Blakedown Landscapes (Operations)