Coombe Abbey Park on the edge of Coventry is set in a 500-acre site with beautiful gardens, wild woodland walks and an original landscape design by Capability Brown. It's a huge draw both locally and regionally and for many years has offered a whole range of activities for visitors and families to venture outdoors
Its close proximity to Coventry means it already sees large numbers of visitors passing through the gates annually but also gave us a great foundation on which to build and further develop recreational activities.
There was an existing play area outside of the Visitor Centre, which we had already replaced in this previous project here.
In addition to the visitor centre play, there is also the ever-popular but quite small ‘Climbing Forest’ within the woodland. This left us the potential to develop more diverse and exciting possibilities for play within the super popular parkland.
The challenge was to create an all-new stand-alone gated and ticketed adventure play attraction in a brand new location within the dense woodland.
You can see from these initial early illustrations that our brief was to create a compact and great value adventure play area with its own stand-alone F&B offering and a toilet block with wash facilities. Accessibility was a key factor and as with all our projects we aimed to ensure that at least 30% or more of the play is accessible for those with both sensory and physical mobility issues.
Even from these initial CGI's you can see how close the planned design was to the finished solution. The main change was to the design of 'tighter' fencing to reduce the risk of trapped fingers and greatly reduce the additional risk of falling from height where it's possible to climb the sides of walkways and structures.
The main walkway into the play structure is wide enough to easily accommodate a wheelchair and this gives direct access to our bespoke speaking tubes and a companion slide that allows a user to be easily helped back into a wheelchair after they have enjoyed their whizzy slide down.
There's a fast slide from the top, which is only accessible by a climbing tube. This ensures a level of fitness, agility and age required to even reach the slide and consequently lower the risk of accidents.
From the moment you walk under the initial Hermits Hollow welcome sign, you know there's something quite special beyond. Through the gates and along the curvy landscaped path is the first of the Shepherds Hut units. This one contains the welcome desk and the toilets with wash areas behind. This sits opposite the F&B Shepherds Hut unit which frames the gated entrance. These units were specified and finished by our own team.
Whilst the kids are sure to run straight in and get playing immediately, most adults will turn right and grab themselves a coffee from the amazingly well equipped F&B unit. We can confirm, the coffee is good.
This is when the magic happens.
The parents initially start by watching the kids having fun, but as soon as the coffee is finished, they begin to join in and are climbing, exploring and sliding, just like they did in their own younger days. They play together, with their kids and they all have more fun together.
The stand-alone play area was created approximately 10 minutes walk from the visitor centre. The wonderful woodland provides a picturesque and unique spot to locate a gated attraction. Because it's separately gated, it's also fully enclosed. This allows the parents to take a seat at one of the purpose-built benches and tables or leave clothes and bags together in a safe place, so they can join in with the kids in exploring the climbing towers and slides.
For the younger visitors, there's a small and enclosed toddler play area that's been carefully designed and tucked away from the main play. This ensures it's not as readily accessible for older kids and means the little ones can play and gain their confidence without the worry of being overrun by the bigger kids. There's a slide and climbing ramp as well as a great lookout to allow them to plot their future play on the bigger woodland play.
The Hermits Hollow at Coombe Abbey Park opened for Summer 2023 and has had some lovely early feedback from guests. As a summary of what we created and what it delivers.
• A new stand alone family attraction
• Encouraging families to adventure and play together in a unique woodland setting
• High level walkways, bridges and slides
• Amazing multi-level tree towers to explore
• Designed to be unique to Coombe Abbey Park
• Accessible play with sensory and interactive elements
• Seating area with play offer for the smallest toddlers
• Using sustainably sourced timber
• Designed to be sensitive to the natural setting
You can read more and book your tickets here.