Eccles School in Quidenham, Norfolk is an independent school that supports students with communication challenges and learning difficulties. With around 170 students, it provides specialist education for children ages 7-16 years who experience difficulties learning in mainstream environments.
The school itself sits in a beautiful natural setting in the Norfolk countryside and is surrounded by woodland.
Our proposed play structures were designed to take children up into the treetops, and over the high school fence, allowing them to believe they are able to escape the confines of school!
The design aims to provide creative and challenging play for a range of abilities. It is packed with features from high-level walkways, slides, a fireman’s pole, lookout nest and talking tubes, also providing reflective spaces for a quiet moment during the busy school day. It is a place where children can unleash their imaginations and collaborate in new ways.
The plan was made up of a number of key elements to offer play and interest for the wide ranges of ages the school caters for.
Working in and around the natural woodland landscape, we designed the play to maximise above ground play whilst always giving consideration to safety and to encourage managed risk by the pupils.
The plan for the play was as follows:
A multi-level play deck set 2m above ground level, with ladder and spiral step access routes, as well as a double slide for side by side fun and blackboard for impromptu teaching and mark making on the lower level.
Below this is the ground play trail made up of balance beams and log hops leading to the tower. To the side of this is the treehouse lookout nest. This is a 3m high deck above ground level, built high in the tree for wide-reaching views with a talking tube connecting all the way to the ‘Secret Tower’.
An open bridge leads onto the middle tower. This is a 2.5m high deck above ground level, with a cargo net to clamber up and down that is in turn connected to a covered bridge that takes adventurers over the school fence and into the tower beyond. It's covered with netting to prevent climbing out whilst maintaining natural light and a sense of enclosure.
On the other side of the fence is the secret tower. A 3m high deck above ground level, with a roof height of 7.5m above ground level, providing a covered space up in the trees, with a characterful wonky roof clad with timber boards and cedar shingle decoration. Inside there is seating around the sides and a large netted window view into the woods beyond. A perfect place for taking some time out and chatting with friends.
All a little bit of a fairy tale in a beautiful bit of woodland really!