Play area in public woodland

Play in the Community

Play area in public woodland

Hawk’s Nest Play Area is situated in Coed Moel Famau forest in the Clwydian Range and Dee Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). For many years the site has been a popular destination for walkers and mountain bikers due to its picturesque setting and good network of trails.

In 2013, Natural Resources Wales invited Play Wales to a site meeting to discuss possible options for creating a play space that encouraged more families with young children to visit the site to enjoy and experience the woodland.

Initial ideas from this meeting were developed into a design brief and subsequently a tender exercise was carried out. Natural Resources Wales’ brief was simple: to design and create a play space that sympathetically reflected and made good use of the natural resources found on site, including a stream, native and plantation woodland and a short circular walking trail.

The plan for the play space was shared with the local community to ensure local support for the project. Match funding for the project was awarded by Cadwyn Clwyd Cyfyngedig, a rural development agency, in recognition of the benefits the project would bring to the local tourism economy.

Before any work could commence, elements of the play space required planning permission and this was applied for to Denbighshire County Council. Although some concerns were raised, mainly relating to the potential impacts of the play space on the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, these were adequately addressed by Natural Resources Wales’ site manager and planning permission for the project was granted.

The play structures include a bespoke giant timber nest tower structure made of untreated European larch (a species found on site) that represents the nests of birds living within the surrounding woodlands and offers children multiple opportunities for social and physical play as well as a bird’s eye view of the woodland canopy. A giant cedar log, carved out in the middle offers younger children opportunities for crawling, climbing and congregating inside the log and visually it is the most sympathetic of the timber structures installed.

The most unique of the play features is the water play area constructed of natural stone taken from the site that utilises water coming from the stream and channels it into the play space where children can interact with the water using sticks, stones and other natural materials found in the space.

Parts of this play space, including a wobbly chestnut bridge, were put together as part of a community workshop. Overall the project has been a success and has encouraged more children to visit the woodland and enjoy the sights and sounds of nature through play.