Royal Botanic Gardens Kew
Set within the unique setting of the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, the Children’s Garden is a dedicated space for fun, exploring, play and learning and one of the most ambitious projects in the Botanic Gardens last decade. Designed around the structure of ‘What do Plants need to Grow’ the scheme focuses on encouraging creative play and an engagement of children with nature to create lasting family memories.
The schemes concept, master plan and soft landscaping were designed by Royal Botanic Garden Kew’s Garden Design team with the detailed design development and installation undertaken by Ground Control under a Design and Build contract awarded in March 2017.
With an emphasis on the creation of a play garden rather than a traditional playground, the garden is split into individual themed zones of Air, Earth, Water and Sun centred around a huge 200-year-old Oak Tree encircled by a 4m high circular forest structure, encouraging children to interact with the Oaks magnificent canopy. Covering an area of over 10,000m2 the garden appeals to a wide range of ages and abilities, strategically located in the family zone of the botanic gardens. The garden places play, nature and planting at its heart with the structures and hard landscaping sympathetically blended with the characterful soft landscaping to introduce areas of discovery amongst secret paths, structures for climbing, the opportunity for splashing and manipulating nature through water play as well as open and quieter areas for families to gather and explore.
The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew Children’s Garden, landscape design and construction project
Set amongst 62 mature trees forming part of Kew’s living collection the gardens design and detailing had to consider key constraints from an arboricultural perspective as well as others including archaeology and biosecurity aspects. Creative and innovative design and working solutions were adopted including raised footpaths, bridging structures over existing archaeology and supporting key play features such as the Leaning Tower and Oak Tree Circle Walkway using screw piles to maximise the sites existing trees and natural setting whilst preserving them for their future contribution. Close collaboration on the design and detailing of structures with RoSPA and specialist suppliers such as Duncan and Grove and Handsprings Design allowed the maximum value to be sought from each structure whilst ensuring all were compliant and appropriate for the setting.
Single team ethos blending play and landscaping
The project exemplifies how the collaboration of clients, designers and contractors as a single team ethos can design, detail and deliver a scheme that showcases the blending of play and landscape in such a unique setting. Since its opening in May 2019, the garden has had an overwhelmingly positive response with the latest figures from the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (ALVA) showing a 23% increase in visitor numbers at Kew Gardens during the 2019 calendar year, making it the most visited garden, and outdoor attraction, in the UK. The scheme was also recognised by BALI described as ‘landscaping at its very best’ with the project scooping the prestigious Grand Award at the 2019 awards ceremony.