Beyond the Playground campaign

The Gardens Trust conservation team has long been accustomed to considering the impact of new play facilities within historic landscapes. In some instances, such as in urban public parks, playgrounds are perfectly valid and chime well with the site’s historic raison d’être. In others, such as in gardens with a history of being private homes, the proposals can sit uncomfortably with the site, its history, and its aim to have a relevance in today’s society.


By thinking a little more imaginatively, we may realise that many historic gardens are inherently suited to children’s play and engagement and suddenly it may no longer seem so necessary to spend those thousands of pounds on some new brightly-coloured play equipment – ugly, expensive and always to a degree detrimental to the historic designed landscape. We may notice a fountain that would be perfect for sailing boats in, if only a little stash of them was left ready on the edge; a Broad Walk that is calling to have a hoop rolled along it; a pond perfect for fishing were there a row of ready nets; a hill on which a kite could be flown; a hermitage that would be a thousand times more entertaining were there a hermit in it; a park where perhaps the mowing regime could allow for a temporary grass maze; bales of hay that could be left a little longer in the meadow for young climbers to conquer; or perhaps even a shrubbery robust enough to take a little rummaging.

To tackle some of these issues and to generate fresh energy, inspiration and imagination in thinking about children’s play, the Gardens Trust (then the Garden History Society) published a beautifully-illustrated free leaflet called Beyond the Playground: new approaches to children’s play in historic gardens, with a text by Linden Groves. Since publication in 2010, the booklet has been requested by thousands of garden managers and owners across the world. It has truly changed the way children engage with historic parks and gardens, inspiring new approaches to play at properties from Battle Abbey to Hampton Court.

The Beyond the Playground drive to engage children in historic landscapes also comes alive with the Garden Galavant play session sponsored by the Garden History Society with Timberplay and delivered by Hahahopscotch, in which uniquely silly games are used to inspire children with an enthusiasm for the quirks of garden history.

Readers can receive a copy of Beyond the Playground by contacting:, 70 Cowcross Street, London EC1M 6EJ, tel 020 7608 2409.

For more on Hahahopscotch’s Garden Galavant games, please visit

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Painswick Roccoco Gardens, the Red House, Photo © Joab Smith