Holland Park in Kensington & Chelsea is The Royal Borough’s largest park with 22.5 hectares of gardens, children’s play facilities, sports areas, a cafeteria and large areas of woodland abundant with wildlife. Contained within the park is the beautiful Kyoto Garden, a Japanese garden donated by the Chamber of Commerce of Kyoto in 1991, and recipient of a BALI Principal Award in 2013.

In 2016 the Borough Council made a decision to refurbish the existing play area which had become tired and uninteresting by modern day standards. The playground was redesigned to provide a high-quality play experience linking with the woodland surroundings and improve the drainage of the site, which has previously been prone to flooding.

The scope of works included the redevelopment of the existing playground to create a new adventure playground involving hard and soft landscaping works with tyre grip, self-binding gravel and play safety surfaces; play structures and equipment; drainage with stone and sculpted concrete water channels; soft swales and dry river planting; SUDs ponds; planting and woodland ground covering; water fountain features and retaining walls, gates, fencing and site furniture.

Some exciting new pieces of equipment include:

  • 25m zip wire
  • 10-person see-saw
  • 10-person dragon swinger

The pathways and bridges are fully-accessible with a wheelchair-accessible roundabout and accessible swings.

The design was created in-line with the results of a public consultation exercise. Included in the playground are habitat panels, new planting and rubbing plaques for the newly planted trees; these have all been included to encourage children to engage with the natural environment and help them to understand the benefits of plants and wildlife and the need for spaces and habitat for plants, insects and animals.

This links to the work carried out by the Ecology Centre in the park who run a series of events and educational programmes throughout the year.

OUR ROLE

As incumbent grounds maintenance provider for the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, and having delivered the first phase of the SUDs project in Holland Park, we were delighted to have been awarded the scheme to transform the adventure playground.

The project included some very challenging and bespoke items which formed part of the Contractor’s Design Portion. This required collaboration with the client team and our play safety consultant to prepare the fabrication drawings and turn these into functional and buildable features which complied with all relevant standards for play equipment.

The first task was to clear the site of existing features and complete significant earthworks in the form of a cut and fill to form the new landscape. During the works a number of modifications had to be incorporated into the scheme on the discovery of unrecorded services which conflicted with the construction build-ups, reinforced concrete slabs, and a number of natural water springs which flowed into the site.

The project included a complex and bespoke concrete playbank, with multiple colours and surface finishes, from polished to sand blasted. This was executed to exacting levels since the entire scheme was a functioning SUDs scheme where surface water would be directed into the play bank for the sand and water play elements.

The bespoke play features had to be developed from concept sketches, details explored to achieve the right balance in finishes and material combinations. It required the continued refinement and coordination of multiple moving parts to bring features, which by their very nature and response to the site, were innovative, unique and original.

To the base of the Fishing Tower lies an adobe wall structure, a feature which was built on site utilising site-won clay to stay true to the traditional techniques.

Throughout the scheme, in both the subbase and above ground features such as basins, swales and wetlands, is a SUDs scheme, which, with the soft landscaping and planting, adds significant value to the play space and play experience.

Working alongside the RBKC and our greenspace development team, we initiated a number of community events that would promote public engagement with the project. These have included, hard-hat tours for both adults and children from various local organisations as well as practical planting and mulching sessions. We provided all of the necessary, child sized PPE and hand tools.

CHALLENGES

The site had a number of constraints including the presence of established trees with significant root protection areas. We had to work closely with the Arboricultural Officer and within the parameters of the Arboricultural Impact Assessment to develop methodologies to the construction techniques, particularly adapting designs and the placement of support poles for features such as the play features and boardwalk to suit the position of tree roots that until excavation of foundations were unknown.

During the reduced dig excavation, a clay seam was discovered which impacted the infiltration and ultimately performance of the SUDs scheme. This also resulted in sand pits with limited vertical drainage and, in addition to natural springs emerging within the concrete playbank, the SUDs scheme needed adaptation to respond to these new constraints.

The site was incredible constrained, particularly for storage of materials in and out of the site. This needed careful planning and the coordinating of deliveries and materials management on a just-in-time basis to limit the impacts to the operations and the users of Holland Park and the adjacent car park.

Although the playground was closed to the public throughout the duration of the project, the park remained open and the adjacent nursery and ecology centre remained fully operational. This created issues around ensuring public safety, especially where vehicle movements were taking place. Furthermore, there was a need to keep the surrounding pathways clean and free of litter and debris and accessible at all times.

idverde is proud to have been so highly involved in the creation of a very popular attraction within one of London’s major open spaces. We believe that the quality of the design and materials has been further enhanced by the workmanship and attention to detail shown by our engineers working on the project. This was recognised in 2020 when idverde received two British Association of Landscape Industries (BALI) National Awards for its work on this project.