Return to Royal Park – Natureplay

DSC_4710The design of the new Natureplay playspace on the site of the old RCH is inspired by the seven seasons of the Wurundjeri – as based on the Kulin seasonal calendar located in the Forest Gallery at Melbourne Museum.

This park is a great way to discover and understand Indigenous Melbourne through immersion of play in a natural and native environment. The locations and species of the plants and play elements provide direct relationships with the seven seasons of the playspace.

Some facts of Natureplay at Royal Park:

  • Undertaken as a Partnership between City of Melbourne with Department of Health
  • Is approximately 4ha in area
  • Had a budget of approx $5 M

Some key objectives were to:

  • integrate this new park space within Royal Park and the wider CoM open space network
  • Provide a new focus in Royal Park to support a growing population and potentially greater use
  • increase the diversity of recreation opportunities and amenities within the park
  • provide opportunities for children’s play, & family and community based
  • activity create a landscape that allows for environmental and indigenous cultural
  • interpretation & awareness
  • establish a framework to guide future management of this landscape

The community inspired principles derived from the first phase of consultation which informed the design were to:

  1. Create a native park which complements the existing vegetation and the landscape character of Royal Park.
  2. Build a place which provides passive and active recreation opportunities for all members of the community including children, the elderly and people with a disability.
  3. Create a sense of entry to Royal Park that is accessible and welcoming.
  4. Design a place for creative and natural play.
  5. Provide appropriate level of amenities to support the park users.

(Refer to the Ideas Plan, as part of the link provided at the end of this blog for more information, including the consultation process).

Children were pivotal to the design of Natureplay, and were involved in a program of being engaged with nature at a very early stage in the process.

Main play element at Natureplay

DSC_4688The climbing forest is a reminder of the primate enclosures at the Melbourne Zoo – especially with a landing perched half way up around a post. The rope ladders and notched poles give you the sense you are about to climb up to a trapeze – not for the faint hearted!! Let the children climb!

The built up mound in the background is the perfect location to view the Melbourne skyline, before your inner child takes over and you find yourself rolling down its side in glee back down to the bottom…

DSC_4699The rocky escarpment allows the children scramble up the extensive mudstone boulders. Depending upon the route they take, this experience could range from being moderately easy to quite challenging, and vary in experience every single time. It is also a great environment for the children to begin to understand the concept of challenge and risk to achieve the end goal – a reward of whizzing down one of the customized slides to match their level of bravery!!!

DSC_4683It’s really encouraging to see that the park rangers really understand and embrace the notion of loose parts in open ended play, and provide material for the children to use as they wish (in addition to specific planting undertaken to provide for this method of play). Here some children have brought over dead tree branches to provide more screening to what at that time was their cubby frame. (This structure is an interpretation of the notion of burrowing – Wombat season).

DSC_4719Water play instigated by the children via manual hand pumping can be further explored with the inclusion of removable dam walls, before it runs into a sandpit. The wet part of the sandpit seems to be loved by the children more-so than the dry part…who would have thought?

DSC_4727The climbing and net structure (be it whatever the children want it to be) requires some careful thought over the best way to tackle it along its full length – it can be quite complex and challenging as there are many options to consider…

DSC_4710A linear row of swings are orientated over the playground and towards the city so whilst swinging you have the perception of soaring up over the landscape below….

Another small detail that has been incorporated into the design is the animal tracks that are set into the paths. They have not only been located in regards to their spacings and the weight bearing portion of their imprints, they have also been directed towards plants in areas that that they would normally frequent.

Currently there is only minimal interp signage. Proposed additional interp signage will provide users with more information on the many layers of information this park provides in regards to the seasonal knowledge and the relationships the Wurundjeri people had with plants, animals and the local environment throughout the seasons. Current ideas of future programs for children and other appropriate events in this space will only enhance our understanding of the proud, living culture of Indigenous Melbourne, from the young to the young at heart.

For more information refer to the City of Melbourne website, and also to the Ideas Plan and draft Design Brief here:

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