Heartsease Primary Academy, Norwich

Heartsease Primary Academy – Norwich

Heartsease Primary Academy in Norwich was a relatively new build school with classrooms that led directly out into the outdoor space. However, the enthusiasm for allowing children to freely access the outdoors was limited as the space was uninspiring.

Project Brief

Heartsease Primary Academy had heavily researched early years outdoor provision, and identified what they believed would work best for their space. They wanted the design to offer a variety of open ended play experiences, with the landscape being of key importance rather than just equipment. Despite having a good idea of what they wanted to achieve, they felt they needed support in developing workable and practical designs so used Playgarden’s specialist landscape architect design service to firm up their ideas.


The playgarden was split into 4 distinct areas, sand and water, storytelling, open grass free play space and nature and discovery. The sand and water area has a dry river bed, pebble path with a water pump at its source.  Surrounding this is a sanded area, so that children can experiment with the rich learning opportunities that sand and water together present. Adjacent to this is a mud kitchen, allowing children to play with different proportions of soil and water, creating mud pies, potions and mixtures in the outdoor home area.

Timbers are used throughout to create small bridges, between mounds and zones, perfect for imaginative play and physical development. This is situated in the large grass area, included to offer space for free running and games. Landscaping features, grass mounds, and timber bridges add interest to this space, as does the carefully selected planting and willow dome.

A timber story circle is located on durable reinforced grass matting, perfect for stories or performances of all kinds. Located in the reinforced grass matting area, the circle is ideal for story telling or performances. Interaction with nature is encouraged, with bug hotels and butterfly friendly planting.

The perimeter of the play area had changed after it was initially developed, which left an awkward paved area, claimed from a bordering path. The new design uses this space more effectively, including rich and varied planting.


• Space to promote physical activity, running and balancing, and landscaping features to support understanding of gradients etc.
• Small spaces for quiet conversation, role play and reflection.
• Sand and water nurture scientific skills as children build and experiment with sand and gain understanding of the flow and control of water.
• Timber stage and block seating perfect for performance or storytelling.
• Willow dome and timber tee pee serve as ideal hidey holes for quiet communication reflection or role play.
• Planting, bug hotels and wildlife area support better understanding of nature, specifically minibeasts.
• Mud kitchen to deliver scientific learning and role play opportunities.


Equipment: Playground pump, mud kitchen

Landscaping: Decking, pebble playstream, timber bridges, sleepers, sand pit, glacial boulders, planters, timber rounds, grass mats, story circle, willow dome, earth mounds, timber posts for den building.


What the client said…