Nell Gwynn Nursery, London

Nell Gwynn Nursery – London

Nell Gwynn Nursery in South London were seeking to make the most of their outdoor space. As participants in the well-regarded Forest Schools program, the management recognised the vital importance the outdoor environment can play in the child’s development, but felt they needed further support in creating workable designs with which to move the project forward.

Project Brief

Even though the management at Nell Gwynn Nursery knew what they wanted to achieve, getting there was a big problem. The current outdoor play area was uninspired and covered in wet pour. They employed the services of Playgarden, using their bespoke landscape architect led design service to create the blueprint for the transformation. This unique approach builds upon the company’s expertise in landscape led play environments for schools and nurseries that meet the learning, development and curriculum requirement for the space.


The Playgarden design includes extensive sand play, a wet sand area and a dry sand area segmented by a timber sleeper bridge. The wet sand area includes a play water pump, channel and pebble stream, which runs into rivulets in the sand, and drainage. The dry sand area includes a Hut Combination on two levels, providing different opportunities for play, as well as sand transportation resources. These two areas help children understand the different properties of sand in alternative states.

The play environment sought to capture the importance, freedom and flexibility from mud play with a delightful mud kitchen area. This is enhanced further with mushroom seating and a table, where mud pie creations and concoctions can be served. Of course no mud kitchen would be complete without a plentiful supply of mud with a mud digging pit and a variety of kitchen utensils with which to cook.

Seating areas for children and adults are important throughout the scheme to create place for socialising, storytelling or simply to be quiet and reflect.

Planting is also used liberally around the site, with rigorous climbers planted around the tall walls, which, when established, will create a green and colourful habitat, improving the atmosphere and attracting wildlife. In addition a small jungle area has been created, close to a sensory pathway which has purposefully being designed to encourage small world play.


• Wet and dry sand areas support children in understanding the different properties of the element in alternative states.
• Planting will create a more pleasant environment, attracting wildlife and making better use of the high walls.
• Mud kitchen affords the opportunity to get messy, understanding more about the poetries of soil and mud and enabling imaginative play.
• Nurturing communication through play in several areas, including the storytelling and performance area. Physical activity is promoted with generous free space for scooting, biking, running and skipping etc.

Equipment: Playground pump, 2 sun sails, water channel with wedge seal, small platform hut, sand play equipment on small hut, climbing trunk, new story-telling and performance area, mud play kitchen, mushroom table and seats.

Landscaping: Planting, timber sleeper bridge, small boulders, pebble playspace, sand and water area, timber edging, mature climbers and shrubs, new fence and gate, removal of some wet pour, secret sensory garden.

What the client said…