Summerside Primary School, London

Summerside Primary School – London

Summerside Primary School has in excess of 500 pupils with 90 reception and nursery children requiring access to the outdoor environment. They were keen to utilise an old play space to create custom Early Years provision.

Project Brief

Since 2012 Summerside Primary School have increased their intake from two-form entry to three. This necessitated the creation of a significant dedicated early years play area. Although Summerside did not have specific ideas about what they wanted to create, they knew they wanted a space that provided a wealth of physical challenges, and could be used for a large variety of problem solving activities. They also wanted to maximise the rich and diverse opportunities that the outdoors can provide, offering a forever changing playscape. With a £50,000 budget, they worked with Playgarden to design and build a play area that would provide the right stimulus for Early Years provision. Fans of the forest school model, they wanted their play area to provide multiple adventures for Early Years children which is why they wanted to invest in Playgarden’s specialist Landscape Architect service.


With a relatively large space at their disposal, Summerside Primary School were able to create several different play zones, which leant themselves to multi-levelled play opportunities..

Rather than wheeled toys dominating a space, a dedicated bike track was created on a hard surfaced area, perfect for all weather play. This dedicated area provides space for physical challenge and risk, including, running, jumping and skipping as well as biking and scooting. Wall space was utilised with a traversing wall, and a wall mounted mirror, chalk board and weaving board presenting opportunities for creative and social activities that promote language and literacy development.

A playground pump feeds into a dry river bed, which meanders down to the sand play area and allows the children to interact with moving water. A sleeper bridge crosses the river, providing access to a varied topography and allows children feel as though they are going on a journey or adventure. The sand area and is being used creatively by pupils and staff alike, for various activities, for example treasure hunts promoting literacy, numeracy or small world play.

As is to be expected from a Playgarden designed area, wildlife and natural play opportunities have been considered throughout. A fallen tree makes the perfect climbing structure and a willow den is the ideal hidey hole. Bugs are encouraged within the bug hotel and the sensory planting throughout the site ensure there will always be natural splashes of colour and wonderful scents within the area. It allows the children to explore their senses through natural materials which provide a myriad of colour, shape, texture and smell.

Scooting, balancing or clambering over the fallen tree or springing from one sound cushion to the next, the Summerside play area has many stimulating and exciting methods of moving around the site, perfect for the on-going physical development of early years children. The environment helps develop an understanding of having places to be in, go under, behind, below and above.

Playgarden also provided a bike hut, which is being used both as storage, and also creatively by staff for different role play opportunities, for example, airport lounge or office. It means that the children can independently access equipment and loose materials for play.


• Physical activity is provided in many ways, eg through wheeled toys, climbing wall, fallen tree, sound cushions etc.

• Sand and water nurture scientific skills as children build and experiment with sand and gain understanding of the flow and control of water.

• Several zones necessitate communication and negotiation for most effective use, developing social and interpersonal skills.

• Sensory elements provide stimulation and help children gain understanding of the world they live in.

• Fallen tree and sound cushions support the development of a child’s balance and physical awareness.

• Planting and wildlife area support better understanding of nature, specifically minibeasts.

• Bike shed provides much needed storage, but also is being used creatively to create themes areas for example airport lounges.

Equipment: Playground pump, channel with wedge seal, mini sand pit

Landscaping: Artificial grass, bike track (inc zebra crossings and parking bays), sand, pebble playscape, glacial boulders stepping stones, timber bridges, mud play area, humpback bridge, wild grass area

What the client said…