Case Study - Hillyfields Play Park

In April 2007, with confirmation of section 106 funding from Medway Council and a successful funding application to Biffaward, Groundwork’s Landscape Team were contracted to consult, design and oversee the construction of the improvement works to be undertaken at Hillyfields Play Park. The project engaged the local community in the planning and design stages of the process and saw strong community links forged between Medway Council, the Friends of Hillyfields, local residents, nearby schools and the local police force. In December 2008 this community partnership culminated in a play park that is a shining example of cutting edge play that provides the needs of the local community.

Inspector Simon Allard, Neighbourhood Police Inspector for Medway and Gillingham explains; "Hillyfields is a fantastic achievement that has resulted from the hard work of the Friends of Hillyfields and Groundwork. We are keen to continue working with community partners and with local young people to provide safe environments where young people can play and socialise."


The improvements to the park reflect a growing trend in play design whereby natural elements are introduced into the play park, using and creating landforms combined with vegetation, wood, stone, mud, sand and bark. The consultation approach asked children to think about how they play, asking them not what they want but what they would like to do. Hillyfields Play Park’s topography played a large part in determining the layout of the design whilst also providing the opportunity for an exciting variety of equipment and semi-natural features to be included in the final design. The park is now a mix of natural and traditional play, with mounds, bridges, tunnels and loose fill surfaces, combined with swings, roundabouts, climbing nets and slides.

The design reflects the need for more inclusive and challenging play, providing elements of risk and opportunities for creativity for all ages and abilities. The choice of equipment and materials provides a deliberate limited colour palette, using natural materials wherever possible. Emma Powell, Groundwork’s Senior Landscape Architect who worked closely with the local community in coming up with the final design explains, “Play is more than just swings and roundabouts, it is also about using your imagination, socialising, letting off steam and challenging yourself. Play spaces should allow children to take risk and learn what their boundaries are.” 


Building on the success at Hillyfields Play Park, Medway Council has contracted Groundwork’s Landscape Team to undertake similar projects at a number of open spaces in the Medway area.  Medway Council's Cllr Doe said 'Medway Council is pleased to be working with Groundwork in producing cutting edge play design. The input that local residents, young people and community groups have had into the design of the park is the way of the future'.

 Hillyfields Before

Hillyfields Play Park - Before

Hillyfields After

Hillyfields Play Park - After

Hillyfields Swing    Rounndabout

Not your average swing                                           A poem by a local pupil greets the park user

Hillyfields Roundabout  hillyfieds sand pit

Medway Mayor, Cllr Carr goes for a ride            'Natural' play areas sited behind earth mounds

Sand pit roundabout  entrance view

Sand for safety                                                          Play equipment at one with the site


Groundwork Kent & Medway
48 Canterbury Street
Kent ME7 5UN

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