Rayleigh Primary School – Imaginative Play

Rayleigh Primary School, Essex

Play Area within unused wooded area of the school

Rayleigh Primary School

Design of an Imaginative play garden for primary school age


The school contacted DF Clark to look at a redundant part of the school grounds with the intention to turn it into an imaginative play space. The location was a small sloped, wooded corner at the bottom of the school grounds. Just above the space was an existing three tiered amphitheatre which offered a sunny spot for performance with a lush green back drop of the trees behind.

The school had been looking at this back drop of leafy green trees and wanted to make it a part of the school rather than a forgotten corner.

Following a meeting with the head teacher and groundsman on site it was clear the passion they had for the school and the facilities they wanted to offer, however the brief was quite mixed with ideas and uses but with one clear message, imaginative play to exercise and stimulate the mind.

The head teacher mentioned hobbit houses which become the basis of the concept. Back in the office, the concept of hobbit’s was developed and moved onto Tipee’s which lead the imaginative land of Hobbit’s & Native America Indians, offering a factual and fictional story to the play area.

The following title helped to explain the concept through the presentation board.

‘‘The historic village of the teepee’s coexists with the mystical land of the hobbit huts. Divided by the boulder river but united through imagination and play’’

The design of the play area saw two separate areas, hobbit land & teepee land. It was important to ensure both areas were as interesting as one another and so each ‘camp’ featured three elements. Teepee land with two teepee’s, a permanent log with boulders fire, and the iconic totem pole. Hobbit land saw two hobbit hutt’s, hobbit style table and stools and an earth mound with tunnel complete with painted hobbit feet through the tunnel.

Both play zones were divided with a boulder river and timber bridge while a small path linked both areas around the bridge to ensure a flow of access through the space.

Some existing trees were cleared to make the best of the usable space while new trees were planted to offer screening to houses beyond, and offer height and living structure.

To keep the budget of the build down, a concrete base to the areas of play formed the hard surface while the rest of the space was seeded with a shade tolerant grass mix. The concrete path was made more inviting and interesting through waves of flint stone pressed into the wet concrete, forming curves and waves through the meandering paths.

Imagination was also employed with the design of the boundary fence with a castellated finish to the timber boards.