How Playgrounds are Designed and Constructed around the World


Kids, wherever they are, love to play and are naturally attracted to playground swings and equipment. You may be surprised to learn though that there are many differences around the world in what constitutes a suitable and safe play area.

Here in the UK we are very aware of the need to keep our children as safe as they can be whilst playing outside and at the same time we prefer natural environmentally friendly products. This is why natural wooden playground equipment is becoming more popular. We like our children’s outdoor playground equipment to be as safe and as sustainable as possible, but how do the rest of the world do it?


In contrast to the ‘safety first’ attitude we have here, the Japanese are perhaps not so hot on this. In fact the Japanese tend not to use safety surfaces as they don’t think it teaches a good example to children!  A school in Tokyo has built a playground/sports area on the roof of the building. It could be described as semi-outdoors as it has a retractable roof which closes in bad weather. There is no outdoor play equipment though and definitely no safety flooring! There unique approach doesn’t just stop there. Many of their design can’t be seen anywhere else in the world and are truly inspiring. Check out this great article to see what we mean



Sadly, children here learn to play behind the thickest walls they can find to protect themselves against gunfire at their school on the West Bank. Even though there’s no sign of any play equipment at all the children still somehow learn to play. An example of how play is innate in children and always finds a way no matter where children are. Activities such as parkour have become popular too as children find any means to challenge and entertain themselves using the environment around them.

Bhutan Monastery

Even though the children live under strict rules they are still allowed outside for play and socialisation and although there is no obvious sign of any play equipment, they have the spectacular scenery around to inspire them.


In America, the emphasis is very much on athleticism rather than academia in many high schools, and to this end schools pride themselves on the provision of gym space for cheerleaders to practice in and outdoor sports fields and running tracks. The benefit of outdoor wooden and natural play equipment has yet to take root in many US schools. Perhaps this as deemed too risky in a society where litigation and compensation is more common.


Averoy, Norway

There is a small island school which is connected to the mainland by a recently built tunnel and which has pupils from the ages of 5-13. These children are lucky enough to be able to play outside in the brisk fresh air among the trees but with rudimentary play equipment provided. Scandinavians are famed for their natural playgrounds which have been proven to create healthy minds and bodies


Despite Russia’s reputation for stern austerity they do set great store by encouraging their children to play, and playgrounds are provided all across the country in parks and public areas as well as in schools. Their playgrounds are very creative and often build very creative and natural playgrounds. Some of their playgrounds contain some quite wacky ideas! One playground is contained within a scaled down copy of Moscow City Kremlin while others have statues of bears, mermaids and even dragons beside the swings. By and large though Russian playgrounds are definitely not designed with ‘safety first’ and believe in the benefits of ‘risky play’.

The best eco-friendly playgrounds

Many countries are becoming keen to ditch plastics and unsustainable metals in favour of re-using and repurposing what they already have to make play equipment. The Wikado Playground in The Netherlands uses old windmills and modern wind turbines to construct a maze-like play area while in Thailand the Rubber Tree Playground features play equipment made from discarded tyres and bamboo.

The Lion’s Playground in Alabama, USA makes interesting use of 2000 recycled steel drums while in Brazil one children’s play area features a labyrinth made entirely from recycled cardboard.

We think way playgrounds are designed and built in each country is a true reflection of their society. When it comes to sustainable and natural outdoor playground equipment it’s good to know that some parts of the world at least are coming around to our way of thinking!

Bespoke fitness equipment

New Year, New You – Make Outdoor Exercise Your New Year’s Resolution


When it comes to making New Year promises to ourselves most of us will resolve to put exercise at the top of the list. The urge to improve general fitness always follows on from the festive season splurge and for good reason but before you rush to sign up for that expensive gym membership why not look at a healthy alternative.

People are increasingly looking for a more sustainable way to get fitter and one which doesn’t involve queuing behind a bunch of sweaty people in various stages of undress to use an equally sweaty piece of gym equipment. There is an alternative and the new kid on the block is natural outdoor gym equipment.

Bespoke fitness equipment

What Is It?

Outdoor gym equipment is increasingly seen in parks, schools and other recreation areas and even in some work areas as the huge benefits of exercising outdoors becomes ever more apparent. The best wooden outdoor gym equipment is constructed from sustainable, durable and hygienic untreated hardwood timber and stainless steel and can be made up to your personal specifications. When placed in an outdoor setting it is readily available for use at all times. Many councils and schools across the UK are beginning to see the benefits that installing wooden play equipment can bring to the health and wellbeing of our children – and these benefits exist for adults too.

Bespoke garden fitness equipment

What are the benefits of outdoor fitness?

When the weather outside is less than delightful you may question the wisdom of leaving the comfort of the fireside to do some exercise however studies show that outdoor fitness in the winter has multiple beneficial effects.

  • A natural antidepressant. If you suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD) then the best thing you can do is get outside into the winter sunshine. Sunshine increases the production of the feel-good hormone serotonin.
  • When you get together with friends or a group to exercise outdoors you learn from each other the best way to use the equipment and you can gain encouragement from them to stick to your new exercise routine. Best of all, it’s like being a kid again; the fun aspect of exercising on outdoor gym equipment boosts mental health and wellbeing.
  • The benefits of fresh air cannot be underestimated; improvement to blood pressure and heart rate, increased lung capacity and increased energy all contribute towards better overall health.

Exercising outdoors in the winter sunshine and fresh air then afterwards back indoors for a well-earned rest and warm drink – what could be nicer? And if the exercise experience is nice, it’s far more likely you’ll repeat it, so you could actually be right on track for a new, improved and fitter you!

wooden gym

The Great Benefits of Green Spaces in Industrial Parks


Industrial estates have always been fairly soulless places where people go to work and then go home at the end of the day having seen nothing but concrete and car parks.

But now things are changing fast as businesses increasingly see valuing the health of their employees as one of the ways in which they can retain a happy, healthy and productive workforce. And one of the ways in which this can be achieved is by subscribing to the benefits of incorporating outdoor fitness equipment into industrial parks.

wooden trim trail equipment

Outdoor Gyms Increasing in Popularity

The Americans have long bought into the idea of the concept of outdoor gyms and particularly natural outdoor fitness equipment and green spaces in the work environment. And now UK employers are catching up too. Many new industrial parks are built according to strict regulations which not only emphasise safety but also with a nod to improving physical and mental health. Outdoor fitness equipment is now seen as something which can bring enormous benefits in terms of employee health and can also help to attract new businesses to industrial areas.

outdoor gym rig

What are the Health Benefits?

Outdoor fitness equipment is designed to be used by everyone regardless of their fitness levels and it can be arranged so that it can be used by groups or individual persons. Aside from the obvious increase in physical fitness which comes from using the equipment regularly there are added benefits as well. People exercising together during breaks or after work tend to form greater bonds than if they see each other purely as work colleagues. Friendships and alliances are formed which can spill over into the work environment and this can lead to an increase in workplace morale and productivity.

Take a look at this great article about the benefits of outdoor fitness

monkey bar gym

What Equipment Would You Need?

A specialist manufacturer of natural outdoor fitness equipment will be only too happy to offer advice on which key pieces of equipment you will need. But generally speaking you would probably benefit from several pieces which incorporate workouts for upper and lower body as well as cardio machines for overall fitness.

In recent years public parks and children’s playgrounds have embraced the fitness ethos in a bid to tackle the growing obesity crisis and the need for healthy environmentally beneficial outdoor spaces. Thankfully the developers of new industrial parks and enlightened employers are also seeing how green spaces, and outdoor wooden gym equipment can enhance the working environment and the lives of their workers. A great investment that provides a great return. A thoughtful design draws in passing trade. A great reflection of the working communities forward thinking and commitment to the health of their valued staff.

Natural playground design

The Benefits of Natural Play Equipment in New Estates


Natural play equipment offers more than you might think. Traditionally, new housing estates have been built to a certain formula where the available space is filled solely with buildings and with little thought of incorporating more than the minimum green space, usually in the form of a lifeless patch of grass.

Thankfully this is now changing with more enlightened local authorities setting out recommendations relating to the importance of developing public open spaces and play environments. The National Planning Policy Framework (2012) requires developers to provide the ‘appropriate amount of and mix of public open space provision.’ And we think natural play equipment fits with this perfectly.

metal monkey barsEnhancement to Quality of Life

Developers and local authorities are at last waking up to the advantages of green spaces and play areas and the benefits to public health, particularly the health of our children. With the loss of so many school sports fields over recent decades opportunities for children to enjoy healthy outdoor play has diminished. Not least is the benefit to wildlife when areas of green space are created with the health of our ecological system in mind.

Natural Outdoor Play Equipment for Health Benefits

We have always known that outdoor play is the best route to good health for children. Every child should have the chance to play outdoors in the fresh air and in a safe environment and thankfully future developments will incorporate open, healthy green spaces where children can play on natural outdoor play equipment and explore the surroundings.

Natural play equipment

Abolish the Plastic

Now that developers are legally obliged to incorporate designated play areas into new estates, with clear guidance set out for how this should be done, there is a wonderful opportunity to embrace the benefits of natural play equipment. Where outdoor play equipment has been provided in the past this has usually taken the form of cheap, mass-produced plastic items designed with a limited shelf-life. Modern outdoor play equipment made from durable, sustainable and safe hardwood timber and long-lasting stainless steel is not only good to look at it is environmentally friendly and eco-conscious too. Today’s families are all too aware of the damage plastics are doing to the planet and want local authorities and developers to plan new estates with sustainability in mind.

Rubber Mulch safety surface

Safety First and Foremost

Children will always find ways to injure themselves and past playground developments have undoubtedly been far from the safest places for children to play. With this in mind safety surfacing is incorporated into wooden outdoor playgrounds which is not only less likely to cause serious injury but also fulfils the obligation to enhance and protect the natural environment. These safety surfacing options include grass mats and rubber mulch. Both of which are made from recycled rubber tyres.

fitness monkey bars

The Benefits of Exercising in the Garden


The Benefits of Exercising in the Garden

wooden fitness monkey bar gym

It isn’t a secret that regular exercise is an excellent way to improve vitality, as well as promote both physical and mental health, but did you know that exercising outside can actually increase these benefits? According to many fitness experts, it can. In fact, many people are now referring to exercising in the garden as “green exercise” and it is believed to have numerous health enhancing effects on the body. But those aren’t the only benefits to exercising in the to keep physically fit. Exercising in the garden can also be a convenient, and cost effective, alternative to exercising at the gym, as well as a great way to encourage the entire family to participate in physical fitness. And getting a garden gym made from natural materials can certainly make a stylish addition to your garden.


While going to the gym can be great in terms of the selection of outdoor fitness equipment to choose from, the total lack of privacy can often be uncomfortable. Exercising in the privacy of your own garden on the other hand allows for a private and more importantly, stress-free atmosphere that will encourage the whole family to commit to a regular fitness routine. Depending on the outdoor gym equipment you’d like installed, you could even make circuit training a family activity where you all keep each other motivated.

A More Cost-effective Way To Stay Fit

Gym memberships can cost hundreds of pounds a year to maintain. And while you can’t put a price on good health, having a gym membership isn’t your only option for staying physically fit – and it isn’t the most cost-effective option either. Especially when you compare the cost of a gym membership per annum to the cost of purchasing your own outdoor gym equipment that will last you for years to come. Creating your own outdoor gym in the privacy of your garden can not only offer a convenient and private workout setting, it can save you tons of money in the long run. And, if you choose custom built outdoor gym equipment tailored to your fitness plan, you’re not wasting money on equipment that you’ll never use – let’s face it, no matter how well stocked a gym is with all kinds of different equipment, we only really use a few pieces.monkey-bars-01

A Faster and More Convenient Way To Keep in Shape

One of the most common reasons that people give for not being able to keep to a consistent exercise routine is lack of time. Going to the gym to exercise often means having to navigate traffic, then search for a parking spot, followed by manoeuvring through a crowded locker room – all this before your workout has even begun!  And unless you have joined a gym that is open 24 hours a day, your exercise is limited to the times that the gym is open. When you have outdoor fitness equipment in your garden, you can enjoy the convenience of working out in the comfort of your own property whenever you choose. This will also allow your entire family to exercise together, or around their own individual schedules, making it easier than ever to commit to a healthy, and physically active, lifestyle.

Remember, our outdoor fitness equipment can also be used for play. Mixed use equipment really makes a the most of the space and budget and can easily by tailored to your needs. Take a look at a previous blog post about how garden playground equipment such as monkey bars and swings can be used as part of you fitness routine.

Here’s a great video showing various fitness techniques that can be performed on garden fitness equipment.


wooden outdoor fitness equipment

Outdoor Fitness Equipment – The Natural Way


Outdoor Fitness Equipment – The Natural Way

When it comes to keeping fit there really is no better place to be than the great outdoors, breathing in all that healthy natural fresh air whilst getting some exercise.

wooden outdoor fitness equipment
Outdoor fitness class

Unfortunately, so much of the outdoor fitness equipment you will come across has been designed purely with functionality in mind, and it can be something of an eyesore set against the natural backdrop of a stunning park or garden. In a society that is looking to reduce its use of plastic it is fortunate therefore that there are other alternatives to equipment that is made from less environmentally friendly materials and from bold colours, that whilst appealing to younger people, really do not fit into their surroundings.

Return to nature with outdoor fitness equipment

Wood is a fantastic, and of course natural, material that is perfectly suited to the building of equipment for both indoor and outdoor use. It makes a perfect base for any natural outdoor fitness equipment that can be incorporated into any natural environment where it will enhance rather than detract from the natural beauty. It is also a much more environmentally friendly material that does not harm the environment around it.

There are more and more innovations in outdoor fitness equipment that has been designed specifically with the goal of fitting into the natural environment. This equipment stands out for all the right reasons rather than the wrong ones. In addition to a variety of different types of timber, this type of outdoor fitness equipment is often made using rope and steel components to provide equipment that is very aesthetically pleasing in any environment. In addition to naturally durable timbers which can be used to form the main parts of the equipment you might also expect to see tree trunk “barrels” or thick slices being used as steps or even seats.

Monkey bars for fitness and play

Think around the problem

Sometimes there is no getting away from the need to use certain materials for outdoor fitness equipment that is of a less environmentally friendly nature. However it is still possible to create something that blends with the environment in a more natural way. Outdoor trampolines have become increasingly popular in recent years, but they are large and really not that pretty to look at. Sinking a trampoline into the ground, however, is a great way to hide the necessary, framework from sight. The trampoline skin will lie level with the ground making is less obvious and much more environmentally and user friendly.

By using a little clever thinking there are plenty of ways in which you can create an outdoor fitness environment that blends into its surroundings.

The Benefits of Natural Playground Equipment on the Environment


The Benefits of Natural Playground Equipment on the Environment

Play is an essential part of a child’s development, and playgrounds provide an excellent space for children to explore and have fun. In recent years, natural playgrounds have become more prevalent due to environmental concerns, and they are very beneficial for not only the children that play there, but for the environment, as well. Here’s a list of some materials that can be used in a natural playground and the benefits they offer in terms of being environmentally friendly.

Rubber Safety Surfacing

There are three types of rubber safety surface – grass mats, rubber mulch and wet pour. All of these forms are designed to fit into the surrounding environment and can be customised to suit different areas. The rubber is taken from recycled tyres, removing these harmful objects from the ecosystem and turning them into a safe and pleasant play area. Rubber mulch is especially suited to the environment because it looks natural (depending on colour) and are less intrusive to the wildlife in the area. Grass mats promote the use of turf and seeding which therefore creates it’s own ecosystem amongst the blades of grass and roots. Grass also increases air quality which is often much needed in urban play grounds.

Playground trampoline

Old Tyres

Similar to rubber safety surfaces, reusing old tyres makes for a more environmentally friendly playground, as tyres are very durable and do not biodegrade, meaning they could potentially negatively impact the wildlife surrounding them. Problems such as fires, and therefore pollution, can be avoided by recycling tyres. Furthermore, using rubber is an effective tool when it comes to active play due its durability. In other words, rubber play equipment will likely not need to be replaced too often.

Playground tyres


Using waste logs from tree surgeons removes the need for the surgeon to dispose of the unwanted wood and put it to good use as outdoor playground equipment. If not taken, the logs may be used for purposes such as firewood, which is not healthy for the environment (due to smoke pollution and the risk of the fire becoming hard to control). Like grass mats and rubber mulch, wooden playground equipment blends in with the environment and is resistant to changes in weather. This means it weathers at a similar rate to the surroundings, keeping it natural-looking, requires little maintenance and often are the most popular pieces of equipment on playgrounds.

Natural climbing logs

Planting Trees

We do our best to plant as many trees and plant into all of our playgrounds. This well in turn improve the air quality of the playground and the surrounding area. After the installation of every playground, planting an oak tree is an extra touch we like to take. Oak is one of the primary woods that are used for wooden playground equipment so planting more trees allows the process to be more sustainable. The oak trees provide habitats for many different species of insect, bird and mammal, which allow the ecosystem to build and flourish.

Next time you’re looking to upgrade or install natural playground equipment, why not go eco-friendly and reap all the benefits to the environment as well as the benefits to the children that play there, by choosing wooden playground equipment.


oak tree for playgrounds
Oak tree planted for every playground we deliver
monkey bars for fitness

How wooden playground equipment could be incorporated into the outdoor workout?


How wooden playground equipment could be incorporated into the outdoor workout?


Recently there has been a huge increase in the amount of outdoor playground equipment designed for exercise use. Councils, employers, schools, colleges, hotels and of course gyms, have been installing dedicated outdoor gym equipment to encourage more of the population to reap some of the benefits of exercising in the open.

wooden outdoor fitness equipment

Exercising outdoors is proven to be extremely beneficial – both physically and mentally – but if your local park hasn’t got around to installing body weight rowing machines and cross-trainers you need not miss out. All you need is some widely available wooden playground equipment and a bit of determination!

fitness monkey bars

Before you start


First things first: you might be getting in touch with your inner kid by exercising but some parents can be funny about adults using outdoor playground equipment – especially if you’re not at the park with your kids – so it’s best to keep your sessions to early morning and late evening. And warm up by gently running to the playground, or taking in a couple of laps of the park.


Squatting on two legs is hard. Squatting on one leg is much, much harder. Going from two legs to one requires practice and a swing is the ideal piece of equipment to help. Hold the seat for balance as you go down into the lowest squat you can manage, then stretch one leg out, parallel to the floor. Build reps slowly if you’re not used to it.


Another exercise you can use a swing seat for is the Ab-rollout. Stand over the swing with your hands on the seat, then push it away from you, without moving your feet, and return to the start position.

Using playground equipment for fitness



Wooden playground equipment often has bars or ladders a couple of feet off the ground. These lend themselves well to Inverted Rowing (Slide under, grab the bar and lift yourself up and down). Depending on the design of the outdoor playground equipment you may also be able to use them for pull-ups and dips too.


Monkey Bars

Swinging hand from hand is great for building upper body strength. You can also use this piece of outdoor playground equipment for chin-ups and similar exercises.



All playgrounds have somewhere for parents to sit – but you can use the benches for bench jumps, push-ups, Bulgarian split squats, dips and many other similar exercises where a small amount of elevation is required.


So, next time the kids want to visit the park, or you’re passing an empty playground, there’s really no reason not to work out!







A couple of weeks ago we organised and designed quite an ambitious project for the W. R. BERKLEY CORPORATION team to take on. They are currently building one of London’s newest skyscrapers called ‘The Scalpel’ and soon showed what can be done when a corporation from the city works hard to put something back into the community.  

A big thank you to the whole Scalpel team for all of their hard work and funding.  

Outdoor Classroom and Stage


Contemporary Outdoor Classrooms 

We have recently completed a new project designed by Variant Office, for Tulse Hill Adventure Playground in Lambeth, London. The beautiful outdoor classroom was designed to make use of the open space and create more room for after school learning for the local community.