Children's Garden in Castle Park

Revitalising Castle Park through the creation of a Children's Garden.

Castle Park occupies a fantastic site in the centre of Bristol and was thankfully saved from the concrete blight of misguided urban development past. Yet sadly, its full potential remains unrealised. It is now time to make the park more attractive, appealing and engaging, transforming it into the premier green space that it should be in the city centre.

What better way than through the creation of a Children’s Garden as the centrepiece of a longer-term design and planting overhaul?

The Children’s Garden will nurture and inspire creative play by creating varied open landscapes made out of plants for children to explore. In contrast to other more prescribed park landscapes for children comprised of swings and slides, the garden will offer a city centre opportunity for children to discover and connect with nature and their own imagination. By getting up close with plants, bugs, birds and animals, sticking their fingers into the earth, finding out who eats what when, and creating their own stories, the garden will offer a truly nurturing and engaging experience for children.

Through several different landscapes such as wetland, grassland, forest, mountain and kitchen garden, all planted with stunning grasses, flowers and shrubs, and featuring pathways, water and interactive natural structures, the garden will be a fantastic educational resource for children, and also provide a rich and colourful habitat for bees, butterflies and urban wildlife, offering something new and surprising for every season.

Amongst other features, a pond will give a home to frogs, toads and newts, while bat and bird boxes will take the garden ecosystem into the surrounding trees. A maze of tall wild grasses will fascinate and delight, and urban beehives on a nearby roof or pontoon will help pollinate a small grove of fruit trees and bring a real buzz to the proceedings!

Collaborating with Project Wild Thing, local residents and wildlife enthusiasts, the garden will enchant and entice children to get down and dirty with nature, immersing all their senses in experiencing and imagining the garden – from smelling, crunching and tasting herbs and grasses, to feeling worms, climbing boulders and licking frogs! And for those that want deeper involvement over time, the chance to plant, grow and tend their own plants and learn about germination and pollination.

With creative direction from a top Bristol garden designer, design input via an inter-school competition, advice from wildlife groups, and community planting and gardening support from local residents, the garden will be a truly collaborative endeavour by and for the whole community.

Realising the project with the support of crowd-sourced funding via YIMBY Just Giving and match funding from a Bristol European Green Capital 2015 sponsor, will ensure the creation of a truly inspiring legacy for the city.

Why the contribution is important

We are all part of nature. Through play and challenge, this will be the fundamental lesson and purpose of the Children’s Garden – to awaken the realisation and understanding in children (and in their parents and teachers!) that all life on earth, including humanity, is interconnected and interdependent.

By giving children of all ages, backgrounds, physical abilities and cultures, the chance to play, explore and discover the natural world, to tend and care for something that's living, and to learn that much of our food comes from plants, the garden will instil a sense of wonder, excitement and new understanding, as well as pride, achievement and responsibility – for the garden, the park, and ultimately the place in which they live, the city of Bristol itself.

Infusing this learning experience with play, exploration and discovery, the garden will combine early adventure and challenge for children, connecting them with nature and with other children in shared play and endeavour.

Getting our children outside into the park, being physical, social, playful and imaginative, both in the garden and in others parts of the park, will seed healthy habits for a lifetime.

Though the Children’s Garden is first and foremost for children, it will benefit the whole community, following the Mayor’s maxim that a city that’s good for children is good for everyone. It will not only complement existing initiatives for children such as the Mayor’s project to give all children in Bristol a chance to plant a tree as part of European Green Capital 2015, but also inspire other projects that make better use of Castle Park. For example, to mark the centenary of the Great War in 2014, another part of the park could be devoted to the creation of a Peace Grove, and/or a collaboration with Thrive could offer health, well-being, social and therapeutic horticultural opportunities for adults.

In summary, links with Project Wild Thing, as well as with other local wildlife, horticultural and growing groups, and the Bristol Natural History Consortium and the Festival of Nature, will ensure a sustainable and thriving project that serves our children, community and city.

The Children’s Garden is an idea inspired by the similar project in Melbourne’s Botanical Gardens. Find out more here http://www.rbg.vic.gov.au/visit-melbourne/attractions/children-garden

by JustinWoolford on January 03, 2014 at 03:11PM

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