Case Studies - Westonbirt Old Arboretum Play Trail


At Westonbirt, the National Arboretum, the Forestry Commission aims to connect people with trees. Their belief is that positive experiences from outdoor play in childhood promote positive attitudes to the environment through into adult life.

Children’s play

Nature play trails have been created to encourage children to explore more widely than in the confines of a traditional playground. This allows accompanying adults to also enjoy walking through more of the arboretum.

Each play piece has been carefully chosen with a view to achieving good learning outcomes.

The principles underlying this approach to play are examined in more detail in the Wild and nature play good practice guidance: on this web site.

Developing Forestry Commission policy

Westonbirt’s philosophy towards children’s play has developed reflecting Forestry Commission guidance. The documents below illustrate the evolution of the policy.





Managed play pieces on the nature play trail

Every play piece has been carefully considered to balance the benefits from allowing play against the residual risk inherent in the structure.

At Westonbirt this process is undertaken by a learning and participation manager. The analysis is recorded and is shared with visitors, for example if there is an accident on a play piece.

Every piece has a written risk assessment.


The photographs to the right illustrate some of the play pieces. If you click to view the details the heading is taken from the play trail leaflet. There is then a list of issues that are considered in the design and maintenance of the piece.

The whole trail is inspected weekly with the results recorded. This is the form that is used.


Tree swings

Although not at Westonbirt, some sites have rope swings. Advice on their construction can be found in this document.


This case study was written by Ken Dodd and was published in March 2013

This website entry was last updated on 10 July, 2020

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