Inspirational Walls – In School Grounds & Beyond

13 September 2011 · 0 comments

in Developing School Grounds & Outdoor Spaces

Six weeks ago, I was in the Lake District which is re-knowned for its social and cultural heritage as well as its scenic beauty. In fact I believe its the interactions of the people with the landscape over several centuries that has made the Lake District such a unique place.

Normally I’m completely into looking at the fells and baa-ing in conversation with all the Herdwick sheep. However this time was different. I’m blaming Rusty Keeler for my new play-potential-tinted glasses that I now wear when out and about. This time, I found myself eyeing up the walls in a new light.

Local building traditions have produced villages and towns of very different character. I was staying in Ambleside where the house have grey slate roofs and walls…

Many house names and other signs are written on slate too…

These are easy to obtain or have made from local suppliers. Oh and look at the number tiles too! I bet these could be well used in a nursery outdoor space. And check out the miniature slate tiles.

This 10ft wall is where I learned to climb. Encouraged by reading Enid Blyton’s Famous Five stories, I would look for high walls to climb. My gran’s garden is at the top of the wall so it’s possible to squeeze through the bushes, thus avoiding the necessity of climbing back down!

Many schools spend thousands of pounds on climbing walls. Creating walls that are structurally strong enough for traversing which fit in the style of traditional local walls is a potential alternative, employing local crafts and tradespeople to build (NB they do not need to be 10ft tall, just fun enough to clamber about – ask Grounds for Learning for advice).

This has been done by some schools. At Riverside Primary in Stirling, the sandpit is partially surrounded by a beautiful wall.

If you look really closely, the wall has all sorts of hidden features and treasures to discover. When it was being built the school children stuck little objects into the cement. Here’s an example…

Low walls are a childhood necessity for walking along. I know many adults disapprove of such practices, but wall walking kept me very absorbed as a child. Below is one example. This wall was on my walk to the sweet shop!

One of my favourite Lakeland building traditions are the drystone walls that cover the countryside over fell and dale. Whilst people are discouraged from climbing over them at random (it can cause them to fall down), there are stone stiles to let you through on rights of way and footpaths. Look at this beautiful example…

And this one too…

Building these walls is a local tradition in many parts of the UK. The techniques vary slightly in different places. However, when properly constructed they will last for centuries with little maintenance. Of course, children can get practising from an early age…

Drystone walls (“drystane dykes” in Scotland) are also valuable homes for wildlife as there are little gaps and spaces which plants and animals inhabit. But, they can also provide a lovely garden feature too, if constructed with space for planting at the top.

Raised beds can also be made from stone. These are robust structures that will withstand high use. I like the example I found below, as I’m into raised beds that provide seating too… and a place to walk on, jump off, practise parkour, etc…

Holes in walls work well too. They are miniature cubbies for small world play. If you want to see some amazing artwork on this have a look at Helen Nodding’sĀ Stories from Space and the detail of her work.

And let’s not forget about pipes. Whilst the pipe below serves as drainage, having pipes in walls in playgrounds creates many opportunities. It can be a place to peek through, roll balls through, post stuff into, pour water into, etc.

Talking of water, I really had to show you these stepping stones just outside Ambleside. They take rock hopping to a new level. Remember this, should you ever build a large water feature…

Finally, let’s remember the powerful impact of stone circles and our connection with our ancestors. This is Castlerigg Stone Circle. The Coombes School have a replica stone circle in their grounds which is a popular place for learning, playing and just being.

The next time you go and visit a different place, enjoy the inspiration it brings. Take it back to your school or store it in your dreams and schemes file šŸ™‚

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