This week we braved the weather and headed out to Dalmarnock to visit Baltic Street Adventure Playground.
We had been wanting to go there as a group for some time but their opening hours during term time don’t suit us. We were delighted to be able to take advantage of their extended holiday hours and were determined not to be put off by rain, sleet or cold.
The playground was designed by Assemble, an award winning art/design/architecture collective and was set up after the 2012 Commonwealth Games. The playground is a democratic space with a big emphasis on loose parts play, risk taking and equality.
Almost immediately, on arrival, a group of children started building a slide using the materials they had to hand.
The mud greatly aided them in creating a slippery surface slide down but also meant they had to think carefully about making steps or foot-holds to get themselves back up again
There was a tree house in one of the taller trees with fabulous bridges leading up to it
Underneath the treehouse were three crash mats. Alan, the site manager has been keen to get the mats out as soon as we arrived which puzzled us slightly.
However, the children soon worked it out.
Almost all the children had a (or many) turns at throwing themselves out of the treehouse and onto the mats. It looked like great fun. Alan later told us that the children who live locally had made up the rule that there had to be three mats – two side-by-side and one on top of them, cover the join. Their reasoning was that when you jump onto two mats they come apart and your landing is not so soft. So the third mat on the join became mandatory as ordered by the children. We were told that most of the rules in the playground were put in place by children who use the space often, an idea that greatly resonated with us home educators.
The various, big rope swings were tested out and we found a smaller swing in one corner along with a small ‘cottage’ and a few other little dens.
Meanwhile some of the parents were sheltering from the rain in a small, indoor base which houses toilets, a kitchen and a store room. We were offered cups of tea and were told about the food that would be served up. It came as a welcome surprise to be served hot food on such a cold day. Baltic St Adventure Playground are part of the Fair Share scheme, an initiative which aims to tackle both food poverty and food waste. We talked for some time to a kindly man called Alistair who manages and cooks all the food at the playground. He receives deliveries of food rejected by supermarkets because of, for example, upside-down barcodes, over-ordering, mis-labelling, and cooks this food up into tasty and nutritious meals. He never knows what his ingredients will be so has to be creative to pull together dishes to please the players. Everyone is invited to eat for free regardless of income or need. This nourishes the children and adults alike, galvanises a sense of community and, more often than not, provides food for families that might otherwise had not had any. Alistair told us of families that were spared the stigma that can come with a foodbank referral because they had had a decent meal at the playground most days.
The food we were given was lentil soup, vegetable casserole, cheese toasties, plums and fruity yoghurt. We were delighted with this and got stuck in straight away despite our muddiness.
Not long after, Alan started a fire to help us all get warm. Children occasionally stopped by the fire to warm their hands before running back to their endeavours and the adult conversation turned to inclusion, diversity, the history of adventure playgrounds and other such interesting topics.
Nearby a group of adults and children with spades, shovels and pickaxes were digging the foundations for some new play structures that will be built over the next week or so.
After three hours of extremely wet and muddy play we started to make moves to leave. Alistair quickly pushed an Easter egg into the hands of each child, making their muddy faces light up with joyful astonishment. We squelched out of the gate with shouts of ‘thank you!’ and promised to go back again as soon as we could.