School’s Play Area Built with Soil from Project’s Tunnel

A new artist-designed play area created from soil excavated from the high speed railway’s Chilterns Tunnel was commissioned by the contractor and opened at Rickmansworth’s Maple Cross JMI school late last year.

The initiative was sparked after a Year Six pupil wrote to the contractor asking whether soil from the nearby project works could be donated to create a new hill for him and his school mates to roll down. In response, the contractor’s arts and culture team commissioned an artist and landscape designer to work with the pupils to develop a design for the new play area that would also help them to connect with their area’s natural history and to see how they have a role in it.

Built on part of the school’s playing field, the new play area’s central feature is five rolling hills, built by the contractors with 1,000 tonnes of soil. It also includes apple, pear, plum and cherry trees to connect pupils with the changing seasons, a ‘fallen forest’ of balancing logs and a tunnel of woven willow saplings.

To help the children comprehend the long history of the Chiltern Hills and Colne Valley, their new play area also includes boulders, similar to those deposited in the area during the last Ice Age. A cutting lined with hand-made bricks in one of the newly made hills reveals “fossils of the future”. The children developed the designs with the landscape designer, bringing to life their ideas of what today’s geological footprints could look like in millions of years’ time.

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