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Nature Play Unveiled in Castlewellan and Tollymore


‘Animal Wood’ and the ‘Big Deer’ have today been unveiled in Castlewellan and Tollymore Forest Parks representing the first phase of Nature Play which is set to be incorporated throughout both these Forest Parks.

Designed for four to eleven year olds, the ‘Big Deer’ in Tollymore Forest Park and ‘Animal Wood’ in Castlewellan Forest Park are aimed at bringing each park’s natural and built heritage to life whilst providing a safe environment for children to play and interact with the outdoors.

Marking the first phase of plans to incorporate Nature Play within both Forest Parks, these developments represent a shift away from traditional catalogue play parks and Mourne Forests Recreation Officer, Boyd McClurg, believes this initiative will help to encourage an important ‘early years connection’ with nature.

Speaking at the opening, Boyd explained “Nature Play is all about creating interactive play using once living materials in natural spaces to allow children to engage with the outdoors and experience the benefits of connecting with our natural environment.”

‘Animal Wood’ incorporates a short path with wild woodland animals including a badger and its den, a red squirrel and a giant spider.  In addition it boasts a wooden play structure with a tower in the image of The Moorish Tower where children can enjoy the climbing wall, fireman’s pole and rope-bridge over to a hollow tree stump slide and Red Kite nest.  In Tollymore, the aptly named ‘Big Deer’ includes a giant timber Fallow Deer, castle turret, folly tower and hollow tree all connected through a series of rope-bridges, tunnels, spider webs, basket swings and slides.

Both these new play facilities were funded through the NGO Challenge Fund (Forest Service Northern Ireland) administered by NI Environment Link and Down District Council.

Chairman of Down District Council, Cllr Billy Walker, explained “We are delighted to unveil ‘Animal Wood’ and the ‘Big Deer’ which are the first of our proposed nature play facilities within both Castlewellan and Tollymore Forest Parks. We believe that County Down boasts some of the finest forest landscapes in the country and we look forward to continuing the development of recreational facilities to enable visitors of all ages and abilities to enjoy our natural environment for years to come.”

Also speaking at the opening of these nature play spaces, Chief Executive of Forest Service Northern Ireland, Malcolm Beatty, explained “These developments are yet another great example of how a shared vision and effective partnerships between Forest Service Northern Ireland, Down District Council and Outdoor Recreation NI are continuing to breed a wealth of recreation facilities across Northern Ireland.”

For anyone planning to visit, ‘Animal Wood’ in Castlewellan Forest Park is located beside the Peace Maze and the ‘Big Deer’ can be found beside the lower car park in Tollymore Forest Park. 

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