Category Archives: Children’s garden features

Building a Children’s Sandpit

Two weeks ago the children were making snowmen.¬† Yesterday they were playing in the sandpit.† Ah, the delightful vagaries of a British winter!

Ava in the sandpit

Ava in the sandpit

Our sandpit was something of an afterthought in the garden.¬† I had always wanted to create a large sandy space – a reminder of our annual English seaside holiday – but I wasn’t sure we’d have the space (or the budget).¬† However, I was nine-months pregnant and in full blown nesting mode, so when our legendary landscaper, Darren, said he thought he could put it together in a day, I decided to go for it.

  • The sandpit is pretty large – 275cm x 190cm.¬† This gives enough room for 4-5 children to play in it together – and plenty of space for ball-runs, monster sandcastles and the obligatory burying of parents.
  • We used oak sleepers for the outside edge – you can buy these from any landscape supplier.¬† As a hardwood, it takes no maintenance and will last for years.¬† It also turns a wonderful shade of silver after a season.¬†¬†The¬†one downside is price – they cost around ¬£25+ each and my design used 12 of them.
  • The sleepers can be laid on bare earth, but putting then on a foundation of graded rubble means that water drains away and the wood deteriorates far slower.¬† The first¬†layer was laid below ground level to give an attractive look to the interior of the sandpit.
  • Darren joined the sleepers together with long brass bolts although they are so heavy, it would be possible to simply rely on their weight and bulk to hold them in place.
  • I stepped the sleepers up towards the corner to give some child-sized seating although the entire outside edge is wide enough to perch on.¬† I also asked Darren to sink some sleepers in vertically to give a backrest and add some interest to the sandpit design.¬† These were bedded into 45cm deep concrete and then bolted into the horizontal sleepers.
  • I was determined to make the sandpit as deep as possible and we eventually dug down about 75cm.¬† We then used tacks to fasten geotextile membrane to the bottom of the interior line of sleepers where it could hang down to cover all the sides.¬† We placed more membrane on the floor of the sandpit to prevent worms mixing the earth and sand.
  • Finally, we were able to fill the area.¬† You can buy playsand in bulk from landscape suppliers.¬† I ordered two large cubic metre bags which was just about perfect to fill our sandpit.
Oscar making sandcastles

Oscar making sandcastles

I was concerned that I¬†might¬†have created an enormous cat litter tray. Surprisingly though this hasn’t been much of an issue.¬† I will probably have a sailcloth cover made up so I can protect the space¬†when it’s not in use, but I’m not in a hurry.¬† Also, it means the children can access the sandpit whenever they feel like it – even in mid-winter.

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Battle of the Playhouse

A visit to my parents is guaranteed to inspire feelings of envy. Surprisingly, it’s not their lovely house or well-stocked garden that brings out the little green monster. No, it’s their playhouse.

Oscar outside Walnut Cottage

Oscar outside Walnut Cottage

My father, never knowingly under-built, has surpassed himself with this one. Based in a corner tower, half hidden behind a beautiful Walnut tree, it is a medieval creation extraordinaire.

From its oak doorway with its ancient key to its feature windows with leaded lights, this is unlike any playhouse you’ve ever seen.

Everything has been custom built to two-thirds size by a somewhat eccentric Grandpa. This includes a pair of medieval truckle beds on the mezzanine floor as well as a trestle table, stools, benches, matching chests and dresser.

Ava climbing the play house ladder

Ava climbing the play house ladder

And, of course, there is a fitted carpet and mains electric – not exactly authentic to the period but a sight more comfortable.

Today, we head back home, and return to our far humbler version – Willow Cottage.

This is more of a second little pigs creation – wood rather than straw, but still unlikely to survive a wolf-assault. Having said that, it has given countless hours of entertainment to numerous children.

Willow Cottage was simply an off-the-shelf wooden playhouse from B&Q. It took a whole weekend to prepare the base and put the thing together, but it was definitely worth it.

However, the real fun was in customising it – Pimp My Playhouse is surely coming to our screens soon.

We painted ours using a couple of Cuprinol Heritage shades – they look great, protect the wood and, unlike paint, won’t flake off. I also made curtains, put in a carpet off-cut and filled it with child sized chairs, table and cupboard. More recently, I bought an old play kitchen via eBay which has been a real hit.

Willow Cottage - a far humbler affair

Willow Cottage - a far humbler affair

Outside, the playhouse enjoys its own brick basketweave patio and over time, with the children’s help, we are planting up the surrounding beds.

My next indulgence will be to buy some wooden shingles to add to the roof in a bid to hide the felt covering.

None of these embellishments will, of course, come close to the perfections of the vastly superior Walnut Cottage. Still, I guess it’s a bit like Chelsea versus Ebbsfleet United – no need to compete when you’re in a completely different league.

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