Monday, 12 March 2012

'Why does this mud puddle have a bridge over it?' - a comprehensive analysis of Meadowfield Park

This weekend we embarked upon the latest in our investigative series on playgrounds, this time an excursion to Meadowfield Park in Duddingston.  The website, along with this highly informative article by Edinburgh & the Lothians Greenspace Trust, suggests a dynamic facility boasting the latest in play equipment, including a flying fox, a space net, balancing beam, and something called a 'biodiverse wetland area with viewing platform.' (More on that later).

After an hour-long walk circumnavigating Arthur's seat into Duddingston, our anticipation was palpable.  We rounded the last corner and approached the hillside, craning to catch a first glimpse of what I imagined would be a colourful jumble of innovative contraptions; a futuristic play-village teeming with all things shiny, whirly, and slippery.  The reality was altogether different.  Indeed, all individual elements described by the article were there - flying fox, slides, space net, etc - but as a composite entity, they were altogether underwhelming, and a bit difficult to see, because they were

It was a bit like hall dinners.  You read the menu: 'Ah, carpaccio of sea trout.  Lovely.  Pea and herb salad with citrus dressing, and - mmmh! lemon tart for dessert.'  You end up with mush-mush on a plate.  The taste and quality of the meal is beside the point: the foodlike shapes in front of you do not resemble the image conjured by the eloquent description that so whetted your appetite.  You feel jipped.

some of the features of Meadowfield Park.  the rest were a bit scattered.
 Aside from lacking in overall punch, however, this playground has quite a lot going for it.  Case in point: the flying fox.  Now, this was a tricky thing to test, because although there were not many children at this park, there were one or two who proved quite territorial.  A separate study on the behaviour patterns of this strange, squeaking species may have to be carried out at a later date.
'I like the sensation of travelling through the air.'   - Marianne
The flying fox proved excellent; Marianne, Joe and I all tested it and reached the same conclusion.  I found that a running jump gave extra momentum and resulted in a satisfying ricochet effect at the structure's terminus.  Also, fast things are fun.

Another very good element is the 'space net' or rope climbing frame.  This pyramidal, pylonesque structure was reasonably high, and had great bounce to it.  I tested this by climbing to the top and then bouncing.
a bug's eye view of my climbing prowess.
There was also an excellent circular swing, and the entire park boasted beautiful views across the sea. However, there were a few duds in the mix.  One such flop was an unusual inverted dome structure (not pictured). Remarked Marianne, 'the weird metally cup thing made me feel queasy. I was offered a spin and it was not in any way enjoyable whatsoever.'  Another disappointment, a slide, looked very promising but proved to lack the sufficient quantity of slip to make it truly effective.

not slippery enough to be called a slide - more like 'tube-on-stilts.'
 One thing that made not one whit of sense was what appeared to be a large, intentional mud-puddle, choked with weeds and adorned with a wooden bridge.  This, it seems, was the biodiverse wetland area with bonus observation platform.  In the course of our exploration I observed the following things: mud, weeds, muddy water, logs, mud, and mud.  See for yourself:
the logs were not terribly diverse either.
 As a whole, this was a very worthwhile expedition, made more so by a post-play visit to the very good Sheep's Heid pub in Duddingston village.  The quality of some of the individual playground apparatuses was superb, and the picturesque location added to the experience.  I could muse on the sociological and psychological implications of a structurally segregated playspace, or offer a scathing critique aimed at the misappropriation of ecological terminology, but that sort of pseudo-intellectual gibbering is the domain of idiot adults, not us.  Bounce, bounce, swoop, fly.  Until next time, folks.

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