The Prince of Wales has opened a new 3,000 sqft playground amongst the woodlands on the Dumfries House estate.
Prince Charles was inspired by his eldest grandson’s treehouse at Highgrove, his country Gloucestershire home. The original treehouse at Highgrove was built for Prince William’s seventh birthday in 1989, but it was refurbished in 2015 for the next generation of royal children.
It has since been dubbed Prince George’s treehouse, in honour of Charles’ eldest grandchild, for whom the original restoration was undertaken.
The future King was joined by children from Muirkirk Primary School to test out the new play equipment at the Ayrshire estate today. Charles looked gleeful as he explored the new play area, watching the children exploring.
He even made his way across the bridges in the trees and even walked through the long, suspended netting tunnel.
The new facility was commissioned by Charles’ charitable organisation, The Prince’s Foundation, to encourage children to surround themselves in nature. The park also aims to boost the youngsters’ physical wellbeing and mental health in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Charles spoke to the young school children as they climbed around. He said: “Have you enjoyed it? Have you run around the whole thing? Which bit do you like most? You like all of it – great.”
The Prince even chuckled as he watched one child jump from a great height on to the ground in front of his feet, and saying: “That’s what I like to see.”
The playground is modelled on HRH’s own beliefs in the importance of understanding the balance between ourselves and and the natural world. The park is complete with rope bridges, a netting tunnel, two racing slides and a tube slide. The design of the new play park is intended to fit in with the 35-metre tall sequoia redwood trees, and gives people an aerial view of the maze located nearby.
Paul Travers, from Creating Adventurous Places () which designed the facility, said: “He [Charles] thought it was fantastic. He didn’t go on the slide but he encouraged the children to go down and he watched them as they raced.
“I think he said, ‘Let’s see how fast you can go’. He did go across the suspension bridge. He enjoyed it and said it was great fun.”
Gordon Neil, executive director of The Prince’s Foundation, said: “Encouraging young people to engage with, and learn from, nature is at the heart of everything we do as a charity.
“We are delighted to expand the range of nature-based activities available to estate visitors with the opening of our new Adventure Playground and are very much looking forward to seeing families enjoy it.
The Dumfries House estate is set on 2,000 acres, which is part of The Prince’s Foundation. In 2007, the estate was purchased for £45million by The Prince of Wales, including a £20million loan from the Prince’s charitable trust.
The estate was saved for the nation as a historic Robert Adam house, full of Chippendale furniture, and is not intended as an official royal residence. The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall do occasionally use the property for events relating to their official work, and sometimes stay if they are in west of Scotland.
However, Dumfries estate is open to the public 365 days a year, with tours available regularly for the house’s interior. Some of the Prince’s charitable works function on the estate, including training spaces for traditional crafts, and those supported by the Prince’s Trust starting out their hospitality careers.
Prince Charles follows in the footsteps of his daughter-in-law, Catherine, who is also a fan of outdoor woodland play.
In 2019, The Duchess of Cambridge designed her own ‘Back to Nature garden’ for the Chelsea Flower Show, which featured a tree house, waterfall, rustic den and a campfire.
During an appearance on BBC’s Blue Peter, the Duchess has previously expressed how her own three children love the outdoors and are ‘dragged outside’ whatever the weather.