Over a decade ago someone told me about a playground in the far north of Lewis. The person was puzzled that a playground should be created where the machair meets the sand dunes. After all, the beach is the perfect playground.
I totally understand the sentiment. The elements of sand, sea, long grass and wildflowers provide a high affordance natural playscape, that is, one that provides inspiration and possibilities in the eyes of those who care to think this way.
Yet, as a child I loved and craved “proper” play grounds with swings, slides, climbing frames and so on. I think I perceived these as places where I was allowed to play and do mostly what I wanted to do. I also loved the sensations of swinging, sliding, spinning, rocking and other forms of movement that I experienced less satisfactorily in other parts of my life.
The last time I visited Lewis, I made a point of seeking out this playground. It turns out the Eoropie Dunes Park has its own website! That immediately tells you that this play space is valued. It is evident from the website that this is a much-loved community asset. It relies on volunteers to fund raise, apply for grants and to assist with the ongoing maintenance. I’ve no idea who created all the cartoon advisory posters, but they were humorous and fun.
Children are actively involved in the committee and developing and looking after the park. You can see this when you visit from the posters and overall feel of the site. It is quite unique and like no other playground. For example, here’s one of the wheelie litter bins…
What struck me too was the sheer amount of space – it’s a 4 acre site! . Thus the terrain itself because as important as the play features within the space. There’s also a variety of natural habitats including boggy areas and wee streams.
You can also see that there is no need for a formal sandpit. The underlying sand surfaces all over the place. Whilst the goalie may have a soft landing surface, I think a game of football could at times prove challenging…
The sand also provided a clue for the presence of a traditional play feature and I think, given the fine quality of the sand, that it’s been suitable as a safety surface where needed for some of the play features – others still have rubber matting if needed.
Some of the play features lead you to discover the park. The traditional balancing assault course went round and between several dunes and there were all sorts of invitations to go and explore other places. It didn’t have the honeypot feel of some play parks where there’s a central focus or hub and then the peripherary is less exciting or there’s a boundary fence.
Because of the undulating terrain, there was lots of places to experience height and gain a sense of perspective and this also helps you see what’s on offer.
The tunnels above and below also connected play areas. The one below is a skatepark and you can see a hoop – suggesting the place is catering for all ages.
The park also has been developed over many years – since the late Nineties. You can see this in the structures that or various ages and show some of the “fashions” of the time when they were bought.
I particularly loved this big yellow boat and slide. It was like nothing else I’ve seen.
The same with the wooden maze below which definitely has a “Wild West” fort feel to it.
Also tucked away was a replica pre-historic chamber… now that’s a different sort of den or hidey structure.
From a distance, it just looks like a pile of rocks.
Shelter from the wind is an ongoing challenge in any part of the Outer Hebrides. The wooden cross structure below along with seating in each part means there’s always somewhere a bit more sheltered, regardless of the wind direction.
These photos only show a fraction of the park. If you a visiting Lewis, this park is well worth a visit. Check out the website and make a donation as the ongoing running costs are always going to be there. But most importantly, have fun and enjoy all the park has to offer. Although it’s free to visit and open all year round, it is closed on Sundays.