New bespoke adventure playground planned for Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust, Blists Hill Victorian Town

A bespoke adventure playground could be created at the award-winning Blists Hill Victorian Town under ambitious plans to attract a new generation of families and visitors to the historic site.

The Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust wants to develop the playground – inspired by the industrial history of the site – as part of its new three year plan and says it will play a key part in boosting revenue in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis.

The Trust – a registered heritage conservation and education charity which cares for 36 listed buildings in the Gorge – is now applying for planning permission for the playground, which it hopes to open next spring subject to securing funding for the project.

Attractions will include multi-level themed buildings linking to elevated walks above the woodland floor, a log-style basket swing, seesaw, immersive play areas, zip wire, toddler zone and a food and drinks kiosk with seating area.

Trust chief executive Nick Ralls said plans for the playground had been designed to ensure maximum accessibility and that it would be developed to enhance both the landscape and wildlife in the area.

“This new proposal is the first significant development at Blists Hill since 2009 and marks an important strategic investment for us, particularly against the backdrop of Covid. We are confident that it will play a vital part in helping us attract new visitors and also give our annual pass holders yet more reasons to come back and visit us time after time.

“It will be the perfect place for the whole family, drawing its inspiration from the wider history of Ironbridge Gorge and the specific history of Blists Hill where the Madeley Wood Company owned and ran mine operations within the woodland site. The plans draw inspiration from this arm of the company, recreating features and elements within the undulating woodland landscape.

“We want to bring history alive by coupling it with physical play, providing visitors of all ages and abilities a taste of early Victorian industrial work.”

The play area has been designed with accessibility and access for all as a key design principle and will be enclosed by its own fence with a single entry and exit point to help create ‘out of bounds’ areas which allow the natural woodland floor to maintain a level of wildness.

A combination of carefully-designed attractions and accessible routes between them means that visitors of all ages and abilities can play together on a number of the built structures within the woodland.

A central hub, with seating and a new food and drink outlet, will give parents and carers a location from which to allow children to play freely through the space.

IGMT wishes to ensure that the natural environment is protected as far as possible, with the new playground also enhancing the woodland and habitat management in the area. More bat and bird boxes, hibernation sites and ecological improvements will all be provided.

The plans have been drawn up for the Trust by Creating Adventurous Places (CAP.Co), which works extensively throughout the UK, specialising in the design and build of truly immersive, imaginative, narrative led and bespoke adventure play.

Mr Ralls added: “CAP.Co's work can be played on as far north as Brodick Castle on the Isle of Arran all the way down to The Duchy of Cornwall’s new town development at Nansledan in Cornwall, and we are delighted to be working with such a highly-respected partner.”

The Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust is one of the region’s premier tourist attractions, sited at the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution with 10 museums along the Gorge.

The Ironbridge Gorge was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986 and to date approximately 16 million tourists have visited the Ironbridge Gorge Museums.

Blists Hill Victorian Town, Coalbrookdale Museum of Iron, The Furnace Kitchen, Jackfield Tile Museum and The Iron Bridge Tollhouse are currently open whilst the Museum of The Gorge has also reopened as a free entry Visitor Centre.

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