We’ve been excited about the new adventure playground at Castle Howard since we heard whisperings about it a couple of months ago. We’d seen the sketches and heard the plan, so we couldn’t wait to get along and see how it had turned out just a few short weeks later. The youngest (four) and I headed along to the press launch of Skelf Island (named after the cheeky skelves that live on the island) to see for ourselves.
Well, it’s safe to say that we weren’t disappointed. We’d expected it to be epic, and it is. From the huge roped bridge connecting the original playground to the island, to the slides, tunnels and walkways, this is outdoor fun on a big scale. It’s a cracking place to let children run free for an hour or two to play among the trees and to the sound of the birds. It’s a brilliant spot for hide-and-seek obsessives too.
Our daughter’s absolute favourite part was the zip wire, and it’ll no doubt be a hit with her older siblings too. Slightly older children will get the most out of Skelf Island because they’ll be able to tackle the climbing wall, ladders and tunnels that were just a touch too terrifying for our pre-schooler. It’s all totally safe of course, but there were some parts of the playground that were just too much outside her comfort zone to tackle.
But when we visit with her 7 and 9-year-old sister and brother, I’ve no doubt that her competitive spirit and stubbornness will mean that she’ll try the things that she was too afraid of today. And that’s one of the philosophies behind Skelf Island: to encourage kids to take calculated risks outdoors, to challenge themselves and ultimately to conquer the things that they couldn’t do last time.
Castle Howard have very cleverly recruited a team of children from local schools, the Skelf Council, to advise on all aspects of Skelf Island, and it shows. This is a place that’s been designed partly by children for children, and it’s wonderful. It’s included in the general admission price, too, making Castle Howard an even better destination for families. In the words of our daughter: ‘it’s ten out of ten. You can’t not go, can you Mummy?’.