A new children's play area and park is first tranche of Elephant & Castle regeneration scheme

With its level-crossing colours and blue Belisha beacons, Martha Schwartz Partnership’s playground brings a whole new meaning to playing in the traffic.

At Tuesday's opening of St Mary's Churchyard Park, a thin sprinkling of children examined the kit, stalked by jugglers on stilts with pink balloons. The weekend traffic is expected to be much higher. Southwark is famously starved of green space.

boy on swing

The £1m park sited, like many in London, on a desanctified graveyard, is the first completed slice of the £1.5 billion Elephant & Castle regeneration scheme.

“Before, the park was closed off and filled with wiggly paths that led nowhere,” said lead designer, Edda Ostertag. “We have opened it up to draw people in.

It was big and empty before and quite dusty. We have added a programme [of activities] that suggest what people might want to do but keeping it quite open. We were careful to leave the trees.”

The 0.8 hectare space contains grass area with painted concrete balls, painted black and white in hillocks, at the centre. To one side sits the playground of various shades of orange and red. This contains rubber coated lumps, basket swings, spinning disks and various other unorthodox playground elements.

Boy with balloons

“We wanted to let the children use their imaginations rather than telling them what to do,” added Ostertag.

As two six-year-olds fight over a basket swing, it seems to have achieved that end.