Gosford Forest Park’s thrilling new adventure play experience takes shape
One of Northern Ireland’s largest and most popular forest parks is set a for major new boost this year as work starts to create five unique superstructures which will form part of a giant-sized outdoor adventure play experience.
Set in 240 hectares of stunning woodland and green spaces – and the setting for the iconic Gosford Castle – Gosford Forest Park in Armagh is the location for a multi-million tourism investment which will create one of the largest adventure play trails in the UK and Ireland.
Uniquely designed to complement the location’s natural beauty and heritage, and using mostly natural materials including wood, rope, sand and bark, work to create the series of exciting giant-sized play structures gets underway.
Complete with towers, ziplines, ropes, ladders and climbing frames and larger in scale and size than any other play structure on the island of Ireland, these five new attractions will each be naturally located along a specially designed 1.7-kilometre play trail – creating an exciting journey which will appeal to children’s real sense of discovery, fun and enjoyment.
From toddlers to early teens, the new adventure trail and play structures will reflect a series of play themes and characters, including woodpeckers and squirrels.
Packed with tubes, slides and ladders, the ‘Giant’ – at 6.2 metres tall and inspired by Gosford’s link to Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels – will challenge the more adventurous, while a Gosford Castle imitation ‘Castle Tower’ complete with double zip lines will thrill children of every age.
Lord Mayor of Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon, Councillor Mealla Campbell, said:
“Stunningly beautiful and steeped in history and heritage, Gosford Forest Park is a unique, expansive and unrivalled resource and I’m delighted that this new investment will even further enhance its appeal to new generations.
“Gosford Forest Park is a special, treasured place and I’m delighted that these amazing new play structures respect, reflect and protect its natural allure but which promise an unrivalled and memorable experience for the growing number of local, national and international visitors.”
Around £850,000 is being directly invested in the new ‘Adventure Play Trail’ which is being funded by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) under the Rural Tourism Scheme of the Rural Development Programme (RDP) 2014-2020 and Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council.
DAERA Director of Rural Affairs, Paul Donnelly, said:
“It is great that DAERA has been able to support the Rural Tourism Fund application from Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council to invest in Gosford Forest Park.
“These exciting new adventure trails will offer rural families world class play facilities on their doorstep and boost the rural tourism product in the area. It will also hopefully act as a catalyst for further investment to this beautiful part of Northern Ireland.”
Outdoor Recreation NI led in the delivery of the design concepts and the creation of a wider masterplan for Gosford Forest Park which is already earmarked for a wider, transformational £5 million investment which will secure its future as a world class destination.
The adventure play trails were designed by award winning Davies White Landscape Architects who have expertise in playful landscapes and innovative design. Since winning their first RHS Gold Medal and BBC People’s Choice Award, the company have gone on to win over 15 national awards for innovative play space projects.
Following extensive community consultations and feedback from park users, the new structures have also been carefully designed not detract from the park’s impressive woodland setting and will sit naturally amid Northern Ireland’s first conservation park. The new play trail will also complement 30 kilometres of new and established walking, cycling and horse riding trails.