The Story of Our Play Area

Following two funding bids and support from the Friends of the Farmland Museum £14,000 was raised to install a new play area for ages 2-12.  The new play area opened in 2012.








Army in Waterbeach lends a hand moving old Fordson
In preparation for work to begin to install a new play area at the Farmland Museum and Denny Abbey

Our children’s play area was installed in the middle of April 2012. The new facilities included a play centre for younger children and an obstacle course geared to older children. The museum’s Fordson Tractor, popular with generations of children, was to be restored as part of the development.

However, the two-tonne  Fordson Tractor needed to be repositioned before any installation work could begin. This is where the army from Waterbeach Barracks stepped in, bringing their expertise and 30-tonne crane to lift it into its new location. Sadly the Barracks are now closed.

The then Acting Curator Laura Pearson said;

“We are extremely grateful for the Waterbeach Barracks help and support with getting this project underway. The Fordson tractor will now have pride of place, linking the play area with our amazing collection of Cambridgeshire farming.

The new play facilities will be a perfect addition for families to hang out together and for kids to let off steam.”

Local company Fenland Leisure from Wisbech, designed, made and installed the bespoke equipment.  Richard Taylor from Fenland Leisure said:

“One of our other contracts at the moment involves constructing fitness courses for the Ministry of Defence. But whilst we work nationally it is always great for us to be working in the local community and we are really looking forward to providing our traditional play equipment to this lovely local attraction”.”

The Friends of the Museum provided some of the matched funding and museum volunteers helped out by re-painting the Fordson Tractor.

The new play area was funded by AmeyCespa (now Amey) / Cambridgeshire Community Foundation  and the Fen Adventurers Tourism Challenge project, which is funded by DEFRA and the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and managed by Cambridgeshire County Council.

The following diary records how the play area took shape:


Fordson Tractor
Our Fordson reaches for the sky! Image taken by Glynis arber (museum volunteer)


Today is the day! Fenland Leisure arrived on an early, chilly Monday morning to find the Fordson tractor relocated ready for work to begin. First job of this morning was to fence off the area so visitors can still get by to the displays and tearoom. The initial scraping of the original play area surface was next job on the list- we intend to re-use the old bark to create a space where the empty chicken coop currently stands. Another glance and Martyn, Fenland Leisure’s installation manager, had got Wesley and the team constructing the individual play pieces ready to put in place once the holes are dug tomorrow.

Constructions begins
Construction of the Cherry Multiplay unit begins!
We began to discuss where each play panel should be placed within the multiplay unit. Each panel has a different theme – a farm animal word search, a village shop, and a navigational compass- a helpful device to help you decide whether to take the Farmland slide or rope bridge!

Animal Search

Can you find all the animals?





End of day one and the surface is ready for the new turf to be laid and all the individual pieces are waiting to be installed. Tom Fisher, local archaeologist from Oxford Archaeology East will be on site tomorrow to watch and report on the digging of holes to concrete each piece in…


Day two of play area installation! Tom the archaeologist begins the watching brief in the rain on over 20 holes that need to be dug (500mm deep). Previous archaeology reports from test pits advised the positioning of each play piece which is flexible and subject to change if Tom discovers anything of archaeological siginificance.

Play area day 2
Tom the archaeologist begins the watching brief

Day 3 18/04/2012

After a long day yesterday, all but two holes have been dug ready to position each play piece. Tom unearthed rubble and modern style brickwork so he was happy for Fenland Leisure to complete the installation. Just two more holes to be dug later this afternoon and the whole play area is now beginning to take shape.

Day 4 19/04/2012

The Matting around the play pieces are being installed and the rope bridges connected up. Our Fordson tractor looks very sorry for itself in comparison- good thing the volunteers are restoring it!  Just waiting for new tyres and green paint and our tractor will be just as shiny new.

Day 5 20/04/2012

With just a few finishing touches and an extra piece of turf to lay, the new play area will be open! Thank you to Martyn and Wesley’s team from Fenland Leisure who did a magnificent job and battled on through wind and rain!  The official celebration of this new development will coincide with our 15th Birthday celebrations just before the kids summer holidays start…watch this space for more info…