Children of different ages enjoy a small playground in the middle of town
But it is not only children and youngsters who benefit from using playgrounds. Parents, aunts and uncles, carers, child-minders, companions, and others who visit a playground usually find it a good place to talk and to exchange news. Grandparents in particular seem to enjoy the playground atmosphere!
with or without grandchildren
Notice in a playground warning about the dangers of Covid-19
A scene at a larger playground, on the edge of town. There is space
and much more vegetation, including mature trees
Despite Covid-19, playgrounds continue to give pleasure, especially to those people who live in towns or cities and do not have easy access to the countryside or other “natural” open spaces. However, playgrounds themselves can provide opportunities for visitors to see animals and plants. Birds in particular are often attracted to play areas because those using them either take food to feed sparrows and pigeons or, after a snack, leave crumbs under seats which some birds eat avidly, especially in the autumn and winter when food is becoming scarce unless, of course, local residents are putting out a suitable “wild bird diet” in their gardens.
Plants often abound in playgrounds. In spring so-called “weeds” start to grow and if these are against walls or under railings they may escape cutting by the council and produce attractive flowers. As the autumn approaches and the weather becomes increasingly damp, mosses will become apparent between paving stones and algal growth (which looks like a green mould and is very granular (crumbly) when touched) flourishes and spreads in protected areas under swings, slides and roundabouts. Be wary; surfaces where algae grow can be very slippery!
Green algae under a slide in a playground
The damp, humid, conditions in autumn encourage the growth of mosses and green algae – mentioned above – together with fungi.
“Fungi” (singular “fungus”) are commonly known as ‘mushrooms’ or ‘toadstools’ but there are many types, including “moulds”, and we shall say more about them in a later blog. Those that grow on trees are called ‘bracket fungi’ and are frequently seen on branches in public places, even in towns.
Bracket fungi growing on an old dead tree stump in the middle of town
Margaret Cooper investigates a hole in a wall, just round the corner from the
local playground. Note the luxuriant growth of moss at her feet
hiding from predators and keeping itself moist
What we have said above is a reminder that not only do playgrounds offer hours of pleasure to children and those who accompany them but can also themselves be a good place to observe the natural world.
In succeeding blogs in this series we shall explain how you can “make Nature your playground” and thereby enjoy to the full the wider world, especially its animals and plants. We shall describe the natural history that is all around us and which you can spot on a walk in the countryside, on your way to school or to the shops, or even when looking through your kitchen window. We shall also suggest projects that you might like to do – such as the leaf-painting already described on the Haith’s website.
We should like your feedback too. Please tell us what you like about Nature. It may be seeing a robin from the window of your home or flat, or just watching leaves of different colours, green, yellow, brown or golden, falling from trees.