There’s a playground in Katanning, Western Australia. But it’s no ordinary playground. I heard an excited boy yell: “LOOK!!! It’s full of GINORMOUS slides!!!” as he sprinted towards them.
He wasn’t wrong. The Katanning All Ages Playground is amazing! [Never heard of Katanning? Click here for map]
The play equipment in the Katanning All Ages Playground is big. Really big. It appears to have been built by people with too much time on their hands, access to an industrial-grade arc welder, massive amounts of steel, and a determination to make the playground as much fun as you can possibly imagine.
There’s so much to show you that in this post I’m only going to concentrate on the slides – next post will deal with all the merry-go-rounds, see-saws & ride-ons – and they really are worth waiting for.
Let’s start with the smallest (!) of the slides:
This slide is a mere 4 metres or so, but it was very popular while I was there – see those horizontal lines? The slide is stepped, with a drop of about 20mm between each step, so you judder your way to the bottom. Lots of fun.
As I said, this slide was popular: there are 5 children in the photo above, ranging in age from about 5 to maybe 14 years old. There’s not many playgrounds which can engage such a wide range of ages. It can engage adults too; here’s me about to take a turn on the same slide:
And me on the spiral slide from the first image:
That spiral slide really is quite something. My guess is it’s around 8m high, and for a person with as bad a head for heights as me, getting up the spiral steps gave me some heart-in-mouth moments.
It’s – gulp – quite a long way down, isn’t it?
The height certainly didn’t seem to bother the children – they were up it in an eye blink, laughing and shouting with glee.
There’s a rather attractive symmetry to the design; the steps spiral in the opposite direction to the slide. Whoever designed this equipment had an eye for form as well as function.
You’ve seen the next slide before: it’s the 3-way slide from an earlier image. It’s around 5m tall, I guess. Looking from this direction, the slide on the right is straight, the one on the left is gently wavy, and the centre one is seriously wavy.
All the slides in the playground are very fast – the steel is slick, and polished by tens of thousands of bottoms – but they all have ample run-off sections to slow you up before you hit the dirt. They also get very hot from the summer sun. This is a playground for jeans or shorts, not skimpy dresses.
This is the straight slide; judging by the look of the steel it has had some sections replaced fairly recently – you can see the new sections which still have their galvanised surface, unlike the older sections which are oxidised.
Any playground requires ongoing maintenance, and over the years I should think that most of the slide sections have been replaced several times. Which brings me neatly to the next picture: the largest of the slides, which is ~12 metres high. But …
I spoke to a local who assured me that it is only temporarily out of action, while they repair a section that was rusting through. It’s all taped off, but you can see it’s pretty darn impressive when it’s usable, and two people can slide side by side.
The attitude to risk at the Katanning All Ages Playground is positively refreshing. There is very little soft fall, the equipment definitely does not meet the Australian Playground Standards, and any child (or adult!) playing on it is absolutely aware that if you fall off structures this size you WILL get hurt. Yet the only concessions to the current bureaucratic obsession with safety-at-all-cost are these two signs:
That seems very reasonable to me. A local I chatted with said that there were very few injuries in the playground. She knew of a boy who had broken his arm, but that was the only one she could remember. I’ve no doubt there have been other injuries – accidents happen even in bubble-wrapped plastic-fantastic challenge-free playgrounds – but a playground like this one demands, and gets, respect and caution from its users.
Speaking of plastic-fantastic: right next to the All Ages Playground there’s a prime example of the typical hideously garish playground. By most standards it’s a big playground: lots of equipment of many different types, all set in soft fall.
I think it’s telling that even though there were several children of 5 and under in the All Ages Playground, not one of them bothered to set foot in the plastic playground during the whole 1.5 hours I spent there. In fact the only sign of life I saw was the Australian Magpie you can see in the picture.
I will leave you with one last image: a delightful mural of the playground, with the Katanning Miniature Railway in the foreground.
The Katanning All Ages Playground is open 365 days a year. Entrance is free. The Miniature Railway runs on the 2nd and 4th Sunday of every month (I don’t know the cost).
So where is Katanning, exactly?
It’s around 290km south-east of Perth, a slight detour off the main route to Albany on the south coast. And believe me, that detour is well worth taking. Perth to Albany is 417km, and Google say the Katanning detour adds only 40km and 33 minutes to the journey. If you have kids, you will want to add at least an hour at the playground, maybe more.
The playground is located at the corner of Clive St West and Great Southern Highway. back to top