Katanning All Ages Playground is an astonishing playground in the south-west of Western Australia. In this post I will take you for a tour of the rides – but make sure you also check out the amazing slides in the previous post here.
[Never heard of Katanning? View directions and map here]
Everything in the playground is custom-made and designed by local craftspeople. No gaudy plastic: it’s steel all the way. And what they have done with that steel is little short of amazing.
[My thanks to Tracey for telling me in a comment that this merry-go-round is known as “The Satellite” to Katanning locals]
So how does it work? The merry-go-round is balanced on an angled post of hefty ~100mm steel. The merry-go-round itself is supported by two large bearings, so it spins very smoothly. You get it spinning by running “up hill” so it spins in the opposite direction. Get it moving and it spins for ages. You can also spin it by hand while standing on the ground.
For those looking for something just a little smaller there’s this “farm gate” roundabout. Not as thrilling perhaps, but good for the younger set.
It’s not just merry-go-rounds. Forget your dinky little spring-riders, check out this enormous giraffe ride-on:
Note the age of the children – they look to be mid-teens. Do they look like they are enjoying themselves? You bet! When they say “All Ages” they really mean it – I saw their Mum have a go on quite a few of the rides herself.
So how does it work? Like this:
The frame of the giraffe is suspended by two sets of hinged bars and you can get it moving vigorously back and forth. There’s big sections of car tyre as bumpers to smooth out the ride at each end of the travel. It’s a blast to ride!
Slightly smaller – but only slightly – is this horse ride-on, which works the same way as the giraffe version.
There are pieces of equipment that I have no idea what you would call, like this one:
How does it work? Well, you sit on the saddle (that curvy thing) and pedal a set of bike pedals. You, the saddle and the pedals spin around a vertical axis, while the whole contraption rotates on a wheel around the circle of concrete. There’s room for extra passengers to ride on the tray section.
This next one puts the riders as far apart as possible. It works a similar way, but it’s the opposite – as one rider goes down it pushes the rod, lifting the other rider up:
And a one-person see-saw, with a coil spring mechanism. The spring wasn’t strong enough for my weight, but it seemed to work OK with children. The stepped platform is a thoughtful touch, allowing younger children to mount it without difficulty.
No playground would be complete without swings. BIG swings. This one is around 6 metres high:
One even larger swing appears to have been retired – or at least, while the structure is still there, there’s no actual swing. It was HUGE – you had to climb up steel bleachers to get on! Perhaps it’s just temporarily out of action – one other piece of equipment was closed for repairs when I was there.
My guess is that swing is around 10 metres tall, and I had a go on it when I first visited the playground in 1989. It was more fun than you can possibly imagine, but I wasn’t going to be jumping off it because you could easily get 5 metres or more off the ground if you really got it going!
The bleacher design is very clever – you can mount the swing from any of the steps. So if you are a bit hesitant about taking it from the top step (over 3 metres high) you can work up to it by starting with the lower steps.
Well, that’s pretty much every piece of ride-on apparatus at the Katanning All Ages Playground. Don’t forget to see my post about the slides here, because they are equally impressive.
I will leave you with an image of the plastic-fantastic playground that’s right next to the big playground. When I was there, in 1.5 hours I saw not a single child in the small playground even though there were children playing in the big playground who were clearly well under 5 years old. I think the reason for that is obvious: what child would want to play on that boring plastic when they could play in the Katanning All Ages Playground? Bright primary colours do not make up for the fact that a playground like this presents no challenge at all to any but the youngest of children.
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).
My thanks to the parents who let me take photos of their children playing in the playground.
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.
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