Woodland Escape designs beautiful, natural spaces to enhance play, creativity and relaxation.



Early ChildhooD

At Woodland Escape we believe play spaces should be creative, adaptable, child-centered and fun.  We pride ourselves on working with you and your community to create a space that is unique to your needs and represents your community's ideas. We use natural materials wherever possible, add in loose parts to enhance children’s play and create spaces to promote children’s connection to nature.


Whether it's supporting you with a large project or assisting as you get started with a smaller one, Woodland Escape can work with your school community to create outdoor-learning spaces that provide opportunities for children to play creatively and collaboratively, explore STEAM concepts, challenge themselves physically and foster a sense of environmental stewardship.



We can help you create a garden that is functional, useful and relaxing.  Whether it's helping you with a specific project - like creating a vegetable garden, assisting with maintenance or designing and managing a garden makeover, Woodland Escape can help you turn your garden into a space you'll love to be in.

We really appreciated the way Emma offered different options and helped us identify the features to include in our plan. She was great at coming up with ideas which could be implemented at little or no cost, as well as longer term project ideas. The plan she developed has been an important tool for internal and external consultation, grant applications and working with contractors.
— Shirley Playcentre
After our rebuild we asked Emma to draw up a plan (south facing garden on a steep slope) for us. She not only did a plan but advised which plants would be most appropriate for the site. After putting down coir matting, Emma and Jonelle then went on to plant - which is no mean feat given the gradient. Then irrigation went in and finally bark. All that was 5 months ago and the plants, all 70 of them, are thriving and flowering. Would highly recommend Emma, she has insight as to which plants are compatible and where they should be placed, is easy to work with and has some brilliant ideas. She made it so easy for us.
— Garry and Patricia
Emma is deeply committed to healthy play and a connection with the natural world for all children. She is very knowledgable and is easy to work with. In addition to delivering an initial design, based on input from our community, Emma has been a resource moving forward, suggesting reading and where to source the right plants! I appreciate Emma’s dedication and love of what she does- her passion shows through! I highly recommend working with Emma to help you create amazing play and natural spaces for your tamariki.
— Molly Watson, principal Seven Oaks School, Christchurch

Ferrymead Preschool and Nursery

Ferrymead Preschool were interested in bringing more natural materials into their space and more opportunities for their older children to swing, climb, hang, work on their upper body strength.  They also wanted to establish more of a connection to the estuary which they back onto and visit regularly with their children.

As the space isn't large, they wanted to stay away from a more traditional swing set, which would take up too much room, but still wanted to provide lots of opportunities for children to experience the sensation of swinging.  We put posts in which allows for the teachers to change the space, putting in cargo nets, ropes, rope ladders and other equipment in a variety of different ways.  We added a water play area next to the sandpit using local rock and shell.  The children can divert the water to create different pools and channels.  The addition of a large deck around the existing tree and a circle of tree stumps gives space for quieter play or for jumping and balancing.  


The teachers noted how the children's play had changed and how they quickly adapted to the changes in the environment.  They observed that the addition of a ramp and steps from the deck encouraged younger children to practice new skills and improved their coordination and confidence navigating uneven surfaces.

The new water play area/river bed, bridge and hut before the planting

The new water play area/river bed, bridge and hut before the planting

After a few short hours and a great turnout by community the space is softened and enhanced with planting, mulch and other materials for exploration

After a few short hours and a great turnout by community the space is softened and enhanced with planting, mulch and other materials for exploration

Prebbleton Playcentre

Prebbleton Playcentre was keen on bringing more natural materials into their playground, adding a water play area, a bridge and replacing their hut, which had been damaged recently.  

Working closely with Rob from NatureFlow, we created an space which would cater for all ages and provide a space for exploring different textures, surfaces and materials.   The project culminated with one of my favourite ways to work - a working bee for planting, mulching and more!  The Playcentre community chipped in for a morning of finishing the space and celebrating with a bit of food, conversation and play.

photo 4 (16).JPG
Fun times at the community working bee - finishing the planting and celebrating the end of the project

Fun times at the community working bee - finishing the planting and celebrating the end of the project


From conception to completion Emma was the guide we needed to develop our outdoor area at Prebbleton Playcentre. Working with a group is hard, lots of ideas and not necessarily a lot of expertise which is where Emma was our greatest support. She was able to bring together all our vague ideas by listening to our collective ideas and creating a design that was perfect for us.

From advising us around size, type, durability of which plants to choose and why, ground prep, covering and space awareness. – her support to shop for plants and to further deliver much of the materials needed to plant. She is the hardest, steadiest worker from digging holes for sumps and co-coordinating and working alongside parents and children on the working bee. Emma has listened to our ideas, concerns and has always respected our input and looked to incorporate as much as possible.




Pop-up Playground Christchurch 2018

In March, 2018 I created two pop-up playgrounds, one in the central city and one in the residential suburb of Woolston.  These installations lasted for two weeks and were incredibly popular - showing that there are many people in Christchurch interested in spaces that cater for this type of play. 

photo 1 (12).JPG
photo 1 (18).JPG
The children absolutely loved the natural resources set up every morning and was interesting to watch them play with them differently each time we went. They loved getting muddy and I noticed they were way more engrossed, more social with other children and used their imaginations more than in a standard playground.
My children were more engaged and active than any other playground. They worked together, they created and they were happy for over two hours. It was gorgeous.

At the city site, we put in sand and a soil pits and lots of natural and recycled loose parts.  Children used the materials to make mud pies, obstacle course, huts and more.  It was exciting to see how well the space was used!

Loved the feedback from community.

Very focused and purposeful, not chaotic as can often be the case in a playground. Quietly determined, happily exploring from place to place.
We loved it all. It was great having all the natural resources on hand to free play with, you don’t find that easily in a regular playground. The sand and mud pit was great especially with all the outdoor kitchen utensils. I noticed the kids played well together rather than regular playgrounds were they many play alone or with their parents. It felt very calm and welcoming to everyone. It was really nice to have a clean nature play space in town.

The Woolston pop-up was set at Thistledown reserve, next to a gorgeous natural area that community volunteers maintain.  The Woolston space was created in conjunction with Christchurch City Council for Parks week.  It seemed to attract more older children, who were perhaps playing by themselves after school - which was fantastic to see.  The huts had 'fort' like qualities and were elaborate and changed everytime I went.  I loved the idea that neighbourhood children had a space with materials they could use however they wanted and create their own space for play.

photo 3 (14).JPG
photo 2 (21).JPG
photo 1 (20).JPG

Read more about the pop-up here.