I'm a Melbourne girl, born and bred, and new resident of Geelong. Fantabulous adventures await as I explore my gorgeous new city and the stunning Surf Coast. But don’t worry—I’ll be crossing the bridge regularly to get my Melbourne fix.
Published October 5th 2015
Fun and games at Ferntree Gully's fabulous new play space
Boy oh boy, playgrounds have come a long way since I was growing up. We had swings and slides and jungle gyms, but they were nothing compared to some of the outdoor adventure extravaganzas that are popping up in little pockets of suburbia these days. The Wally Tew Playground in Ferntree Gully is no exception, and after recently opening after a complete overhaul, it's better than ever.
The new Wally Tew Playground has been completely overhauled and is completely fabulous!
The playground is part of the Wally Tew Reserve, and is located just in behind the Ferntree Gully Library and Community Centre Arts Centre. It's nestled amongst beautiful shady trees, with the mountains peeking through in the background, and is totally hidden from busy Burwood Highway just a hundred metres or so away.
The playground is part of the Wally Tew Reserve, and is surrounded by beautiful trees, bike paths and a big grassy oval
The renewal of the playground was part of the Knox City Council's Playground Renewal Program for 2014–15 and took around six months to complete. The local community eagerly awaited the reopening of the playground, and I can tell you, it was worth the wait (I'm really just a big kid at heart—I still go a little weak at the knees at the site of a set of swings).
The theme of the playground is 'Forest Floor' (yes, it has a theme! What did I tell you about playgrounds coming a long way from when I was a kid?!) and much of it was constructed from recycled materials retained from the deconstruction of the old playground. Sculptures in the shapes of bugs and mushrooms, a dry creek bed and play areas designed to encourage nature play all form part of the forest theme—which is perfect for the location really, given its proximity to the hills and mountains of the Dandenongs. The play equipment is built predominantly from rustic metallic and timber materials (no cheap plastic slides here) making you feel even closer to nature, almost like you're frolicking and romping amongst the trees.
There are two sets of swings (one set for babies and toddlers, the other for older children…and your local WeekendNotes writer too of course), as well as one of the fantastic all-accessible Liberty swings for children who are unable to use regular swings. Taking pride of place in the middle of the playground is a rather cool tubular slide, constructed from sheet metal, and attached to a wooden enclosed structure that you have to climb up inside first to get to the slide—definitely one for the older kids, who aren't scared of the dark and enclosed spaces! Need even more adventure? Direct your fearless youngsters to the flying fox which runs alongside the fence and listen to them squeal and shriek as they whiz along beneath the treetops.
Two more slides—one protruding from a giant metal bug—cater to the littler playground adventurers, along with a mini climbing wall, a sandpit and even one of those crazy mirrors attached to one section of the wooden walkways. There's plenty of places to play hide and seek, and enough space to just generally run around a little crazy.
The entire playground is surrounded by a low fence with childproof gates keeping your little ones safe so they can play for hours (…and hours… and hours...) without fear of them taking off too far, but the area is big and open enough so you don't feel closed in at all. There are plenty of chairs and tables and places to sit and rest while you watch the children play, listening out for the inevitable cries of "watch me mum/dad/nanna/pop! watch me!" as the little monkeys swing, climb, crawl and slide their way up and over and under and down the maze of timber ramps and steps and walkways.
There's plenty of place to sit and rest and watch the kids go a little crazy.
Parking is available at the reserve itself (accessible from Glenfern Road), or at the library and arts centre (the entrance is on Burwood Highway, just opposite Aldi). You could even park in the Woolworths carpark (also on Burwood Highway), which backs on to the reserve, then take the little gravel path over the bridge to the playground. But for local residents who are lucky enough to live close by, by far the best way to get there is by walking or cycling along the Ferny Creek Trail. The trail goes right by the playground, continuing towards Upwey in one direction, and Scoresby in the other. The Wally Tew Playground is in a beautiful section of the trail, and using your own pedal-power to get there makes the outing even more fun (just remember to save some energy for the return trip home!).
The best way to get to the playground? Use your feet and pedal your way there on the Ferny Creek Trail!
The renewal of the playground included installation of barbecues, extra seating, water fountains and bicycle racks, and public toilet facilities are just a few skips across the grassy area adjacent to the playground, making it the perfect place to spend a whole afternoon.
Pack a picnic lunch or bring some supplies to cook up a storm on the new barbecues.
The park is accessible for everyone, and is certainly a jewel in the crown of Ferntree Gully's many open spaces and parks. I was the sole visitor on my recent exploration of the playground in the early morning sunshine the other day, but within a few hours the Wally Tew Playground would have been pulsing with crazy, excitable children doing what they do best. And for a short while, with the swings all to myself, I closed my eyes, pumped my legs back and forth, and pretended that I was one of those kids too.