When building our Pachamama Activity Centre, one of the most surprising aspects was discovering there was an abundance of groundwater.
The area was shady with large trees and overgrown, thick with weeds falling away to the southeast corner of the property. When the property was purchased, it was a section that was overlooked … left to last when after all the attention went on the other areas. Subsequently, when we finally went to tame the thicket, we discovered a small pond that has been dug out full of crystal clear water.
This caused a great surprise. On further inspection, we realised that the area was boggy with the ground area saturated.
Determining what to do was not an easy decision. We had to access the area so it could be fenced for safety. Given that it was so wet, we could only meaningfully access the area in the driest part of summer.
We wondered how we could make the most of a ‘problem.’ So with a shovel and some long days, we channeled the ‘wet soak’ and gave some thought about making the problem area an opportunity, potentially accessible to the school-aged children.
‘Jurassic Park’ those were the words that came out then imagining a totally unique adventure play space. A wonderland of nature for children to explore.
Ponds were constructed by hand, with the base supported by the naturally present white clay. We installed walk bridges constructed with railroad sleepers, reaching across the middle of the two ponds. Glossy shady plants were strategically placed to create a space that one could imagine a dinosaur emerging from.
Small paths were constructed to lead a walker to unexpected spaces using the different observation spaces to create a sense of adventure – stirring imaginations.
Friends and relatives helped with creating the space and all were quickly infected with out enthusiasm in making something they would have loved as children … the joys of childhood last a lifetime and unlock our imaginations
The ponds brought unexpected benefits, too. We now have nesting wild ducks (and duckings), an abundance of native frogs, yabbies and many more birds that come to forage, shelter and also enjoy the space. All now commonplace.
To also augment the experience, and create even more corners, Sculptor Martin Jaine made an elephant from salvaged materials. We had to get a crane to place it in the pond area. We installed power into the site so a pump could push water through the elephant’s trunk. A floodlight can light up the elephant after dusk creating an eerie monolithic presence in the evenings.
An area that was considered a challenge is now one of the centrepieces of our Pachamama Activity Centre.
As one reflects on the journey of creating Pachamama, the joy of working with what we discovered, imagining what it could become, and seeing opportunities in what could be perceived as a problem is the reward that just keeps giving. This area continues to delight as it changes with each season and matures with time.