Outstanding Outdoor Spaces – Cool Canvas

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I first heard of Cool Canvas after I had delivered a conference in Bolton. I got an email from a delegate to say that they had had a brilliant creative artist come in and completely transform their outdoor space into a fantastic learning environment.

It seems that that setting were not alone, as I am seeing and hearing lots more on my travels about the high quality work and the creative ideas that Oliver and his team are spreading through our outdoor environments. 

Although there is loads of info and inspirational photos on the Cool Canvas website. I have manages to persuade Oliver to take some time out of his busy schedule to write me a quick guest blog post and share some of the work that he has done.


What we do

Design and install bespoke play areas using natural materials.

Watertower Collage

How we came to making play areas:

As a child my parents fell on hard times financially. After losing our home and
all worldly possessions we we're lucky enough to move to a rented old farm
house.  The farm house sat within hundreds of acres of land with  a
mile long crumbled old dirt track entrance. The house itself had been
vandalised and as a result had 20ft high security mesh fencing around the
perimeter.  To other potential viewers it looked like hell on earth, but to my
family it was our opportunity pull together, to explore space and develop our
skills and passion for creating outside environments.

Children Collage

We had little money so everything we created was from resources we found within
the woodlands and surrounding grounds. We made tree houses, forts with
connecting walkways, den spaces, watch towers, mud kitchens, a stable for a
horse which had been abandoned on our door step… the list goes on. We started to
develop a bond with nature in what was our own magical word with no limits on outdoor

Den Collage


Who Works With Us?

Who works

Me: Oliver Wotherspoon – artist by trade. 

My dad Richard, who is the landscaper and
project manager.

My brother Harry, who is the tree surgeon.

joiners:  Aidy and James and my wife, Tamsin, who is the head of maintenance.

Water play

Water Play and Investigation

What we provide:

We don't supply off the shelf play products. We create unique environment that
act as a magical platform for children and staff to transform into whatever
they want.


Mud Kitchens

We use treated and green timber, planting and loose surfaces to make zones for
climbing, digging, water, mixing, mark making, transition the list goes on. I
work with the staff and children to work out a design; if the children want to
help with the installation of the play area then we arrange workshops.



At the end of the project I play in the area
with the children and staff mainly to give some ideas for the potential use of the space and how they can develop it further as their own unique play experiences emerge.


Builders Collage

 Build and Dig 

The benefits

Limitless play opportunities creates inspired and happy staff = inspired and
happy children.

Tree Collage 

Tree Houses

The draw backs

  • Maintenance is my biggest hang up. Settings need to factor in a monthly maintenance
    budget if considering a natural play area.  We make sure we do a 12 month
    maintenance contract as part of a development. 


  • Caretakers –  don't get my dad started on caretakers! 

Willow Collage

Willow Work

For more information about Cool Canvas you can visit our website by clicking here. I hope you have enjoyed looking at some of the work that we do. We aim to inspire children to be highly engaged and creative learners outdoors and it would be great to come and inspire some of yours!




If it makes you want to climb inside the screen and have a go, then you know it must be good stuff!

Thanks to Oliver for sharing some fantastic ideas.

Have a lovely Bank Holiday weekend…


8 Comments on “Outstanding Outdoor Spaces – Cool Canvas”

  1. Thanks for sharing this at the Outdoor Play Party. I’m featuring this post tomorrow. We are soon to move house and I’m on the look out for inspiration for our new garden which is a completely blank canvas, obviously on a much smaller scale!

  2. Wow I have a really bad case of the ‘wanties’ now. I wouldn’t even have to overcome my lifelong aversion to power tools!

  3. Alistair, thanks so much for this post, the spaces are incredible. We are currently looking into developing the outdoor space in the main school & will be adding Oliver & his team to our list. We are discovering that we can get better value for money by using companies in the UK rather than N.I – crazy but true.

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