We are so spoilt for excellent playgrounds in Melbourne. And with the spate of fantastic new openings lately (see Maritime Cove, Booran Reserve, Lillydale Lake, Hadfield Park and Craigieburn ANZAC Park) it’s glaring when a playground falls short of the hype.
The super-high double slides at The Grove, Tarneit are the best thing about the new playground installed as part of the housing development’s land sales centre.
However, I feel that this poorly designed playground is a missed opportunity to bring visitors from outside Tarneit to the area and to enhance the surrounding suburb.
My main gripe is that the equipment has been set out into a really small area, seemingly without consideration about kids’ traffic flows.
There’s a flying fox, pyramid rope climb, teacup spinner, nest swing and high stepping stones all crammed into a small space.
I have particular concerns about the nest swing, which is installed in a thoroughfare. During my visit I can’t count the number of times kids run through the swing’s orbit before either ducking for cover or having a frantic parent whisk them out of harm’s way. Circular nest swings (ie attached by one point and not two points) are generally situated on the outer edges of a playground for this reason.
The two in-ground trampolines are set on a slope. I watch as kids take a run up to launch themselves onto the trampolines, before toppling over due to the momentum.
The frog sculptures are surrounded by speakers which are supposed to provide wetland sounds I think but sound more like a toilet flushing!
The rest of the playground equipment consists of proprietary structures I’ve seen many times before. And while there’s nothing wrong with that (proprietary equipment can be just as much fun as bespoke structures) it’s telling that Lady AB says her favourite part of the playground is not any of the equipment – it’s the large grassy area next to it where she can run! Admittedly it is particularly lush green grass and will be great for ball games and unstructured play.
I also have high hopes for the adjoining eatery. However, they were so inundated with customers (call it the Mamma Knows West effect) that I can’t get to the half-empty counter, there is a long wait for coffee and masses of dirty dishes piling up on tables.
It may be unfair to give them a NOT given I didn’t get to try any of the food. But the lack of service, meagre food offerings and dirty surroundings just add to my overall disappointment. I feel sorry for the frantic barista and the one other staff member on the floor who keep apologising to customers.
Note that to access the playground from the cafe you have to drop down a number of steps. There are no ramps for prams – the only ramp is the entrance/exit to the playground. There is a small gap in the landscaping which allows you to enter the playground without going through the cafe, but that gap is not apparent from the carpark so most people can’t find it. Why they couldn’t install a ramp instead of stairs leading from cafe to playground is a mystery.
All in all, the playground at The Grove is an ok option if you’re local to the area, but it’s not worth a special trip. Also note that the cafe oddly not open on Thursdays and Fridays so if you visit the playground on those days you will need to BYO as you’ll be stranded in the middle of nowhere with no food or drink options within walking distance.