Name and history behind new Coombe Abbey play area revealed

Hermit’s Hollow is the name of the new attraction being created by Coventry City Council.

It is close to the hugely successful Go Ape and will offer a brand-new fun and engaging area for kids to play – based on a unique period of history at Coombe.

It will be managed by No Ordinary Hospitality Management (NOHM), which operates Coombe Abbey Hotel and The Avenue at Coombe, as well as other destinations including St Mary’s Guildhall in Coventry city centre.

The theme of the new play facility, which opens in June, is based on a notable period of Coombe’s nearly 900-year history when it was the residence of Princess Elizabeth, daughter of King James I in the early 1600s.

During her time there, the princess was gifted an ‘island’ within the grounds where she ordered the creation of a cottage for a widow and her children, where fowls would be kept, and it was given the appearance of a type of building known as a hermitage.

It is hoped that Hermit’s Hollow will help to stir the imagination of children as well as offering plenty of ways to slide, climb and run around!

It is being created by the team at Creating Adventurous Places Ltd (CAP.Co) and is inspired by the natural setting, particularly Smite Brook, which sites adjacent to the play site.

It offers a wide variety of adventure play features incorporated into the play structures, allowing visitors young and old to navigate the Hollow’s various bridges, walkways, ramps and tunnels.

Visitors will also find the Hermit’s talking tube to send secret messages to friends, clamber high amongst the tree tops on the upper level of the Canopy Spire, or whizz back to the ground on the spiralling tube slide or the accessible-to-all companion slide.

Toddlers have their own mini-adventure to enjoy and accompanying adults or caregivers – when not climbing and clambering in the play structures themselves – can enjoy a tasty treat and hot drink from Hermit’s Cafe, which is located within the woodland playground.

It is the latest in a long line of added attractions at Coombe Abbey, including The Avenue which is home to The Sundae Club, a 1950s style dessert diner, Flowers at Coombe, The Abbey Artisan Market and the Café in the Park.

Tickets for timed slots for Hermit’s Hollow will be £3.95 and can be booked online in advance or at the on-site kiosk. This new facility will complement the newly refurbished play area at the Visitor Centre, and the Climbing Forest which are both free to use.

Ron Terry, Group Operations Director of NOHM, said: “We are delighted to be able to reveal the name and the inspiration behind the new play area, Hermit’s Hollow.

“It also evokes some of the fascinating history of Coombe, when Princess Elizabeth came to live here during a period when her father was the subject of an assassination attempt in the Gunpowder Plot! There were even plots to kidnap Elizabeth and place her on the thrown should the conspirators have been successful.

“From the evidence available, it appears that Elizabeth was a very bright child and enjoyed living here at Coombe and the gardens that had been created. She ordered the creation of the ‘Hermitage’, which would house a range of colourful fowls.

“So, when kids come to play at Hermit’s Hollow, they will be enjoying a little piece of history!” 

Simon Egan, Project Development for CAP.Co, said: “Working with the team at Coombe to deliver both the Visitor Centre play area and now Hermit’s Hollow – deep within the park itself – has been such a rewarding experience for all at CAP.Co.

“As always, it has been delivered in such a collaborative manner with all involved, it is incredible to see yet another opportunity for families to play outdoors together in such a fantastic Capability Brown designed landscape – it is why we do what we do. 

“The location for Hermit’s Hollow works really well in my view. It is adjacent to an existing path but tucked away, slightly out of view. The natural timbers used here help the play feel part of the experience, not dominating, but complementing the existing landscape, which is testament to our design team.

“With the meandering Smite Brook on the boundary of the site and wildlife to be seen and heard all around – children and adults alike will surely enjoy the balance of natural play in this new setting, which ultimately adds to the excellent suite of activities already successfully integrated into the wider park.” 

Cllr Abdul Salam Khan, Deputy Leader at Coventry City Council, said: “I’m delighted with the new name and the quality of work to create it. As a council we have invested in this attraction and the free play park next to the Visitor Centre. I’m sure Hermit’s Hollow will prove another popular attraction at Coombe Abbey Park.”  

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