Child's play for pubs

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Kids' safety and fun are the main considerations when the pub garden is updatedAs families increasingly become an accepted, and often encouraged,...

Kids' safety and fun are the main considerations when the pub garden is updated

As families increasingly become an accepted, and often encouraged, part of the pub industry's customer base, play equipment is becoming more important.

No longer can a pub get away with calling a rusty swing and a tyre hanging from a branch a play area. Children are discerning clientele and they know when they are being short-changed.

So, over the last few years, many licensees have been upgrading their equipment, making it sturdier, safer and more fun. Among them is Shelley Dunham at the Hatch Gate Inn at Burghfield in Berkshire.

After taking over the village local about 18 months ago she expanded the outdoor trading area, creating a large patio for barbecues, and last summer invested in two new pieces of play equipment - a multi-functional tower (pictured)​ and a play boat christened HMS Hatch Gate.

"Before that we only had a small climbing frame and I wanted to make the play area more of an attraction," said Shelley. "I knew from my own experience how difficult it is to find a pub that was children-friendly but not part of a big chain. Somewhere friendly that serves home-made food. That's what I wanted the Hatch Gate to be."

The equipment, bought from Timberline, was installed at the end of July last year, too late to take full advantage of the summer, Shelley admits, "but we did well in the school holidays. Mothers were coming here with their children on week day lunchtimes and at weekends trade was up to 50 per cent better than it was before.

"We are already getting a name as a children-friendly pub and we will be promoting ourselves in time for the Easter holidays."

While Shelley describes the initial cost of the equipment as competitive she was surprised at the cost of installation - something other licensees would do well to bear in mind.

"It cost us £1,500 more than we expected," she said, the extra being needed for safety reasons. The Hatch Gate was advised to lay a foot of play bark under the equipment. The European standards for play equipment dictate that safety surfacing is needed when a platform is more than 600mm above the ground.

When choosing the equipment itself, Timberline advises licensees to check for substantial main timbers which have several coats of stain or laqueur, that there are no jagged edges or protruding fixings and that metal parts are galvanised and power coated.

Above all, confirm that the equipment is certified to conform to European safety standards EN1176 and EN1177.

Pub gardens could soon become showrooms for play equipment - giving licensees a boost to their trade at the same time.

Manufacturer Timberline is launching a Pub Club scheme that will give its residential customers a chance to view and test out the equipment before they buy.

Pubs taking part will be listed on Timberline's website, bringing in extra custom, and benefit from an extended warranty and a free maintenance visit from the company at the end of the first year.

Simon Fearnehough hopes to have 30 pubs signed up by the summer.

"The cost of this equipment can be quite high, and a lot of customers like to see it 'in the flesh' before they buy," he said. "It is nigh-on impossible to have a display site in every city, town or county but the pub garden can provide a solution.

"A potential buyer can visit their nearest Pub Club member and see, touch, feel and try out what we have to offer while having a drink, sampling pub food and enjoying the experience under no time or sales pressures. They don't even have to make an advance appointment."

  • For more information contact Simon on 01246 454484, email

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