Designing and Building an Amphitheatre for Woodthorpe School

Woodthorpe School Amphitheatre


We were approached by a member of the team at Woodthorpe Primary School in Sheffield to look at an area of under-used sloping ground on the school site that had previously been an amphitheatre. The steep slope of the ground made it unsuitable for many of the activities undertaken at the school and we were asked to design a solution for the space that would make it useful again and provide an exciting, new, colourful area for pupils to explore.

We started off with a visit to the site to better understand the school’s requirements. It quickly became clear that this would be a challenging build as access to the steep embankment was an issue and we had the added safety concern of completing the works around the playing children. It takes more than a few challenges to put us off however and we got to work with coming up with a fantastic new design.

The old amphitheatre was in a state of disrepair and so we decided the best thing to do would be to rebuild it completely, giving us the chance to introduce some interesting new materials to the design. Materials were a key consideration all throughout this design and build project as they had to not only look attractive and be low maintenance, but also withstand the rough and tumble of a playground full of primary school students.   

For building the seating of the amphitheatre we opted for to construct it from railway-style sleepers, with integrated bug hotels throughout to ensure there was always something of interest for pupils, as well as supporting the local wildlife population. To avoid the extra work of sweeping and tidying after a busy play session we built the surfaces and paths from resin-bound gravel, no more loose pebbles rolling about the place!

To make sure the area stayed full of colour across the year we decided to use Pictorial Meadows turf to surround the area with meadow style planting. This has the advantage of being very low maintenance, providing extended flowering for a colourful display across most of the year, and because we opted for Pictorial Meadows turf instead of seed, gave an instant result. Unlike other meadow mixes, Pictorial Meadows seeds and turf contain 100% flowers seed with no grass so the density of flowers they offer is unmatched.

After sharing our initial design plans with the team at Woodthorpe School and receiving the go ahead we got started. Our access issues were resolved with the temporary removal of a fence panel at the back of the site, and our careful, professional staff were able to complete the work with minimal disruption to those all-important playtimes!

Both the pupils and staff at Woodthorpe Primary School have expressed their excitement for their new amphitheatre space, and it has been rarely out of use across the summer. They are particularly pleased with the sheer amount of new, bright colour the design has introduced to their outdoor space and the fact it has encouraged more wildlife than ever for the children to enjoy has been a big plus.

Elspeth Yates