The won­der of Wendy houses

The Daily Telegraph - Gardening - - Front Page -

Plan­ning a Christ­mas sur­prise? Ramshackle or state-of-the-art, a play­house is a mag­i­cal place where a child’s imag­i­na­tion can run free, says Anna Tyzack

Even when the weather is grim, my chil­dren love to play out­side and our gar­den was cry­ing out for a Wendy house. Some­where for my three small boys to set up camp, play shop, and gen­er­ally hang out away from me. This time of year is ideal for tack­ling new projects in the gar­den and I half hoped my hus­band would magic up a house for them; my child­hood Wendy house was con­structed by my fa­ther out of of­f­cuts. But this was never go­ing to hap­pen, so when I saw one go­ing beg­ging on Face­book – a friend was mak­ing space for a gar­den of­fice – I jumped on it.

It ar­rived in forlorn pieces, yet once it had been nailed to­gether and po­si­tioned be­neath a small weep­ing wil­low, our two older boys, aged four and two, moved straight in. They didn’t worry about the lack of fur­ni­ture or the cracked win­dow­pane in their new Su­per­hero Club­house. “Don’t come in, Mummy!” they warned, slam­ming the door be­hind them.

At first I felt re­lieved that I hadn’t spent a for­tune on any­thing more so­phis­ti­cated. Pe­tra Ec­cle­stone re­cently paid £60,000 for a play­house in the gar­den of her Lon­don home and ap­par­ently it leaks, while our lit­tle house, with its pitched roof, and peep hole in the door, can be bought new on for about £270.

Soon, though, I was dream­ing up ways to make it a home for them, with coat hooks and a play kitchen. Ac­cord­ing to Russell Bowlby, founder of be­spoke play­house man­u­fac­turer Flights of Fantasy, par­ents of­ten get car­ried away by the de­vel­op­ment po­ten­tial of a new Wendy house. “If you’re go­ing to have one, it will be a fea­ture in your gar­den, so you want to make sure you’re proud of it,” he ex­plains.

The orig­i­nal Wendy house, built for Wendy Dar­ling in J M Bar­rie’s 1904 play Peter Pan or the Boy Who Never Grew Up, was in­spired by the wash-house at Bar­rie’s child­hood home in Kir­riemuir, Scot­land. Since then play­houses have got rather grander. In 1936 Her Majesty the Queen was given a minia­ture thatched Welsh cot­tage, with hot and cold run­ning wa­ter and a dresser dis­play­ing minia­ture gold china.

Cre­ative play: tuck a play­house in the trees, wait­ing to be dis­cov­ered, top; a me­dieval-themed cas­tle, above; both by The Play­house Com­pany

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