Children's play area - help please!
My daughter has just moved into a new house. She is not a gardener! Half the garden is a lawn with shrub beds around it - fairly low maintenance thank goodness, and I'm sure I can get them to do enough to keep it OK. The other half of the garden (separated by a hedge) has been a very productive vegetable patch - the soil is fantastic, someone has taken a lot of care of it. It is now completely overgrown with weeds (mainly annual as far as I can see) and is 'virgin territory'. My daughter wants to create a play area for her 18 month old son and his friends, plus an outdoor living space from where the adults can watch the kids and down a few glasses of wine. They'd also like space for a small shed. They don't have much cash.
I need to come up with a plan that we (my OH and myself!) can achieve for them in a couple of days intensive work, will be cheap-ish (a few hundred pounds), and that will be as close to zero maintenance as possible.
My thoughts are to suggest that half is laid to lawn (maybe seed, maybe turves?) for the dining space. The play area would be about a third of the space, and I'm thinking: lay weed membrane, put an edging of some sort, then fill with three inches or so of bark chip? (She has got slide, sandpit, etc to go for equipment.) Then the remainder would be: membrane, flagstones as a base for a shed, fill gaps round stone with more bark chip or similar.
We'd also need to reduce that hedge's height to about a foot so that the play area is visible from the house. I'm not sure what the hedge is.... maybe privet.... and I'm hoping that won't kill it completely.
What do you think? What is going to go wrong with this plan?? Is there a better approach? And is that beautiful soil going to be completely destroyed by doing this, or will it still be in good heart if in a few years they decide they want a veggie patch and lift some of that membrane or grass to create it? (I live in hope...)
Any advice or suggestions gratefully received!