With the onset of Autumn and with Winter to follow there are some things to keep an eye on. One thing you may notice as the atmosphere gets damper is that some of the small “shakes” and splits in the timber have closed up. This is because having dried out over the summer (especially in south-facing full sun locations) the wood now starts to re-absorb the dampness. This makes the wood swell again; and this process is repeated as the dry/damp cycle continues. This is perfectly normal behaviour and doesn’t affect the performance or strength of the timbers. It also has the effect of gripping the coach screws more tightly (but see below *)
But the main Autumn hazard you have to watch for is the effect this dampness and the leaf fall has on the slipperiness of the playdecks, bridges, gangplanks etc. Especially in areas with trees around you will find that algae may grow on all surfaces, potentially making them slippery. And leaves on the ground can make conditions underfoot more slippery.
Deal with the leaves by blowing or sweeping them away. There are a couple of options for the algae growth. You can scrub it with a stiff brush and (mild) algaecide or you can pressure wash it. Be careful not to be too aggressive with this second method as you can lift the grain of the timber.
Needless to say if it gets really cold, ice is a real hazard. We recommend closing the play area under these conditions.
However, fortunately in this country there are plenty of days over the winter where outdoor play is perfectly possible, so provided you bear in mind these environmental factors, please do let them out to play!
* the counterpoint to this is of course that the wood will start to shrink again as the days warm and the atmosphere gets drier. Then you will notice that the bolts relax their grip on the wood a little. So make sure they are tightened again if the joints seem loose. But don’t overtighten as you could strip the thread out of the wood and so weaken the connection.