Nearly playtime

IMG_7417The play area will be located on former scrubland behind the Temple

Work to bring a new natural play area to Wanstead Park gets underway this month. It will benefit not only local kids’ health, but will improve the park environment as well, says Gill James

Good news for families visiting Wanstead Park! Work recommences this month on the new natural play area and the basic structures should be finished by late June.

The generous sum of £10,100 has recently been granted towards the cost of construction. This grant has come from the City of London Central Grants Programme and is specifically for the boundary safety fence, a self-closing entrance gate, an emergency access gate, litter bins, benches and signage. Together with donations from the Aldersbrook Families Association and Friends of Wanstead Parklands, Epping Forest now has sufficient funds to start serious construction work. Additionally, the City of London has agreed to take responsibility for future maintenance of the play area.

In April, work will begin on the woodland stepping stones trail. Safety is a priority; the stepping stone logs must be buried in the ground to a sufficient depth to make them completely safe for small feet. There will be a hands-on community day to get this done all in one go. In May, the messy play area and the fence and gate will probably go in. And by the end of June, the core play area should be in place.

Much of the equipment, such as bark chippings, the logs to make the stepping stones and other play items are sourced from fallen wood in Epping Forest and are produced by normal maintenance operations.

The play area is looking for another £15,000 to £20,000 to pay for items on the shopping list that need to be bought. The list includes ropes and ladders for the stepping stones trail, monkey bars, stepping poles, balancing rails, sand for a pit, more rocks, wooden chainsaw carvings, climbing and balancing equipment and, most importantly, the materials for a surfaced path to provide safe and secure access for buggies and wheelchairs.

The play area project will encourage more children, their families and carers to make greater use of Wanstead Park, to learn about and explore the wildlife, and help improve the environment by creating more habitats through the planned installation of bird boxes, bat boxes and minibeast hotels.

This area of Aldersbrook, in particular, has been identified as one of play deprivation, and local groups and residents have long campaigned for play facilities for children here. The rising levels of child obesity and concerns about child mental health highlight how important it is for children to have opportunities to play outdoors with others. Shockingly, some 35% of children leaving a local primary school are either overweight or medically obese. Creating a play area within walking distance will encourage children to lead more active lifestyles.

A link to donate to the project will be added here when available.