Spring 2012: A two year project which aims to encourage more children and families to reconnect with the outdoors through play is outgrowing its original brief. The sight of major new nature playgrounds emerging in four parks across north and east London as part of London Play’s Access to Nature project has inspired several community groups to approach the charity to see if similar magic can be worked in their areas.
So far London Play has agreed to work with five groups to create smaller natural play areas in parks, green spaces and community gardens. Seating and climbing equipment incorporating a Chinese dragon, carved from a log by chainsaw artist Will Lee, will form the centrepiece of the first area to go ahead in Waltham Forest’s Wingfield Park (pictured above).
Here London Play is working with the Friends of Wingfield Park and Waltham Forest council, and is using sophisticated 3D software to consult the community over the proposals. The software allows the new equipment to be shown in its actual location and to an accurate scale – as well as calculating the materials required for costing purposes. “It’s extremely useful,” says London Play’s natural play project worker Max Mueller. “Local people know exactly what they are getting, and funders know exactly what their money is paying for.” The response so far has been overwhelmingly positive: “We’re very excited about the design,” says Alison Emmett of the friends group. “The dragon looks fabulous and the children are really looking forward to it.”
London Play is supporting groups in Victoria Park, Camden, Westbourne Park and Brixton to develop four more small play spaces in their localities by March next year. The original four Natural England-funded Access to Nature schemes are located in Hackney, Haringey, Greenwich and Barking and Dagenham, in some of the most deprived neighbourhoods in the capital. London Play won funding to work with those communities to design and build new nature-play areas and reap the benefits that outdoor play brings. Access to Nature is funded by the Big Lottery Fund’s Changing Spaces programme.
London Play is seeking continuation funding from Natural England to extend the project beyond its planned finish date of March 2013. We are also looking into a number of other funding sources to enable us to address the rapidly mounting interest from community groups across the capital.