From a Waste of Space to a Place for Play

Emma Young of West Mercia Supplies (now part of The Consortium) has been in touch to tell us about her recent use of Volunteer Time. Her village (Wheaton Aston in Staffordshire) decided to unlock an unused public space and convert it into a play area.  A grant from Community Spaces (part of the Big Lottery Fund) helped them to realise the project.

Emma takes up the story…

“I originally got involved in this project in the Autumn of 2011.  The favoured idea that came out of the [village] consultation was to open the space as a play area, but one that did not have traditional play equipment.  In the past the space was used in this way and suffered vandalism, hence the reason it had fallen into disuse for the best part of a decade .

Before...

The village’s open space before the transformation…

The space is part owned and managed by the Parish Council and part leased from South Staffs Council on condition that it remains an open public space, with provision for a play area.

Wheaton Aston Play Strategy Group, working with the local community, wanted to reopen the site as a nature space with a play area, which would be attractive to families with young children. It would comprise:

  • seasonal shallow pond/marshland with very gently sloping edges
  • wet grassland – sand beach and paddling pool
  • boulders
  • climbing logs
  • live willow igloo
  • bee, bird and bat boxes
  • woodland edge habitat (mostly already present)
  • boardwalk over the wetland
  • bound gravel path around one side of the wetland
  • security fence around the site
  • toddler proof latch on the gate and appropriate safety signs.”
After collage

After all the hard work – what a difference!

Emma’s main involvement was pulling together the grant application, which was in 2 stages.  The first stage was an outline proposal for Community Spaces to initially assess the potential project and made sure it met their funding requirements.  Stage 2 was a more in-depth submission which required plans, cost estimates, setting of outcomes, assessment of the site and issues affecting it, timelines and milestones.  With assistance from other project team members, she pulled the documents together and the team were delighted to be awarded the full grant in January 2012.

Emma continued as the project administrator, as Community Spaces require progress reports and grant claims to be submitted.  The final report has just been drafted.

Emma adds, “It is interesting for someone who works in procurement to have to sit on the other side of the fence and actually pull together a bid for something!  2 other smaller grants were awarded to us from local organisations raising a further £1,500 and the council has contributed approximately £10,000.

I also got my hands dirty, helping to plant trees and wetland plants (on a cold, but thankfully dry day) in December and barrowing bark chips to the site from the entrance.

The new entrance sign

The new entrance sign

The project is now pretty much complete, with the opening date set for 27th April.  This should allow the new turf, trees, shrubs and wetland plants to start getting established before the site is fully opened.

I am very proud of what the group has been able to deliver as the site has been utterly transformed and look forward to seeing it mature over the next few years.  I very much hope that Broadholes Lane Nature Garden [the site’s new name] will become a much-loved and used asset for our village.

Just the cake baking for the launch day to go!”

Thanks very much Emma – it looks a wonderfully transformed new space! It’s also interesting to get your insight into the Lottery funding process and to see what’s involved. Whilst grant applications to Community Spaces have now closed, there are other community funding options available under the Big Lottery Fund umbrella which other Smiths News employees may wish to explore. I know that matched funding from other organisations and/or a significant number of volunteer hours are important factors in ensuring success with an application.

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One Response to From a Waste of Space to a Place for Play

  1. Mark Cashmore, Chief Executive says:

    What a fantastic project to be involved with, Emma. It looks like it’ll make a real difference to village life.

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