CHILDREN and community leaders celebrated Walkhampton’s new £30,000 play area opening after a fundraising appeal.

A young girl joined a councillor for the opening ceremony of the play park which is aimed at the youngest children in the village and surrounding area.

The four-year-old girl (who cannot be named) cut the ribbon to the park next to the village hall with the help of West Devon borough councillor Chris West (Burrator ward) last Saturday (December 9).

The girl’s mother Ali and father Lou attended the ceremony to give their seal of approval with their two-year-old son. Ali said: “It’s a brilliant play park especially as we are a young family. The children certainly like it and are enjoying themselves. It’s a way of getting them out into thr fresh air. We don’t live here, but come to see their Nanna. The old play park was out of action for a long time because it was fallng down. So, this is really great. The children love a play park and we go to many in the area.”

Sheila Reynolds, who started the fundraising campaign to replace the derelict wooden play park, said: “I’d like to thank all the donors who gave us grants to replace the old play equipment. These inclde Maristow Estate which owns the land and originally gave the village the land for the hall and recreation ground in the fifties. Also, Burrator Parish Council, Yelverton Rotary Club, West Devon Borough Council and the National Lottery. I’d also like to thank individuals who donated and those who ran raffles and quizzes.”

Th equipment includes a twin tower climbing frame with a slide and walkway and mini roundabout and a ‘nest’ swing for more than one person.

She added: “The designs cme from local Crapstone firm Green Scheme whch specialises in safe and modern play equipment which is made of recycled material. They also designed Yelverton Play Park which is much bigger than ours, but set the standard and attracts families from as far as Plymouth. We also have children from nearby villages like Dousland.

“Although the weather has been very poor for weeks now, when it’s dry there have been many children crawling all over the equipment and it makes me so happy to see it. I’d like to think that in the summer, parents and carers will also use it as a place to meet and bring picnics and spend a couple of hours or so here. It’s also a lovely spot with the allotments nearby.

“The equipment has got all the elements which make it an engaging environment where they can use all their senses and also socialise and learn to play with others.”

Cllr West said: “I know how much this play park measns to the community as we can see today, the users are really happy and have proved how it appeals to them.

“As an ex-headteacher I really appreciate that play parks fulfil a need which goes beyond the obvious benefits of physical activity. The social benefits come from people being less isolated by being at home too much, especially in a rural area where there’s limited transport to take children to parks further away – now they can meet and socialise on their doorstep in a safe space with their children and enjoy each others’ company and make new connections and friends.

“For the children there are many benefits. This park has equipment which poses difficulties for children to overcome, by presenting them with challenges which encourage them to take risks in a physically safe environment, so they are less likely to hurt themselves than on the old equipment as design has evolved.

“Physically, they develop muscle and co-ordination. Also we all know the mental benefits when, it’s great for children to let off steam after being at school or cooped up at home when they haven’t got a garden. Overall such well thought out play parks can help children prepare for later life as they grow up and is good for their development.”