Local Lowdown: How you can support the renovation of Wanstead playground

The Little One and I regularly visit the playground in Wanstead. The park is such a lovely place to  see the seasons change and the nearby Larder coffee shop on the high street is the perfect place for a coffee with its handy play area to keep the Little One amused. Its location means that the playground is always busy at all times of day throughout the year. So I was really interested to hear about the campaign to renovate the equipment in the park and I’ve asked the people behind it to share some more information.

Firstly, tell us about the campaign to renovate Wanstead Playground – what are you hoping to achieve?

The playground is in a terrible state. Everyone who visits is really surprised by how tired the equipment is, especially compared to neighbouring boroughs. We have two plans – firstly, to replace the piece by the gate with the bridge – it’s one of the oldest and nearing the end of its life. We would also renovate the tractor and the climbing frame, buy new swing seats, new picnic tables and replace the old horse. The second plan is to completely renovate the whole playground.

What changes exactly do you think are needed?

The playground has been added to whenever the council has money, rather than in a planned way. The swings would never be placed in the middle and the barriers are useless. The whole area just needs to be looked at as a whole.

Why is it so important that these improvements are done?

The playground is heavily used. Even when it’s tipping down with rain or freezing cold, there are children here. People travel for miles because it’s so welcoming. Snaresbrook is also one of the boroughs most deprived areas in terms of play provision, so we really need it to work.

Why isn’t the council doing the refurbishments?

They just don’t have the money. They need to cut £120million from their budgets and they didn’t have capacity in their budgets before this. The playground has been in a sorry state for years. Previous parents fund raised for the tractor. The local councillors paid for the rope swing, but since that was installed, their budgets have been slashed too.

This campaign is being run by the Wanstead Playground Association, who are your members?

Our membership is open to anyone who uses the playground. Our trustees are Sarah Boud, Chair, Nicola Jarratt, Secretary, Danielle Palmer, Treasurer and Louise Meenaghan, all local mums, Darrell Toakley, Chair of Wanstead Business Network and Scott Wilding, Chair of The Wanstead Society.

And finally, how can people get involved and show their support?

We’ve had enormous support from the community already. Our Singalong Frozen sold out in six hours and our Wanstead Comedy Night playground fundraiser sold lout in 24 hours. We’ve almost reached half of our crowd funding target and you can donate here: Spacehive (crowd funding) spacehive.com/wansteadplayground

 To find out more and get involved via social media:

If, like me, you regularly use the playground get behind the campaign now and ensure the space is available for us all for years to come.

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What’s On: February half-term highlights

This is not an easy time of year to keep the kids entertained and thinking up child-friendly activities for the February half-term can feel particularly tough. The festive season has depleted wallets, new year motivation has gone and the weather makes us want to hunker down under blankets. But do not fear, here are some ideas to inspire you to get up and explore with the kids next week.

Be one of the first to visit Lee Valley Park Farms this year 

Tractor at Lee Valley Park Farms

This weekend, Lee Valley Park Farms opens its gates for another year. And to celebrate there are lots of activities planned for the opening weekend including the unveiling of the brand new meerkat enclosure. There’s plenty of animals including giant rabbits, rare breed pigs, llamas and pygmy goats. There are indoor and outdoor play areas although some of these may be closed while some improvement works are ongoing, but to compensate they are offering reduced entry fees until the end of March.

Lee Valley Farms Opening Weekend, 14th & 15th February 2015.

Where: Lee Valley Farms, Stubbins Hall Lane, Waltham Abbey, Essex EN9 2EF

Lee Vally Farms website

Get creative at Valentine’s Mansion

Children painting ceramics at Valentine's House and Mansion

On Wednesday 18th February, kids can take part in a Creative Crockery class taking design inspiration from the house and gardens. It is open to children aged 4 to 11 years and costs £9, pre-booking essential.

Where: Valentine’s Mansion & Gardens, Emerson Road, Ilford, Essex, IG1 4XA,UK

Valentine’s Mansion website

Spark their imaginations at the Southbank Centre

Children at Imagine Festival Southbank Centre

Take the tube into town for the inspiring Imagine Festival which will be running until Sunday 22nd February. There’s loads of great stuff going on so you’re sure to find something that appeals to your little ones (or you). There’s reading and appearances from children’s authors including Lauren Child and Anthony Horowitz, live theatre performances from the likes of Charlie and Lola and world class orchestras as well as a series of programmes for under 5s.

Where: Southbank Centre, Belvedere Road, London SE1 8XX

Imagine Festival website

Weekend adventures: Free and child-friendly fun in Brighton

We’ve recently returned from a lovely weekend in Brighton. But dear god it was cold, so flippin’ cold. We went to visit my sister and her husband to celebrate her birthday and the Little One had a great time. My sister was apologising that she hadn’t looked up any child-friendly places to go and should have found out about a soft-play centre or something. But who needs that over-priced forced fun? There’s loads to keep children and toddlers entertained and most of it is free.

Boy in Noddy car on Brighton Pier

Firstly, the train from my sister’s house in Hove to Brighton was super exciting, (it still amazes me how our son has turned into such a stereotypical boy and is obsessed with trains) but here are three fun and almost free things to do.

1. CHEAP AND CHILD-FRIENDLY BRIGHTON PIER 

Despite the bitter cold, the pier turned out to be a hit with the Little One. Firstly, we watched the swallows dance over the water as the sun was going down and then enjoyed all the colourful twinkling as the lights came on. The amusement arcades were warm (hooray!) so we spent a considerable amount of time in there. There are plenty of small ride on cars for toddlers and my top tip is never put any money in them to make them move! I know this won’t work for older children but as my Little One has never known any different, he thinks sitting in the cars, spinning the steering wheel and pressing the buttons is the ride. And long may that continue.

boy on car game Brighton Pier

He also sat on the ‘adult’ driving games; on motorbikes, at steering wheels and on a flight simulator – all for free and having the time of his life with the flashing lights and car noises. He also enjoyed the racehorse machine (where the plastic horses run to the finish line, no idea what it’s really called) and watched that intently for ages. So my goal is to keep trips to the pier as cheap as possible for as long as possible. Let’s see how that goes!

Brighton Pier website

2. PEBBLES ARE A TODDLER’S BEST FRIEND 

It was actually a bit too cold and wet for lolling around on the pebbles this time, but last time we were down in Brighton the Little One spent a very happy couple of hours sitting, climbing and crawling over the pebbles. You can collect different colours, build towers or just throw them in the sea. And the best thing of all, is it’s free and the worst thing is the crying when you attempt to drag them away.

boy playing with pebbles on Brighton peach

3. PUDDLE PARTY IN THE ROYAL PAVILION PARK 

If your toddler is like mine, puddles are the best. This does however mean that if I have forgotten the wellies and try to steer him away from them, a meltdown quickly follows. So sometimes I just close my eyes and don’t think about the ruined (they cost how much?) shoes and wet toes and just let him have the time of his life. And the Royal Pavilion Park usually has some people playing great African music, so all in all a very cheap way to spend some time happily splashing to the music.

Royal Pavilion website

Hopefully during our next visit we might actually see the sun and feel our toes!