Want to get your children out of the house and away from screens, but don’t know where to take them? Sacrewell Farm has just the thing and has opened a £65,000 natural play area. Amba Tilney reports for ESP…
So what makes this play area at Sacrewell near Peterborough extra special? Celebrity explorer, Laura Bingham, opened the attraction and had a lot to say regarding the benefits of children being outdoors and how it helps their mental wellbeing.
For many people, Sacrewell Farm at Wansford has always been a place to go for a day out with the whole family; it’s perfect for getting children to immerse themselves in the beautiful outdoors. There’s always something for everyone, from soft or outdoor play areas, to seeing the goats, pigs, peacocks, sheep or visiting the old mill! What more could they add to the already wonderful attraction?
Well, Sacrewell have a new immersive natural play area. The concept of the area is ingenious; it aims to encourage children to reconnect with nature and explore different ways of playing, without having huge plastic structures with only one intended function. The all new natural play area uses the features of the landscape surrounding it, including the stream with large rocks used as stepping stones and woodland. It is rather picturesque and beautiful I must say.
When trying to determine what the layout and equipment were to be like, Sacrewell invited a group of young local school children along to help create the play area they wanted to see and allowed their imaginations to explore all of the different ways that the empty land could be transformed into a fun area. It was truly humbling to see the excitement on their faces as they charged around the new natural play area, jumping from rock to rock, climbing through the rope maze and seeing their visions come to life!
Sacrewell worked with pioneers in natural play, Earth Wrights Ltd, which helped design activities such as den and nest building, balance beams, walks and bridges that all complement the area.
The project was funded by a £50,000 grant from Augean South Ltd, after receiving a recommendation from the Kings Cliffe and Thornhaugh Environmental Associations. The William Scott Abbott Trust at Sacrewell also contributed a further £15,000 to the project.
The new natural play area was recently opened by renowned explorer, children’s author and mother, Laura Bingham (pictured above). When speaking to Laura, she expressed how excited she was for the area to be opened: “I think we’re stuck in front of Xboxes and TVs so much that having an option to go out and play in the outdoors in a safe place is brilliant, because I think parents tend to want to take their children outside, but other than that one park they’ve been to 20 times – it’s a case of ‘where do we take them’.
“And this place is amazing – it has so much variety, so many different aspects of it that I don’t think a child would get bored here very easily and there’s a nice café where parents can sit down, grab a coffee and enjoy 5 minutes while their children tear around in nature and have the influence of all the good things that brings.”
Engagement Manager at Sacrewell, Nikki Cherry, believes it will make a real difference: “The impact on children’s enjoyment, learning and wellbeing will be immense. It will be a fun natural space for families to get together play, splash, climb and spend time together at the farm – something core to us as a charity to promote, inspire and encourage people to do.”
Going to the opening myself and seeing the area first-hand, I can safely say that the ideas and concepts are promising and should be successful. Being in nature can positively help our mental state, general wellbeing and happiness; Laura Bingham commented on the impact the environment has on her adorable son, saying: “My 2 year-old is never more alive, never more responsive – he comes alive in nature and he doesn’t cry, he isn’t agitated – he’s the perfect child when he’s immersed in nature, but when he’s in front of the TV and you take him away he’s like a little devil child, so that alone means I know that outdoor play is so much more healthy for our children and we should try and focus on doing more of it and thankfully places like this make it a bit more easy and accessible.”
I mean, if it’s good enough for a professional, celebrity explorer and her child, it’s good enough for the rest of us! So, if you find yourself a little stumped on what to do with your little ones this summer, don’t forget about Sacrewell’s new natural play are. Allow your children to become one with nature in a safe environment, and as Laura said, there is a café right around the corner.
Laura spoke more about her recent adventures, upcoming books, future expeditions and aspirations for her career with ESP’s very own adventurer, Darren Grigas, so look out for his column in the August issue of ESP Magazine.