Friday, 27 November 2020

New play area to be built as residents hit funding target

RESIDENTS in Watlington are celebrating after reaching their fund-raising target to build a new £20,000 play

RESIDENTS in Watlington are celebrating after reaching their fund-raising target to build a new £20,000 play area.

The community has donated about £6,000 towards replacing equipment at the Paddock play area.

A grant of almost £10,000 has come from South Oxfordshire District Council in addition to £2,000 from the parish council and from Watlington Public Charities and £500 from the Doris Field Trust.

The equipment has already been ordered from Playdale and includes a log cabin, slide, climbing wall, rope tunnel and balancing beams and steps. It is hoped it will be ready to use in early September.

It will be named “Teddy’s Playground” in memory of former parish councillor Ted Backhouse who gave years of service to the community.

The family of Mr Backhouse, who died earlier this year, aged 85, asked that donations in his memory be made to the play area. The father-of-four, who lived in Orchard Walk, had been in the town for more than 35 years and used to run the Paper Shop in High Street. He was on the parish council for 18 years, serving on a number of committees, until he left in 2013 for personal reasons.

Parish councillor Rachel Huckvale, who has been leading the fund-raising drive, said the money had been raised in just three months at various events, and included major donations from two individuals.

She said: “I’m absolutely thrilled, I can’t believe how quickly we have got there. I’m so pleased the new play area will be there before the end of the summer.

“Hopefully there will be nice weather for people to use it. I was talking the talk saying we would get there by the autumn. I’m not sure I was as optimistic as maybe I sounded! There’s been fantastic support from the community. It’s been something that’s really brought everyone together.

“It’s really lovely to see how much the play area is loved. I think it’s hugely important for the town. It’s just round the corner from my house and my daughter goes there every day.”

The play area, which is behind Old School Place, opened in 2002 and has long exceeded its life expectancy. Some elements have been removed already.

Cllr Huckvale, who has a two-year-old daughter, Caroline, added: “You could see that it was being used less and less. I’m looking forward to getting it back to full working order and people properly enjoying it again.

“It was starting to fall into a state of disrepair. When something starts to look old people do worry about it. It is completely safe but it’s starting to look and feel its age.”

Cllr Huckvale, who was elected to the parish council in May last year, added: “It makes it feel very worthwhile to have joined the parish council. It’s something very material I can contribute to the town.

“It’s one of the reasons I wanted to become a councillor to represent young families. I’m a full-time mum so it’s nice to give something back.

“We have been aiming all along to provide something for everybody. We have younger children in mind a little bit because the recreation ground caters for the older children.”

She added: “I would like thank people for all the help I’ve had and the many people who contributed.”

The total cost of the project is £19,288, which includes the new equipment, installation and the removal of the old equipment.

Cllr Huckvale said work to install the new equipment would begin on August 25.

A letter will be sent to neighbours to let them know exactly when work would be commencing.

There will be a grand opening in September.

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