Spofforth Village

Near Harrogate, North Yorkshire

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Spofforth Environmental Play Scheme Project

Ginny Greenholes - our space to walk, to talk, to think, to learn & play, or simply to enjoy ...

Ginny Greenholes Environmental Playscheme is an exciting, brand new play space for children and young people in and around Spofforth. The community have been developing the site as an environment resource for sometime and following the award of £50,000 funding from North Yorkshire County Council’s Playbuilder allocation from the Department of Children, Schools and Families, and £12,000 from Harrogate Borough Council, the community have been able to develop a fantastic naturalistic play resource. The site is now complete and open to the public.

Strong Community Involvement

Ginny Holes has been a real community-driven project, with local children, young people and adults heavily involved in designing the site from the outset. There have been lots of community engagement activities to make sure that everyone has had a say in the site’s development. These include a drawing competition at Spofforth Primary School, when children were asked to draw what their favourite playground would look like. The winning entries contributed towards the final designs of Ginny Greenholes. A separate community event was attended by over seventy people, and got lots of feedback from local residents on what the final design should be.

Blends with the Local Environment

Importantly, the site has been designed with environmental considerations in mind. Ginny Greenholes complements the surrounding wildlife area, which is being developed to become a nature reserve with orchard and wildflowers, making a pleasant space for both children and adults to enjoy and relax – and of course play.

Organisations Involved

The construction of Ginny Holes Environmental Playscheme was project managed by Harrogate Borough Council in partnership with Spofforth Parish Council . It is built on land managed by the Parish Council, who set up a dedicated steering group to oversee the design and construction of the site. North Yorkshire County Council, as the accountable body for the principle funding, helped oversee the development of the site, and the County Council’s Creative Engagement Team provided support to the Parish Council in involving local children and residents throughout the project.

Through the North Yorkshire Play Partnership, North Yorkshire County Council granted £50,000 towards the development of playscheme, money which was part of the Playbuilder programme. The Playbuilder programme is a national initiative funded by the Department for Children, Schools and Families to support the development of new play areas which allow for freedom, exploration and contact with the natural world. The Ginny Holes Environmental Playscheme is a testament to what this can achieve.

Harrogate Borough Council funded a further £12,000, including contributions from developers and a play grant of £5,000. The Big Lottery, awarded a grant of £10,500 through its Breathing Spaces programme and a large number of local donations helped to raise further money, which has been spent on developing the natural aspects of the site, such as wildflowers.

Why do we need this play scheme?

Spofforth has a population of around 1,200 residents and is one of only a handful of rural communities in North Yorkshire that was not able to offer children's play or a place for families to meet and enjoy.

The Parish Council have consulted with the village through open meetings, questionnaires and projects with the local primary school to ensure that the vision relates clearly to the community needs. There is a very strong feeling that this project is long overdue and once complete will improve the spirit and focus for the community as well as mean that from a young age children are able to express themselves through play, safely and securely.

The Parish Council offered local residents the opportunity to express their views about what they would like to see included in the village play area. The results of this survey indicated that on average, children in Spofforth visit playgrounds in access of 250 times a month (more in summer) travelling over 3,100 miles per month! A playground in Spofforth will therefore reduce the carbon footprint by over 37,000 car miles per year. There was also a high preference for equipment, which would manage child health and help fight obesity. The provision of a play facility also supports the Village Plan and the findings of the associated questionnaire; 68% of residents responded of which 60% wish to see improvements to the local environment and only 11% felt that there was enough for young people to do in the village.

What is our vision?

At the outset of this project, the Parish Council identified a disused plot of land in the village, owned by Harrogate Council, at the heart of Council owned and affordable housing where there are many children and no play facilities. The Parish Council negotiated and signed a fifteen year lease to transfer the responsibility of the site to local ownership. The lease stipulates that the land is to be used for the purpose of children's recreation including a playground; this project is therefore a regeneration of an unsightly, derelict piece of land.

Our vision is wider than just a traditional play facility in that we are planning to provide a varied and interesting physical environment which has already inspired children's imagination and which will stretch their capabilities and provide opportunities for children to experience a range of innovative play facilities. The project aims to make better use of outdoor community spaces and with this in mind, the area is being developed into a wildlife reserve with a number of distinct areas and natural features; a wildflower/hay meadow has been planted by local school children and the Spofforth In Bloom Committee; bird, bat and insect boxes have been made by local residents and an orchard of native fruit trees has been planted. Hardcore and mown grass paths have been created, seating and picnic tables are being installed.

How the community have engaged

A sub set of the Parish Council have established a small project team which includes the Borough Council's Rural Strategy Officer, the Chair of the Spofforth in Bloom Society and a local ornithologist to drive this vision forward. We have also gained the support from other local community groups including the Village Society, Church, School, Playgroups and the Cricket Club who are as keen as the Parish Council to develop an accessible, safe and welcoming play area for children of all abilities.

To help clear the site, we were pleased to support the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme and drew on volunteers from the local Army Apprentice College who cleared the undergrowth and initially made the site accessible.

A competition was designed in conjunction with the local primary school to encourage the children to engage with the development of the playground, and the Parish Council Chairman presented prizes to the most enterprising design. The final proposals put forward for the site were discussed at length with the primary school and the children were encouraged to debate the designs and vote for the their least and most favourite aspects.

Residents have sponsored bird boxes and fruit trees, some have dedicated benches in memory of their loved ones. Other community fundraising events have been held such as a Dinner Dance.

Thanks to our funders

We are grateful for the £10,000 funding by the National Lottery through Big Lottery Fund and Breathing Places.

We are also indebted to Cllr Trotter for the support of the North Yorkshire Area Sub Committee who awarded us a grant of £500.

We are grateful for the support of Harrogate Borough Council who through their Community Chest Awards, Commuted Sum, and Parks Department granted us £19,000.