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Natural Play Area Opens at Hicks Lodge Cycle Centre

Tuesday, 2nd October 2012

Children and Staff Celebrating

“Thank you Mrs Rutledge!” was the spontaneous cry from a 10 year old to his teacher, as he launched himself once again onto the new timber climbing frame at Hicks Lodge, near Ashby de la Zouch, Leicestershire, as the new natural play area was opened recently.

Children and staff from local Donisthorpe Primary School walked the 15 minutes from school to take part in the opening ceremony. There was an excited countdown as Angela Chamberlain, Chair of Hicks Lodge Trust, prepared to cut the ribbon. And then it was “open!” and years 5 and 6 charged in, scrabbling up the hillocks, sliding down, climbing the netting, swinging on the tyre, damming up the stream. It was like a cork out of a bottle.

The play area is the final piece in the jigsaw of the development at Hicks Lodge, a former open cast site between Moira and Ashby de la Zouch in Leicestershire now managed by the Forestry Commission. A decade ago it was a massive hole in the ground, from years of clay and mineral extraction. Now it is a wildlife haven within The National Forest complete with lake, woodland and open grassland, plus a cycle centre with eight and a half miles of cycle trails and walks, cycle hire and a welcoming café.

After she cut the ribbon, Angela Chamberlain said: “It gives me great pleasure to be here on behalf of Hicks Lodge Trust, and to see the play area in full and exuberant use. Local children have been watching the construction and landscaping with almost painful anticipation, they have been so eager to be let in! I’m sure it’s going to be extremely popular with families and youngsters from all around the area. I would like to say a big thank you to the Forestry Commission and the National Forest Company for making it all happen.”

The whole site is owned and managed by the Forestry Commission and has been developed in partnership with the National Forest Company. The play area has been created by natural play experts TimberPlay, and was made possible with £49,000 secured by the Hicks Lodge Trust from the Groundwork Trust’s Community Spaces Programme, part of the Big Lottery Fund. It was the final project designed by Jerry Tseng on his retirement from Pick Everard’s Derby office. Jerry designed CONKERS and the YHA National Forest, as well as the Cycle Centre building itself.

 “This has been a wonderful project to work on,” said Jerry. “We wanted to create all the features that we remember – or fondly imagine - playing on as a child: the tyre slung on a rope from a branch; the stream to walk up in your wellies; tree branches to sit on; banks to slide down. From the kids’ reaction today I think we’ve got it right!”

The children had contributed ideas for the design of the play area and were thrilled to see some of them in 3-D, before their very eyes. “We did that, Mrs Rutledge!”

The play area is designed for two to 14 year olds. It adds to the already extensive facilities at Hicks Lodge Cycle Centre: as well as the safe off-road cycle trails, bike hire and spacious café, the centre holds activities and events and has a room to hire for birthday parties. It makes a great place for a day out.

For more information contact Hicks Lodge Cycle Centre on 01530 274533 or visit the Hicks Lodge Cycle Centre facebook page.

For more information on The National Forest and more places to visit click here.