If you go down to the woods today you’re sure of a big surprise

The West Walk Woods will be the centre of play on Thursday 11th June 2009 as young people celebrate it becoming the first forest site in the district to get a natural play makeover. As part of a pre-launch event, young people will learn how to build dens and get a first look at the new facilities being developed.

Thanks to a hugely successful bid to the Big Lottery for £200,000, Winchester City Council is working with the Forestry Commission and its key partners on the Winchester District Children and Young People’s Partnership to deliver the project "It's OK to Play" which will see new bespoke natural play sites developed at four Forestry Commission sites around the District - West Walk, West Wood, Creech Wood and Micheldever Wood.

The first site to be developed is West Walk which is located to the south of the district, close to the large rural parish of Wickham.  Local children and young people have been involved in the development of the site to ensure they will enjoy and use the new facilities, and a group of pupils from Swanmore College of Technology are actively involved with the planning and design.

Key themes behind the designs are access for all, the use of natural materials, fun, and simplicity.

Nick Hazlitt, South East Area Manager for the Forestry Commission, said, “It’s great to see work progressing on this terrific project. This play space will give local kids and families a wonderful space to play in, where they can have fun, explore, exercise, mix with others and be creative and imaginative. And it’s a real connection and gateway to nature and the environment. “

The Big Lottery award has been given to support the Winchester District's exciting new Play Strategy which identifies the need to create more opportunities for adventurous play in the natural environment. The sites have been chosen carefully to encourage access by children and young people from priority wards in the district in terms of deprivation and/or rural isolation.

The remaining sites will be developed over the next 12 months.