If you go down to the woods today….

Young people from Winchester's southern parishes were joined by City Councillors, Forestry Commission Staff, and City Council Officers at West Walk Woods near Wickham last week to mark the start of 'It's OK to Play' - a project to give 'natural play' makeovers to selected woodland sites in the District. 

Thanks to a £200,000 award from the 'Big Lottery Fund' the City Council has worked with the Forestry Commission and others in Winchester's Children & Young Peoples Partnership to deliver the "It's OK to Play" project. Construction at the new West Walk play area is well underway and is due to be completed in August. Over the next 12 months, three more new facilities will be developed at Creech Wood between Denmead and Southwick, at Micheldever Forest and at West Wood near Sparsholt.
'It's OK to Play' evolved from consultations with young people about their adventurous play needs and pupils from Swanmore College of Technology have been actively involved in the planning and design phase. The key themes are access for all, the use of natural materials, simplicity, low maintenance and fun! 
Councillor John Cooper, Deputy Leader of the Winchester authority and Portfolio Holder for Communities said:

"I am delighted that, very soon, local children will have new facilities and open space for imaginative outdoor play and plenty of healthy exercise. 'It's OK to Play' is about reconnecting young people with their natural environment and giving them the chance to explore all that it has to offer. I know these new sites will be places where children and families can really spend quality time together".

He added: "Over the last few years, too many of the play opportunities we have offered children have been overly risk managed, sterile and uninspiring. These woodland sites will change that. They are as safe as they need to be without restricting the freedom children need to express themselves and learn through exciting and adventurous play.