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Wild Play

Wild Play

Lead Partner:

New Forest National Park Authority

What has been achieved?

From mini-beast hunting and stick crafts, to balancing on logs and making mud pies, free play within nature offers countless benefits to children.

To encourage local families to explore nature and exercise outside, three permanent wild play areas have been created in partnership with parish councils. Features at the sites include wooden forts, balancing logs, a carved lizard and seating areas. Volunteers have planted fruit trees and wild flowers and bug hotels have been built with the help of local pre-school children. 

The new sites are at:

  • Holbury Manor Woods in partnership with Fawley Parish Council
  • Stanford Rise in Sway in partnership with Sway Parish Council
  • Ashurst Recreation ground in partnership with Ashurst and Colbury Parish Council.

Around 6,000 people have attended wild play events, enjoying den building, natural crafts, crabbing and scavenger hunts.

NPA Wild Play Officer Claire Pearce said: ‘The three sites have quickly become an integral part of their communities and receive lots of regular visits from local children. Being a part of children’s wild play experience has been extremely rewarding. 

‘Regularly engaging with nature through play will not only benefit children’s health and wellbeing but also help to develop a generation highly motivated to protect and conserve the natural world.’

Leaflets packed with ideas for wild play activities have been produced, as well as a wild play toolkit for parish councils, groups, and organisations interested in developing wild play opportunities within their community. The toolkit features advice including how to identify potential sites, community engagement, health and safety and insurance considerations. The leaflets and toolkit are available to download on the NPA website.

Claire said: ‘The success of the project has also been demonstrated by the increasing interest in wild play from other New Forest communities, many wishing to develop their own wild play spaces. We have supported these communities with ideas and advice as well as producing a toolkit to help them on their journey.’ 

Holbury Manor and Warren Copse site
Stanford Rise site
Ashurst Recreation Ground
Wild play toolkit

The wild play toolkit is now available to download. It has been designed for parish councils, groups, organisations and individuals who are interested in developing a wild play space of their own. The toolkit provides guidance through the development phase as well as lots of ideas for resources and activities.

Download the wild play toolkit here.

Wild play events

Wild play events are held during school holidays throughout the year, giving families the opportunity to take part in activities such as deer-spotting, forest crafts, sail leaf boats, scavenger hunts, pooh sticks and crabbing. Every year a wild play walk takes place in October as part of the New Forest Walking Festival. Check out our wild play page for families for more information.

For ideas about wild play activities to try with your families have a look at our wild play downloads:

Volunteering and training

We need local volunteers to help with the planning, development, day-to-day running, ongoing management, events and community outreach of the sites. Training will be provided in techniques and practical skills. If you are interested in helping us out, please get in touch.

Legacy

The three wild play sites will be maintained and promoted by the champions with landowners taking responsibility for maintaining the spaces and access.

The wild play toolkit will help landowners create wild play areas in the future.

More research is beginning to show the positive impacts of children connecting with nature. Learning to negotiate, share and work as a team in an outdoor environment provides the opportunity for children to explore boundaries and risks in a more interactive and less confined space, and gain important life skills in their own way, adding more value to the learning experience.

The community will be inspired by the idea of wild play and recognise the value of a safe play area that connects with nature. A change in attitude among New Forest residents towards wild play will be seen when compared to survey results before the sites were created.

Contact details

Claire Pearce – Wild Play Project Officer, New Forest National Park Authority

Tel: 01590 646606 email: claire.pearce@newforestnpa.gov.uk

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