Play in the Community
Safe community play space
Sarah Hay talks about about improving a play space in her local community in Wildmill, Bridgend.
Space Saviours is a two year project that is funded by the National Lottery and delivered by four housing associations, including Valleys to Coast Housing (V2C) in Bridgend. The Space Saviours project held events for local communities to identify ideas to improve local outdoor space and I attended one in 2014.
I went along, as I knew there was quite a bit of space available in our community that could be developed for play. I was keen to create a safe play area in Wildmill and the Play Wales play workshop inspired me to put a project idea together.
My original idea was to remove an existing mound of earth, install a safe surface next to an existing park and add removal goals for the kids to play football. When I told my eldest son about the project, he got very upset and said, ‘You’re not going to take away our twmp, are you?’ I hadn’t realised how important the twmp was to him and his friends. I began to watch children use the space and started to see the value they placed on it. I told Play Wales about this and together, we undertook a play audit of the area and worked with a landscape architect to produce designs.
V2C liked the final design and found funds for improvements, including making the twmp more playable. Before work started, we held a consultation event in our community centre and displayed images of the design in our youth club. During the build, some local adults weren’t happy and some of my time was spent reassuring them that the mess created by the changes would benefit the community long term.
The new play area opened in February 2016 with a Playday. At this event, people asked why there wasn’t a fence around the space to ‘keep the dogs out’. We explained that there wasn’t a need for a fence because it is a safe place for children already as there is no traffic and so many houses overlook the space.
We soon realised that dog mess was a real problem, though. With V2C, we decided to start a public information campaign. Local children designed posters to remind people to clean up after their dogs and V2C purchased and installed outdoor signs based on the children’s designs. We got chalk paint and with the children, volunteers and Keep Wales Tidy, we marked out all the dog mess and were amazed at how much of the grass was covered in this chalk. Local tenants, particularly dog owners, were shocked and disgusted at the mess our children were playing in.
The space is better utilised now and we have made clever use of the existing space. And I have a very happy son who gave the final design his seal of approval because we didn’t ruin his twmp!