CHILDREN living in the village of Bentley suffered a blow at the end of the summer holidays with news that the recreation ground play area has been closed because some of the equipment has been deemed unsafe.
Determined to help, a six-year old schoolboy took the initiative last week to kick-start a fundraising campaign to buy new play equipment.
Archer Phillips, a pupil at Bentley Primary School, raised more than £1,000 by completing a five-mile walk around the village.
He said: “It’s amazing so many people have sponsored me so much money. I think it is because everyone is really sad we don’t have a playground any more but hopefully, when we get a new one, it will be even better. I just wanted to help.”
The decision to close the play area, after more than 10 years service, was made on Saturday after Bentley Parish Council chairman Patric Curwen joined the recreation ground committee, in condemning the facility.
A statement published on the parish website on August 30 read: “Due to several unacceptable risks identified by ROSPA, we have had to close our play area with immediate effect for safety reasons.
“Closing the playground was the last thing we wanted to do and we realise that many young children and parents will be very disappointed. The only positive thing we can say is that we remain determined to replace the playground as quickly as possible.
“Although we have secured a large amount toward the cost, and further fund raising plans are being organised, it is likely that an amount will be required from Veolia Environmental Trust and we are on target to submit an application before the October 5 deadline.”
A ‘Bentley Playground Project’ committee has been set up to raise £30,000 for some new play equipment through local fundraising events and grant applications.
Designs have been commissioned incorporating play equipment for young children, older kids and disabled youngsters, including a wildflower area and a willow tunnel, as well as traditional play structures.
Parish clerk Lorraine Jeffs said: “It was a big decision on the part of the parish council and the recreation ground committee to close the playground, but safety comes first. We really hope all the money needed can be raised by the end of the year with a view to starting the work in spring 2018, but it’s all a question of funds.”
Following in Archer’s footsteps, fellow Bentley schoolgirl Isabel Soden will take on the challenge on Sunday (September 10) of a military-designed assault course to raise money to build the playground appeal pot.
Not for the faint hearted, the eight-year-old is planning to tackle the ‘No Man’s Land’ challenge in Redhill, Surrey, which involves running three kilometres through deep mud and lakes, battling through barbed wire and minefields and carrying sandbags, before she can cross the finish line.
Bentley Parish Council is expected to make a decision on the design of the new playground on September 11, the day after Isabel’s challenge.
To sponsor Isabel, visit mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/vickysoden1.
To back Archer, visit mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/bentleyplayground.