The New Forest is receiving its first permanent wild play site to help children discover and connect with nature.

Whether it is den building, balancing on logs or tracing animal tracks, woods are wonderful places for children to explore the great outdoors. However the number of children playing in wild spaces has more than halved in a generation, with only 10 per cent playing in natural spaces such as woodlands and heaths1.
Opening in spring 2017, The Holbury Manor Park and Warren Copse wild play site, situated just outside Holbury, will be a space for children and families to explore the outdoors all year round. The scheme is supported by a multi-million pound landscape partnership scheme called Our Past, Our Future, which is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and led by the New Forest National Park Authority with 10 key partners.

New Forest National Park Authority Wild Play Officer Claire Pearce said: ‘Not only will the site benefit children’s health, it will provide a place for families to connect with nature and develop a desire to protect and preserve the local environment.’

New Forest Land Advice Service Project Co-ordinator Tom Murphy, said: ‘Warren Copse had become an example of unmanaged and neglected woodland, with the overgrown tree canopy creating problems for local wildlife. As part of the Working Woodlands project, the New Forest Land Advice Service will help manage the site over the next three years. This will include thinning out the larger canopy trees to create different light levels, producing a haven for a wide variety of wildlife.’

Any logs and vegetation produced by the practical work this autumn will be recycled and used in the wild play site.

Volunteers from the Warren Copse and Holbury Manor Conservation Group have already reintroduced the traditional practice of coppicing and cleared the footpaths within the site to open up the area to the community. Head of the Warren Copse and Holbury Manor Conservation Group Eddie Holtham, said: ‘This is an excellent site to pilot the wild play project and it will be a wonderful asset to the community. We begin bramble clearance on the site in October and look forward to seeing it in use.’

Fawley Parish Council Clerk Steve Postlethwaite said: ‘Fawley Parish Council is excited to support this innovative project. It is a fantastic opportunity to get children to engage more with the environment by encouraging more outdoor play and providing facilities that enable them to have greater contact with and respect for the natural world.’

Courtesy of NFNPA