As someone raised in our local area, my childhood memories of Somersall Park were of a place filled with fun – children paddling in the river, finding sticklebacks beneath the stones, and families meeting for picnics and rowdy games of football, cricket and rounders. As a teenager, the space felt familiar and safe, even after the families had gone home for their tea.
Moving back, with young children of my own, I was better able to appreciate the beauty of the space on our doorstep – but, for me, the park had lost its homely appeal. It was rare to see a familiar face, and, whilst I thought this may just be a sign of the times, it was sad to imagine the joy and activity that once occupied this gorgeous place.
How wonderful, then, to now experience the incredible community achievement that is the new play park. The excitement is tangible, not only from the children, but also for the parents, who now have a place for a conversation. Rather than just a walk to the park, there is the vibe of a family outing, and enough equipment to keep the children occupied for an hour or more. The river has a new generation of visitors, attracted by the facilities. And to think that all this was achieved by a group of volunteers armed with nothing but a vision and determination.
My favourite thing about the park is that its appeal appears ageless. This afternoon, when I took my preschoolers, a group of school mums had come straight from pick-up with chairs and rugs, enjoying some social time of their own as well as their children, who ran wild across the space. Older kids sat in groups next to the equipment, not playing but still choosing to opt in to the community. Even the teenagers used the goals near the park instead of those across the field. People of all ages walked their dogs past and stopped to speak to the children running from the play park to the river. It felt nostalgic; it felt like a community.
I really want to thank the Friends of Somersall Park for their hours of commitment, and for not giving up when bids were lost. They have created something much more significant than the funds they raised. They would still like to fully complete the project according to the original plans, with four further pieces of equipment including a zip wire, so if any local people or businesses would care to donate, please contact them via their Facebook page, Somersall Park Friends, or by the link
Words: Annie Littlewood
Images: Helen Rowan Photography