A showcase playground installed six years ago is continuing to have a positive impact on the community, in particular for a group of children and young people with a range of learning and physical disabilities, special needs.
The £220,000 Cutsyke Play Forest, was a community scheme that was part of The Castleford Project, a major regeneration initiative between Channel 4, Wakefield Council and supporting agencies.
Mike Smith, part of the Leisure Link team (a division of the Home Based Break Service which is part of Family Services at Wakefield Council) has been a regular visitor to the Cutsyke Play Forest. He comments: “Our team supports children and young people with a range of learning and physical disabilities, as well as those with sensory impairments and works to introduce them to “mainstream” leisure services in the local community.
“Our young people range from eight to 18 years old and our sessions include activities such as swimming, bowling, cinema, indoor and outdoor play parks, youth clubs etc.
“We use Cutsyke with both individuals and groups and our young people are excited to have a facility to explore and respond positively to the opportunities it offered.
“The variety of equipment at Cutsyke suits the differing abilities of our young people as it provides challenges, and the potential for achievement at different levels. Some find it therapeutic and sensorial to lay on the cargo nets, some enjoy developing balance and co-ordination skills in a safe environment, and others love the challenge of climbing and sliding. The layout of the play park and its location makes for an ideal safe environment for our young people.”
The play forest was designed by Leeds-based landscape designers Estell Warren and was chosen by local children from a number of designs submitted by competing designers as part of the Channel 4 regeneration project.
The four hundred square metres play forest, comprises overlapping grids of 6m and 3m high poles. Nets and equipment are located between them, creating a unique 3-d environment with ‘no way in, no way out and no prescribed routes to follow’.
It also boasts two very large tunnel slides and a unique four metre high platform. Another unique feature of the forest is the poles that are topped with solar powered LED lights, transforming it into a beacon at night.
Mike Smith concludes: ““One of the most rewarding elements I’ve found at Cutsyke is that it helps integrate our young people with the local children. I once helped a young man with a physical disability to climb to the top and he received lots of encouragement and offers of help from other children. We have also found that it helps promote understanding of disabilities as kids love to ask questions!”