Herefordshire Wildlife Trust

01 October 2014

The WildPlay initiative is based at Herefordshire Nature Trust and began playing in 2002 with funding from Better Play. At the start WildPlay provided adults with informal play training so they could give children environmental outdoor play opportunities. WildPlay has had many different roles in its lifetime: engaging families on Nature Reserves; promoting local heritage and arts; working with children in social housing; and working in partnership with services such as Housing Associations, Sure Start, and West Mercia Police. However, its seems somehow poetic that 12 years on, the most recent Big Lottery funded project (WildPlay Experience) is all about offering playwork training to adults, in order to help communities become more playful. Over the last 12 years we have seen some amazing, inspiring and dedicated people delivering WildPlay across the county. Lily Horseman and Fiona Mac started the ball rolling, followed quickly by Jo Polack, Beck McKay and over the last 6 years; Jo Dainty, Katrina Preston, Hayley Herridge and Victoria Hinsley have all been enthusiastically delivering play opportunities for families, and playwork training for adults within Herefordshire.    

The WildPlay initiative provides outreach, open access play events and activities for children and families. The idea behind WildPlay is that the natural world is a playful place to be, and it is through childhood encounters with wildlife that a lifelong interest in, and love of nature is fostered. With WildPlay experiences we hope that children will grow up to be adults with a love for and wish to care for the environment.

Playing outside helps children develop physical and mental wellbeing and supports children's development and positive self-esteem. WildPlay overcomes the social and cultural barriers which prevent children playing and exploring nature. Factors such as traffic and fear of strangers, lack of understanding regarding the importance of play, and poor outdoor play space have all lead to a reduction in children's connection with nature. One of the most important aspects of WildPlay, however, is that we give children the opportunity to engage in risky and challenging play. Our most popular activities are playing in waterways, climbing trees, den building in the woods, rope swings and whittling. We help children to assess their own risks, overcome their fears and this helps them to become more confident, independent and resilient people.

In September we held a Big Birthday Bash to celebrate 12 years of WildPlay at Castle Green in Hereford. This was a chance to celebrate and recreate all our favourite play memories with around 600 WildPlay fans, including a Brownie pack! We all enjoyed cooking on a campfire, making costumes, playing games, conker championship, mixing magic potions, dressing up, the mud kitchen, making and playing musical instruments and poi and then ending it on a big drum led, dancing procession! Prizes were awarded to the best 'party animal' fancy dress outfit and for the Conker Champion- hopefully proving that it is not too risky a game to be playing!

Here are some of our achievements to blow your mind…each year we work with around 3000 children at around 100 events, we use over 70 parks and green spaces across Herefordshire, Our team has now grown to 50 regular staff and volunteers, and even though we've been in post for 6 years, our current team still get excited about going out to play! All events are advertised on our Facebook page and website www.herefordshirewt.org/wildplay

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